When you have powerful productivity tools like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel at your disposal, navigating them by clicking around with your fusty old mouse is the tech equivalent of riding a bicycle when you could be taking the bullet train. You need keyboard shortcuts!
Not only will mastering keyboard shortcuts mean you’re taking full advantage of the high-powered Microsoft Office Suite – according to calculations by Brainscape you’ll be shaving 2 wasted seconds off every minute, 16 minutes off every workday, and 64 hours off every year. That adds up to 8 days of wasted work time – magically transformed into productivity.
So forget your mouse; streamline your workday with these time-saving keyboard shortcuts.
The universal basics
There are some shortcuts that will work wherever you are in the Microsoft universe – whether that be in the Office suite of programs, My Computer or your chosen web browser. Here’s a few of our favorites…
Ctrl+A = Select All. Need to highlight everything on the page at once? Ctrl+A does it in an instant, saving you a considerable chunk of time that might otherwise be spent scrolling down your document or web page while tediously holding down the mouse’s ‘select’ button.
Ctrl+C = Copy / Ctrl+X = Cut. Say goodbye to opening the ‘edit’ menu on the toolbar every time you want to copy or cut something from one place to another. Simply highlight the content that you want to copy or cut, key in the relevant shortcut and – hey presto! – the text or image that you’ve selected is either copied – or disappears entirely – onto the clipboard. Now all you need is…
Ctrl+V = Paste. This will instantly paste whatever you’ve copied or cut from the clipboard into another document or program, wherever the cursor is currently located – again without having to inconveniently open the ‘edit’ menu.
Ctrl+Z = Undo. Made a mistake? Not to worry – a quick press of Ctrl+Z will reverse almost any action you’ve just taken, particularly when it comes to documents or inputting text. If you want to undo more than one action, this will save you a significant amount of time as you won’t have to reopen the ‘edit’ menu and select ‘undo’ multiple times. Turns out it wasn’t a mistake after all? Perform the reverse action by pressing Ctrl+Y for Redo.
Ctrl+S = Save. It’s never a bad idea to save, and an awful lot easier to remember and execute when you can just press Ctrl+S instead of opening up the ‘file menu’. Commit this one to memory and use it often – in the aftermath of an unexpected crash, it could be the difference between a sigh of relief and your computer taking an impromptu trip out of the window.
Ctrl+P = Print. Another one that will work in pretty much any program, Ctrl+P can either print everything on the page that you’re currently on (or any image that you have open), or you can make a selection and then press Ctrl+P in order to print only the area that you have highlighted.
Alt+Tab = Switch windows. Crucial for when you have several windows open at once, Alt+Tab will cycle through Word, Excel and PowerPoint – or any other programs you might be using. Now you can switch between a number of different workstreams, projects or datasets on a crowded desktop without having to search for the one you need with the cursor.
Alt + F4 = Quit. Finished for the day? Or have you just got a whole load of unnecessary windows open? No need to hunt out all the tiny ‘X’ symbols when you can just hammer Alt+F4 a few times to clear your desktop. Just make sure you’ve hit Ctrl+S first… you wouldn’t want to shut any programs down without saving.
Shortcuts for Word
Let’s get more specific, some of these shortcuts will still work across Excel and PowerPoint too, but they are particular to text inputting. They can be used to stylize, emphasize or add functionality to your written content.
Style: the three most popular formatting options for style and emphasis are italics (Ctrl+i), bold (Ctrl+B) and underlining (Ctrl+U), which can all be used variously for drawing attention to important detail or organizing content into different sections using titles and subtitles. Using any of these shortcuts will either apply or remove the formatting from selected text, or – if no text is selected – apply or remove the formatting to any text that is typed subsequently. You can even use keyboard shortcuts to increase (Ctrl+]) or decrease (Ctrl+[) the font size by one point.
Capitalization: there may be times when for the purposes of clarity or emphasis that you want all of the text to be UPPER CASE. Or you might just have typed out a whole paragraph with caps lock on, and now it looks like you’re screaming. There’s no need to delete it all and type it out again; just highlight the relevant text and press Ctrl+Shift+A to turn it all lower case/upper case. Alternatively, you can press Shift+F3 to cycle through three styles: upper case; lower case; lower case with the first letter of the sentence capped up.
