Your quick guide to Excel’s CTRL shortcuts

On your marks, get set, go – these quick shortcuts will get your spreadsheets over the finish line faster!

I’m constantly in awe of Excel’s capabilities to allow you to analyse data in a fast and efficient way. There are so many Excel shortcuts (including Excel’s CTRL shortcuts) available to help you streamline your activities that, when used correctly, can have a huge impact on your life professionally and personally.

When I first started my business I invested so much time into making it work that I quickly lost track of the most important thing – me!

I was putting so much into building my client list, delivering projects for clients, and managing my own business data, that I got to a point where I was burning myself out from working all hours. 

Anyone who knows me knows that as much as I love Excel, my social life is also a massively important part of who I am. When I realised how much I was neglecting that social life because work (and the guilt of not working) was taking up all of my time, I realised that I needed to take a step back and make some changes.

I needed faster ways to get the work I needed to get done, done, without it impacting my life as a whole.

What I learned from this experience is whenever you can save time at work (even if only a minute or two here and there) it’s worth it – and this is why I love Excel shortcuts so much.

Those reclaimed minutes (even seconds) will add up over time and you’ll suddenly find yourself having more time, allowing you to switch off at the end of the day, not feel guilty about getting out and socialising, and just being able to relax knowing that when you log on tomorrow, you can breeze through your tasks. 

While many users are familiar with basic Excel functions, mastering keyboard shortcuts can significantly boost your productivity and efficiency. 

Among the various shortcuts available, those involving the CTRL key are particularly helpful. 

In this guide, I’ll take you through some of the essential CTRL shortcuts in Excel that will make your data manipulation tasks a breeze and help you to skim time off your working day so you can get back to the things you love.

10 ACE CTRL shortcuts to streamline your Excel experience 

1. CTRL + C and CTRL + V

Copying and pasting data are common tasks in Excel. 

Instead of using the right-click menu or navigating through the ribbon, simply use CTRL + C to copy selected cells or ranges and CTRL + V to paste the copied content. 

For instance, if you have a sales report and want to copy the total revenue to another sheet or cell, simply select the data and press CTRL + C, then navigate to the destination cell and press CTRL + V to paste the value.

BONUS TIP: If you need to copy an entire sheet, use the CTRL + A function mentioned below to highlight the entire sheet. You can then use CTRL + C to copy and CTRL + V to paste into a blank sheet.

2. CTRL + X and CTRL + Z

Similar to copying, cutting data is a valuable function when rearranging information. Cutting copies the data you’ve selected to your clipboard, whilst removing it from its current placement. You can then paste the data into a new cell on your sheet. 

Use CTRL + X to cut selected cells or ranges and the previously mentioned CTRL + V to insert them into their new placement within the sheet.

Imagine you have a list of expenses that need to be rearranged. Select the cells containing the expenses, press CTRL + X, navigate to the desired location, and press CTRL + V to move the data.

If you make a mistake and need to recover your cut selection, just use CTRL + Z to undo the previous action.

NOTE: Be aware that using ‘CUT’ will also impact any connected formulas and you may see them turn to #REF! If they have been broken

3. CTRL + F

Finding specific data in large spreadsheets can be time-consuming. By pressing CTRL + F, you can open the ‘Find’ dialog box and search for particular values, formulas, or text within your workbook. 

All you need to do is type in the word, number or phrase (or even just part of it) you’re looking for into the dialog box.

This shortcut helps you quickly locate and navigate through your data. For instance, you have a massive inventory list and need to find a specific product, press CTRL + F, type the product name in the search box, and Excel will highlight the cell containing the desired product.

4. CTRL + H

Alongside the Find function, Excel offers a Replace feature to substitute specific data with another value. 

Use CTRL + H to access the Replace dialog box and efficiently replace one or all occurrences of a particular item.

Let’s say you have a list of customer names, and you need to correct the misspelling of a name throughout the entire sheet. Press CTRL + H, enter the incorrect name in the “Find what” field, and the correct name in the “Replace with” field. 

