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Excel: Navigation

Welcome to the May Hot Tip,

We hope you had fun with the Easter eggs in the last tip - this month we'll have a more practical look at Excel.

Moving around large worksheets can be time consuming, so there follows a list of tricks for jumping around your work.

Firstly, we should explain what the "current region" is. When you have a block of occupied cells in a worksheet that is a "region". Most worksheets only have one region, which consists of the block of text and/or data. Some spreadsheets have more than one block, each surrounded by empty cells. Each of these blocks is a region. The "current region" is the block where the cursor is. It ends where there is a completely empty column and a completely empty row on all sides.

To move around the current region, point to the black border around the selected cell and double-click. The cursor will then jump to the top, bottom, left or right of the region depending upon where you double-clicked.

The keystrokes that match the above are:

  • To move to the top of the current region press Ctrl + [up arrow]
  • To move to the bottom of the current region Ctrl + [down arrow]
  • To move the left or right of the current region Ctrl + [left arrow] or Ctrl + [right arrow]
  • To highlight the current region press Ctrl + *. You can then apply borders to this region rather than the whole sheet, for example.
  • To move to column A Home
  • To move to cell A1 Ctrl + Home
  • To move to the last cell in your work Ctrl + End
  • To move to a particular cell Ctrl + G, and then type in the cell reference. The next time you use Ctrl + G it will show where you jumped from before, so it's easy to jump back again.

You probably know to use Page Down and Page Up to scroll up and down your work, but to move right or left use Alt + Page Down or Alt + Page Up.

The scroll bar will also go faster if you hold down Shift while you drag the scroll box. (The scroll box is the marker that moves up and down the scroll bar.)

The above trick is useful sometimes, but when you are trying to select cells the usually problem is that it scrolls too fast and you find yourself shooting backward and forwards trying to highlight those cells that are just off the page. In newer versions of Excel this speed depends on how far beyond the edge of the sheet you go. Practice highlighting some cells near the edge of the visible sheet and try to move just beyond the edge as if you want a cell that was just out of sight. The spreadsheet should scroll slowly. Move further beyond the edge and it will accelerate.

If the above doesn't seem to work, you can use the keyboard to select cells.

To select a range of cells: Click the first cell, scroll until you can see the last cell you want and Shift+Click that last cell. Alternatively, hold down the Shift key as you navigate with the keyboard.

Holding down the Shift key can also be used to extend an existing highlight.

Don't forget Ctrl + * to highlight the current region.

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