Alignment: need to have your text right in the middle of the page for a title? You can center text with Ctrl+E. After that, you’ll most likely want to return to normal formatting for the main body of your text, in which case you can align left with Ctrl+L. Want to put your address in the top right corner of a letter you’re sending? Align right with Ctrl+R. And if you want to tidy your document up by having the beginning and end of every line aligned neatly with your margins, you can justify with Ctrl+J.
Hyperlinking: this one is handy in a number of situations, not just Word, but in PowerPoint and Excel, as well as in most online CMS editors. Highlight a word or sentence that you want to link to a webpage and press Ctrl+K. This will bring up a dialog box for you to input the web address that you want the text to be linked to; once you’ve entered the information the selected text will turn into a blue, underlined hyperlink that can be clicked to visit the assigned web page.
Navigation: got hundreds of pages and you’re trying to find a specific section? Make short shrift of searching by hitting Ctrl+F for Find, allowing you to enter the word or phrase that you’re looking for and be taken directly to it. Ctrl+F is also extremely useful in web browsers and across the Office suite. Alternatively, pressing F5 in Word will open a more comprehensive search tool that allows you to navigate to a specific page, section or line of your document, as well as use the Find and Replace function.
Selection: there’s no need to always use the mouse to highlight selected text; Shift+Arrow keys will also perform this function. Shift+Left/Right will highlight one character at a time, Shift+Alt+Left/Right one word at a time, and Shift+Ctrl+Left/Right an entire line at a time. Shift+Up/Down will also select entire lines, but once you want to select more than a paragraph at a time you may find using the mouse is actually the more productive method.
Word Count: a vital tool not just for productivity but for sanity, pressing Ctrl+Shift+G will instantly bring up your word count to provide you with that all-important visual affirmation that you are, indeed, moving steadily towards your goal.
Shortcuts for Excel
As mentioned previously, many of the above will also work in Excel. But there are a few Excel-specific shortcuts that will certainly speed up your spreadsheet productivity.
Navigation: in addition to the Shift+Arrow key method described above, Excel includes a couple of convenient functions for selecting larger areas of the spreadsheet. Shift+Space will Select entire row, while Ctrl+Space will Select entire column.
Ctrl+Shift+Down/Up Arrow will extend the selection of cells to the last nonblank cell in the same column or row as the active cell, or if the next cell is blank, extends the selection to the next non-blank cell.
Ctrl+Arrows will navigate to the bottom, top, left corner or right corner of the current data region, depending on which arrow you press. Meanwhile, if you have several sheets in your workbook, Ctrl+Page Down/Page Up will move to the next sheet or previous sheet in your workbook respectively.
Cell values: pressing F2 will edit the active cell that you have selected, positioning the insertion point at the end of the cell’s contents. If editing in that cell is turned off, this shortcut will move the insertion point into the Formula Bar. Esc will cancel entry in the cell or Formula Bar, as well as exiting any dialog box that may be open.
If you’re working with formulas, Ctrl+’ is a quick way to Copy the formula from the cell above, while Ctrl+Shift+” will Copy the value from the cell above without copying the formula.
Shortcuts for PowerPoint
Working with shapes and slides calls for a few PowerPoint-specific shortcuts to streamline your slide creation – though you will find a lot of the text formatting and editing shortcuts from above work in PowerPoint as well.
Shapes and slides: you can duplicate selected shapes or slides more quickly than with copy and paste by pressing Ctrl+D. New slides can be created by pressing Ctrl+M. You can select a number of shapes and group them together by pressing Ctrl+G (or Ctrl+Shift+G to ungroup them). You can even copy the formatting of a shape with Ctrl+Shift+C, and paste it onto another shape with Ctrl+Shift+V.
Presentation: you don’t want to be busy fiddling around with the mouse while you’re trying to make an impression. Shift+F5 will start the presentation from whichever slide you are currently on. If you want to draw attention to any particular area of the slide by zooming in with the + key, and panning with the arrow keys. Zoom out again with the – key.
Make your own shortcuts!
Take your efficiency to the next level by creating your own personal keyboard shortcuts. You can, of course, navigate to the relevant menu with keyboard shortcuts: press Alt+F to open the File Menu, then T to open the options. Then navigate to Customize Ribbon and press the Customize button to bring up the list of all the functions you can assign shortcuts to. Enjoy!
And now for something completely different…
Having given you so many ways to save time, we’d be remiss not to share at least one way to waste it. Impress your coworkers (or perhaps annoy them by secretly trying this shortcut on their computer) by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Down and seeing what happens. HINT: you may then have to stand on your head to get any work done…