Continue to Excel: 4 More Easy Spreadsheet Tips for Accountants

Spreadsheet Tips

As an accounting professional, you probably already know quite a bit about Excel. But there are scores of little-known tips and tricks that can help you take even better advantage of Microsoft’s spreadsheet software. Here are four you can start using right away.

1. Try conditional formatting

When you’re working with a range of cells, it’s sometimes quicker to format only certain ones. But when you do that in a large spreadsheet, it can be tiresome to find specific cells. Conditional formatting helps you avoid having to hunt down and select those individual cells. To use it, select “Conditional Formatting,” then “New Rule,” from the Home menu. Then select “Use a formula to determine which cells to format.” Type in your selection formula – numbers less than 1,000, for example – and then click “Format,” and change the appearance options as needed for your selection. (Mac users: You'll find Conditional Formatting in the Format menu.)

2. Use keyboard shortcuts

Although a mouse or trackpad can be very useful, being well-versed with keyboard shortcuts can really decrease the time you spend creating and editing spreadsheets. On this blog, we’ve previously covered several Excel tips for keyboard power users. A few lesser-known shortcuts are: 

  • Select an entire column: Control + Spacebar
  • Switch between worksheets: Control + Page up/Page down (Mac users: Function + Command + up/down arrows)
  • Insert the current time: Control + Shift + :

You can open up your keyboard’s capabilities by optimizing your Quick Access Toolbar, just to the right of the Microsoft Office button. It’s easy to add the options and commands you use frequently to this movable toolbar: Right-click any tool or button, then select “Add to Quick Access Toolbar.” Once you’ve done that, instead of switching menus to center text or add comments, you can simply click on your custom Quick Access shortcut. (Mac users: Sorry, the Mac version does not have the Quick Access Toolbar function.)

3. Include charts

We usually think of charts as the domain of PowerPoint presentations, but they can also be great additions to Excel files. Select the range of cells containing the data to be charted, and then click “Insert” in the Charts menu. There are several types of charts to choose from, and each one is adjustable from the Chart Tools menu or by right-clicking the embedded chart. You can add titles for the chart and each axis under the Layout tab – just click the arrow beside “Data Labels.”  Like what you’ve done? To save your chart for future use, click the “Save As Template” button. (Mac users: You'll find Charts in the Insert menu.)

4. Use concatenation

Ever had two columns you needed to combine into a single column? One useful Excel feature is the concatenate function, which combines two or more sets of data into one cell. To use it, type in the formula =concatenate(Cell 1,Cell 2).

These tips and tricks can help fine-tune your spreadsheets and simplify your daily workflow. That translates into more productivity, which will surely help you “excel” at work, and beyond. 

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