Selecting more than a screenfull of cells in Excel using the mouse can be an exercise in frustration. That is why I usually use the keyboard to select a large block of cells. The most common way to select with the keyboard is simply to hold down the shift key while using any other key or key combination that moves your cursor. (One exception is Shift+Tab will move you backwards, just like it would in a word processor.) There are 3 basic ways of navigating a spreadsheet using the keyboard:

  1.  Arrow Keys – move your cursor one cell at a time. I know this one was obvious, but I had to include it.
  2.  Page Up/Page Down keys – move your cursor up or down one screen at a time.
  3.  Home key – moves your cursor to the beginning of the row.

Those can also be combined with the Alt or CTRL keys for even more flexibility:

CTRL+arrow key – move to the edge of the data region. Since that may not be very clear to everyone, here is an example in plain English. If you press CTRL and the down arrow key when your cursor is in a column of data, the cursor will move down the column until it finds an empty cell. It will leave your cursor in tha last non-empty cell. If you press CTRL and the down arrow key again, it will skip over the empty cells and put you in the next occupied cell. Another way of doing the same thing is to press the End key and then press an arrow key.

  • Alt+Page Down – moves one screen to the right.
  • Alt+Page Up – moves one screen to the left.
  • CTRL+Page Down – moves to the next tab in the workbook.
  • CTRL+Page Up – moves to the previous tab in the workbook.
  • CTRL+Home – moves to the beginning of the worksheet.
  • CTRL+End – moves to the end of the worksheet.

All of those methods can be combined with the Shift key to change them from just navigating to selecting.

One other method of keyboard navigation that I was surprised to learn can also be combined with the shift key to select cells is the Go To function. Pressing CTRL+G (or just F5) will bring up the Go To window. You can type in a cell reference (like G200 to go to the 200th row of column G). Then, if you hold down the Shift key while you hit Enter (or click OK), Excel will select the range of cells from your current location to the location you told it to go to.

And there are also several keyboard selection methods that don’t use navigation keys:

  • CTRL+A – selects the entire worksheet. This is easy to remember if you think of A for All.
  • CTRL+* (or CTRL+SHIFT+8) – Selects the region around the active cells. The shortcut here is CTRL with the asterisk. That means you can use the asterisk that is on the number pad or SHIFT with 8 from the number row of the main keyboard area.
  • CTRL+Spacebar – selects the column you are in.
  • SHIFT+Spacebar – selects the row you are in.

I hope you find these helpful. I tried to select keyboard shortcuts that would be helpful to most Excel users and that are relatively easy to remember. If you are a real Excel nerd, look up “Keyboard Shortcuts” in Excel’s help and you will be amazed at what you can find. Selecting cells that don’t match the current cell, or selecting cells that are referenced by a formula in the current cell a only a couple of keystrokes away…if you can just remember the right keystokes.