Ditch the Mouse: Quickly Select Excel Ranges With Your Keyboard

Mouse: Just Say NO
I may have made this in Paint.

I’m going to write a lot about ditching the mouse in favor of keyboard shortcuts, so consider this one of many to come. And while we’re at it, get used to me spamming this next sentence throughout my shortcut posts: Using keyboard commands over hunting and clicking with the mouse will save you time. Period.

Next time you open Excel to manage a list, a table with headers or just giant blocks of data, please, please avoid using your mouse to select or highlight cells and cell ranges. Use these keyboard shortcuts instead:

  • Ctrl + Shift + Arrow Key: I consider this among the most useful Excel keyboard shortcuts around. Extends 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 nonblank cell.
  • Ctrl + Arrow Key: Jumps to the edge of the current data region in a worksheet.
  • Ctrl + Home: Jumps to cell A1 no matter where you are on a worksheet.
  • Ctrl + End: Jumps to the right bottommost nonblank cell.
  • Shift + Arrow Key: Extends the selection of cells by one cell.

Out of these five navigation shortcuts I probably use the first and second 95% of the time. The first shortcut, Ctrl + Shift + Arrow, to select large blocks of data like a long list or a table. This one is especially useful if you have a table or any list with more than one column because you can press Ctrl + Shift + ↓ to select down the entire first column, then while keeping Ctrl + Shift pressed, hit  to quickly select the remaining columns to the right.

Some of the data feeds I work with regularly generate tables 30+ columns wide and often thousands of rows long, so being able to exactly select the entire table by simply pressing Ctrl + Shift + ↓ + → saves me a lot of time and hassle. The second shortcut, Ctrl + Arrow Key, is how I jump around in Excel to get from one end of my data to the other.

It’s super, so do it.

  6 comments for “Ditch the Mouse: Quickly Select Excel Ranges With Your Keyboard

  1. Justine Middleton
    October 7, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    Thank you for this information – just what I needed

  2. Shawn
    December 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Perfect. Just the answer I was looking for Thank you

  3. D
    February 14, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    This is great. I was looking for this and got lengthy and/or irrelevant advice on other pages. It’s refreshing to see the advice I needed written in plain English. Thanks!

    • May 25, 2015 at 10:15 PM

      I’m glad you found the post useful – thanks for the kind words!

  4. May 27, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    The only exception to the Ctrl+Home sequence I have found is if you have frozen panes. Ctrl+Home takes you to the topmost position of the unfrozen area. For example, if you were to freeze at position L21, the key sequence will take you there instead of A1. Otherwise, this is great information you have passed along. Thank you.

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