High-Impact Excel Tips and Tricks from an Expert

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Sure, you use Microsoft Excel frequently in your job as an accounting professional. But have you ever wished you could get Excel tips and tricks from a real expert? Now’s your chance.

In a “High-Impact Excel” webinar, David Ringstrom, CPA and owner of Accounting Advisors Inc., shared various tips and tricks for optimizing your spreadsheet skills.

Here’s an overview of his presentation, complete with Excel tips with the accounting professional in mind:

Work more efficiently
 with Excel

Ringstrom opened the webinar by explaining how to access files and folders faster, thereby allowing you to spend more time working. “I see folks spend an inordinate amount of time just getting to their documents,” he said.

With these Excel tips and tricks, you can save time looking for worksheets:

  • Recent documents. If you access the “File” menu or “Office Button” in Excel — depending on the version you are using — there’s a handy button called “Recent.” Using this function, you can quickly generate a list of the workbooks you recently worked on.

  • Recover unsaved workbooks. This feature, which is available in Excel 2010 and 2013, allows you to gain access to a file that you closed without saving in some cases. Keep in mind that you might not always be able to recover unsaved work. To have a better chance at gaining access to these workbooks, adjust the autosave increment by going to the “File” menu, selecting options and making changes to the “Save AutoRecover” box under the “Save” option. Ringstrom recommends setting the increment to every two minutes.

  • Expanding your view of recent documents. In the “Advanced” section of the “Options” menu, you can adjust the number of recent documents shown. Ringstrom suggests changing the number to 50 for better access to recent folders and files.

  • Looking at older versions. If you’re using Excel 2010 or 2013, you can take advantage of the “Versions” viewer under the “Info” tab in the “File” menu. This feature allows you to see previously saved versions of your workbook and make side-by-side comparisons in case you need to recover some lost information.

Did you know that most small companies use Excel for budgeting and long-range planning? That's what we found out from the Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function report

Use Excel templates

Templates are available for any version of Excel. Ringstrom cited the example of creating an amortization table using a template. By right-clicking on a blank worksheet, you can gain access through the “Insert” command. Under the “Spreadsheet Solutions” tab, you will find various templates, including an amortization schedule, which can then be inserted into the spreadsheet. You can also create your own templates by saving a worksheet as an Excel template.

Format spreadsheets faster

When working on a spreadsheet, there are ways to add special formatting to different cells, columns and rows with less effort.

After applying any formatting to the spreadsheet — such as making a cell yellow or adding borders to a group of cells — you can use the format painter function to copy that formatting to other cells. If you double-click on the format painter icon, you can lock the function and single-click on any parts of the spreadsheet that you want to format. When you’re done, hit escape to unlock your cursor.

Looking for more ways to maximize your workday? Find out about Robert Half's online training courses and reference materials, and read this post about boosting your productivity.

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Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.