Excel will then perform a sweep of your sheet, replacing all instances of the misspelt name that it finds with the correct spelling. 

This is also a handy tool if you need to quickly update projects with new dates, or reassign tasks from one team member to another.

NOTE: This will replace EXACTLY what you ask it to, so think carefully about all of the occurrences it’s likely to find and make sure you’re happy for them all to be changed.

Excel's CTRL Shorcuts

5. CTRL + A

When working with extensive data sets, selecting all cells or a specific range is a must. The CTRL + A shortcut instantly selects the entire worksheet or the current region containing data. 

For example, if you have a budget spreadsheet with various categories and need to format the entire sheet, just press CTRL + A, and all cells in the sheet will be selected. You can then apply the same formatting across the entire selected range in one go, rather than having to painstakingly apply it to each individual cell (who doesn’t love completing a task in bulk?)

6. CTRL + Shift + L

Excel’s filtering capability allows you to analyse data more effectively. 

By selecting a range and pressing CTRL + Shift + L, you can apply or remove filters to the columns, enabling you to sort and analyse data in real time.

Suppose you have a sales data table and want to filter the data to show only the sales made by a specific salesperson. Select the data range and press CTRL + Shift + L to apply the filter. 

Excel will display drop-down arrows in the header row, allowing you to filter the data based on salesperson names.

7. CTRL + Arrow Keys

Navigating through large spreadsheets can be tedious. Use CTRL + Arrow keys (up, down, left, or right) to move quickly to the populated cell in the respective direction.

This shortcut helps you efficiently navigate across your data without using the mouse. 

For example, if you have a worksheet with thousands of rows, and you need to jump from row 1 to row 1000, you can simply press CTRL + Arrow Down to get there in a flash. This will take you to the last populated row in your sheet. 

So no more time wasted on doom scrolling through your sheets.

8. CTRL + Spacebar (and Shift + Spacebar)

To select an entire column instantly, use CTRL + Spacebar, and to select an entire row, use Shift + Spacebar (I know that one’s not a CTRL shortcut, but they’re like twins and it feels wrong to include one here without the other).

These shortcuts are particularly useful when you want to format or delete entire rows or columns quickly. 

Suppose you have a data table with multiple columns and want to format a specific column. Click any cell within the column and press CTRL + Spacebar to select the entire column. You can now apply the desired formatting or perform any operation on the entire column. 

The same goes for Shift + Spacebar when wanting to perform the action on columns. 

9. CTRL + Page Up/Page Down

Excel workbooks often contain multiple worksheets. Use CTRL + Page Up and CTRL + Page Down to switch between the different sheets effortlessly.

For instance, if you have a workbook with separate sheets for each quarter’s sales data. When viewing the first quarter’s data, press CTRL + Page Down to navigate to the second quarter’s sheet, and CTRL + Page Up to return to the first quarter’s sheet in a snap.

10. CTRL + Shift + Plus Sign

Inserting rows or columns is a common task in Excel. To do this quickly, press CTRL + Shift + Plus Sign.

Let’s say you have a budget sheet and need to add a new row for an additional expense. 

Select the row above which you want to insert the new row, and press CTRL + Shift + Plus Sign, this will open the insert dialog box allowing you to quickly choose whether you want to insert a new row or column and in which direction. Excel will then insert this for you.


Mastering Excel’s CTRL shortcuts is essential for enhancing your productivity and speeding up data manipulation tasks.

With these quick and efficient shortcuts in your back pocket, you’ll save time and effort while working on your spreadsheets. Incorporate these shortcuts into your Excel workflow, and you’ll become a more proficient data analyst in no time.

The more frequently you use these shortcuts, the faster they’ll become second nature. Over the years I’ve developed muscle memory when it comes to hitting the CTRL button and no longer have to even think about it to be able to perform these actions.

Did you find this article helpful? Click here for more ACE shortcuts and tips to streamline your Excel usage.

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