Work Smarter Not Harder with 10 Excel Need-to-Knows

By Mary Magellan Do you use Excel everyday and know that there must be a faster way to accomplish that tedious thing you do, but you don’t have the time or patience to take a 4-hour training in Excel? Let your frustration fade away as you browse through these Top 10 Excel Tips that are sure to save you time so you can spend more time doing what you like!

  1. Copy, Steal, & Cheat — Use Templates

Well, don’t exactly cheat, just be smart and use Excel’s ready-to-use business templates. Expense reports, invoices, budgets, and even stock portfolios, all with built-in formulas, pull-down menus, and design-savvy formatting. Impress your colleagues with a sharp looking spreadsheet, and avoid having to recreate the wheel.

How to:

  • Create a new file (FILE tab > NEW)
  • Do a keyword search for the template you need!


  1. Copy and Paste with Ease – Autofill

Copy and paste text and formulas from columns and rows. Create numbered lists, or chronological lists, in a flash.

How to:

  • Select the cell to copy
  • Hover over the bottom right corner of the selected cell until your cursor changes into a “crosshair” shape
  • Click and drag down or across the worksheet to copy and paste











  1. Sort, Filter, Total and Color-code in One Click — “Format as Table”

Do you spend hours color-coding every other row in your dataset? Do you manually insert “Total” or “Average” functions at the bottom of your dataset? If you answered “Yes, and it drives me nuts!” to this question, this tip will save your sanity.

Convert your dataset into a Table. Tables have built-in banded rows and columns, sorting and filtering features, and allow you to insert a Total row at the bottom of your data – all with the click of ONE button.

How to:

  • Click in dataset
  • Go to the HOME tab > “Format as Table
  • Choose a style format from the pull-down menu


  1. Combine Text into One Cell – “Concatenate” Function

Do you create contact lists and need to combine text (first and last names) located in different cells into one cell? Use the “concatenate” function to “add” text together.

How to:

  • In a new cell type “=concatenate(click on cell locations you want to combine into one cell)
  • Remember to use “ “ when needing to enter a space in between text


  1. Jump to a Worksheet in Seconds — Access the Worksheet Index

Ever found it tedious to navigate across dozens of worksheets in a workbook? Excel has a hidden worksheet index.

How to:

  • Right-click on the small arrows at the bottom-left of your Excel workbook (the ones that navigate you across worksheets) to pull up the “Worksheet Index.”


  1. Finally Understand Headers and Footers

Create awesome headers and footers for your Excel worksheets in a matter of seconds.

How to:

  • VIEW tab > Page Layout view
  • Click directly in the header/footer area that appears
  • Automatically insert page numbers as well as file and worksheet names by browsing in the “Header & Footer” tab that appears when you click in the header/footer area.

Page Layout View


Header & Footer Tools Tab


  1. The Fast Way to Format Phone Numbers

Excel has customized formatting for phone numbers, zip codes and social security numbers.

How to:

  • Select the cells to format
  • Right-click on the selected cells
  • Select “Format cells” in the pop-up menu
  • Select Number > Special > select phone number formatting


  1. Capital Problems? Use the “Proper” Function

Need to capitalize the first letter in every word of a large list of text? Use the “Proper” function.

How to:

  • In a column adjacent to the list of text you want to capitalize, type “=proper(cell location of text to capitalize)
  • Copy & paste this function down the column (use the Autofill handle – see tip #2)
  • Copy the column of capitalized text
  • Click on “Paste” pull-down menu to “paste special”
  • Select “Paste VALUES ONLY”
  • Delete column where “proper” function was created


  1. Get Rid of Erroneous Spaces in Text – Use the “Trim” Function

Have an imported document with random spaces in front of and at the end of text that you need to get rid of?

How to:

  • In an adjacent, empty column type “=trim(cell location of text to capitalize)
  • Copy & paste this function down the column (use the Autofill handle – see tip #2)
  • Copy the column of new text (spaces are gone now)
  • Click on “Paste” pull-down menu to “paste special”
  • Select “Paste VALUES ONLY”
  • Delete column where “trim” function was created





















  1. Not Able to Find “Hidden” Cells? Group Instead

Do you get frustrated with the “hide” feature because you can never find the cells you have hidden? Grouping cells does the same thing as hide, and it’s easier visually to see what has been hidden.

How to:

  • Select cells to “hide”
  • Go to: DATA tab > Group cells
  • Notice the “plus” & “minus” signs that appear in the margins, allowing you to easily hide and unhide cells


 BONUS! Need-to-Know Keyboard Shortcuts

  • CONTROL + Down/Up Arrow = Moves to the top or bottom cell in the current column (add SHIFT key to select the entire column of data)
  • CONTROL + Left/Right Arrow= Moves to furthest left or right cell in the current row (hold down SHIFT key as well to select the entire row of data)
  • Shift + F11= Creates a new blank worksheet within your workbook
  • F2= opens the cell for editing in the formula bar
  • Control + Home= Navigates to cell A1
  • Control + End= Navigates to the last cell that contains data
  • Alt + == Autosums the cells above the current cell



Mary Magellan is a Technical Instructor at Learn iT! and teaches courses on Microsoft Office Suite programs, the Microsoft Surface and Windows 8 & 8.1 operating systems. Mary has worked internationally with diverse clients and is passionate about enhancing collaboration and problem solving by implementing facilitation, conflict resolution and cultural sensitivity skillsets. She completed her Masters in International Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.