Microsoft Excel is one of the most powerful software tools in the world for collecting, analysing, and summarising data.
But Excel is a massive program, and it can take users months or even years to master it. Many first-time and experienced Excel users don’t take advantage of all the program’s functionality. Often users manually enter data when they could use formulas and functions to speed up and expedite their work. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 Excel time-saving tips.
1. Become Familiar with the Shortcuts
Everyone knows about Ctrl + Z. This fantastic shortcut makes it easy and quick to undo errors. However, there are other shortcuts in Excel that can speed up your workflow, which you could be missing out on. Here are just a few:
What it does
|Ctrl + A
|Select the current area; twice to select the current sheet
|Ctrl + Space
|Select the current column
|Shift + Space
|Select the current row
|Ctrl + 0
|Hide the current column
|Ctrl + 9
|Hide the current row
|Ctrl + :
|Enter the current date
|Apply absolute refs (in a formula)
|Alt + H, B
|Add a border to cells
2. Understand How Autofill and Flash Fill Work
Excel’s Autofill and Flash Fill options can save hours of data entry. However, many users aren’t aware of their existence.
Use AutoFill to fill cells with data that follows a pattern or are based on data in other cells. Click and hold the lower right-hand corner of the cell and drag the mouse down the column or across rows. On the bottom right of the column or final row, click on the box that says, “Auto fill options” and then click on “fill series.” You can also create your own series in File/Options/Advanced/General/Edit Custom Lists.
Flash Fill automatically fills your data when it senses a pattern. For example, you can use Flash Fill to separate first and last names from a single column. Or you can combine first and last names from two different columns. If this doesn’t happen automatically for you, click Data>Flash fill or Ctrl + E.
3. Get Confident with Accuracy and Consolidation
Collaborating on Excel can be difficult to downright disastrous if you don’t know what you’re doing. When several collaborators work on the same document, it can take hours to combine and verify the data. This leaves the spreadsheet open to errors that can go unchecked. However, there are handy tools to avoid these errors such as Data Rails. These tools automatically merge data, track all revisions to Excel files, and flag any unusual activity. Tools like Data Rails are an easy and powerful way to save time and money.
4. Import Web Data with Ease
Are you aware that you can import data from the web into a spreadsheet? If not, then we can probably assume you are manually entering figures from a web page onto your spreadsheet when needed. Stop doing that, you are wasting time. There’s an easier process to follow. Click Data > From Web and when prompted, copy and paste the URL. That’s it! You’ve just saved yourself hours of work and it was quick and easy.
5. Utilise the PivotTable Tool
PivotTable is a reporting engine built into Excel. It is the single best tool in Excel for analysing data without formulas. A PivotTable calculates, summarises and analyses data, and lets you see comparisons, patterns, and trends. With PivotTable you can calculate sales for customers by-product, as well as see the monthly sales of products. Best of all, you can create a basic pivot table in about a minute and begin interactively exploring your data.
Excel can feel a little intimidating. But, once you experiment with it, you’ll feel more comfortable and soon realise how valuable it is.
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