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Move Quickly With the Keyboard

When navigating around your spreadsheet, one of the best things you can learn is how to use the keyboard to move around.

If you’ve never learned how to move around a spreadsheet using your keyboard, this article will teach you how!

Recognize the Active Cell

Whenever you are working in a spreadsheet, there is one cell designated as the currently selected or active cell.

There are two ways you can tell which cell is currently selected.

1 – It has a green outline around it (Excel), or it has a blue outline around it (Google Sheets).

2 – The address of the cell appears in the Name Box of your spreadsheet.

You can change the active cell by selecting a new cell with your mouse. You probably already do this quite frequently.

This article aims to teach you how to change the active cell using the keyboard instead of your mouse.

Use the Arrow Keys

The first thing to learn is that you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the cell selection box around.

For example, if cell C4 is the currently selected cell and you want to move over to cell B3, you can press the left arrow key and then the up arrow key.

Getting used to pressing the arrow keys to move around can help speed up your spreadsheet work.

But what’s really cool is combining the arrow keys with the CTRL key.

Combine the CTRL Key with the Arrow Keys

Whenever you press an arrow key, it will move one cell in the direction of the arrow. For instance, if you are in cell A1 and click the down arrow key, you will move to cell A2.

But what happens when you press an arrow key and the CTRL key at the same time?

You will jump to one of two places.

1 – You will jump to the next cell that contains data.

If there are empty cells immediately next to the cell you are moving away from (in the direction you are going), then using CTRL + the arrow key will jump to the next cell that holds a value.

Here are two examples.

2 – You will jump to the last cell that contains data.

If the cells next to the selected cell contain data (in the direction you are going), then you will jump to the last cell that holds a value.

Here are two examples.

In essence, the CTRL key combined with the arrow keys allows you to quickly jump to the end of a section of similar cells. Either they all contain data, or they are all empty.

Combine the SHIFT Key with the Arrow Keys

What happens if you use the arrow keys while holding the SHIFT key?

Instead of moving the cell selection box, it will expand it. Here is what I mean.

Let’s say that you have cell B2 selected.

If you hold the SHIFT key and press the down arrow key twice, this will expand the selection so that you now have cells B2B3, and B4 selected.

Take a look at one more example. The active cell is cell C3.

If you hold the SHIFT key and press the down arrow and then the right arrow, your newly selected range is C3:D4.

Hopefully, you are starting to see how the SHIFT key expands your selection.

Use CTRL, SHIFT, and the Arrow Keys Together

Here is where things get exciting!

When you use CTRL + SHIFT + the arrow keys all at once, you can quickly select large regions of your spreadsheet.

Take the following example.

The range you want to select is B2:D6.

To quickly select this range, start by selecting cell B2.

Next, use CTRL + SHIFT + down arrow to select B2:B6.

Finally, use CTRL + SHIFT + right arrow to select the entire range, B2:D6.

How amazing is that?

As you can see, using the keyboard can really speed up and make it easy to move around your spreadsheet. Try it out from time to time, and eventually, it will become second nature!

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