Using Excel Keyboard (and other) Shortcuts To Dramatically Increase Productivity

Excel function tutorials, Excel spreadsheets (.xls)

I talk about productivity and improving the efficiency of Excel spreadsheets on this blog but I`ve never actually discussed one of the primary ways that I save time when working in Excel. In the past, I`ve talked about adding the most common things that I do to save time. There`s no doubt that creating macros and using powerful functions in order to automate some processes are key but I probably save as much if not more time by simply “not searching” for functions in the Excel spreadsheets. How? You’ve probably heard of the most famous keyboard shortcuts:

Ctrl-C: Copy
Ctrl-V: Paste

These are clearly the ones I use most, not only in Excel but on my computer in general. Here are a few others that I use a lot:

CTRL+PgUp:Switches between worksheet tabs, from left-to-right.
CTRL-F: Find
Shift+Space: Select entire row

You can also get a full list on this PDF from the Microsoft website.

This certainly solves most of my issues but there are some functions that are more complex to use as shortcuts but that I use over and over. What do I do with those? Simply add the icons to the top of my Excel bar in order to make it much easier to do. How? Let’s take the example of “Paste as Values” which I tend to do all the time. How?

-Click on File

-Click on options

-Click on “Quick Access Toolbar”

-Find the exact function and click add

After that it will appear at the top of your “Excel” application:

Easy enough? I promise that you will be very surprised at how much time this will end up saving you.

Understanding Complex Spreadsheets With “Slate”

Excel function tutorials

I don’t know if this has happened to you before but I can tell you that it’s a major challenge when you open a spreadsheet built by someone else and try to see where numbers come from. Yes, there are some Excel built-in functions that can help but it’s very difficult to use honestly. A few weeks ago I looked into “Slate”, an Excel add-in that makes that whole task a lot easier. It gives you a better understanding of the numbers that were used to get to a sum. It adds it in a visual way as you can see here:

As the spreadsheet becomes more complicated, so does the Slate chart as you can see here:

I simply installed the add-in (you get a free licence for now), opened a spreadsheet and saw this:


Then I clicked on that Slate button and got this, which I can dig into:


I’d be curious to hear from any of you that have tried this or are considering it? Just to confirm, I’m not being paid to write this, even if you try it:) It is just a very interesting product in my opinion. You can try it at

One More Reason To Get Office365

Excel 2013, Google Cloud Spreadsheets

As many of you already know, I’m a big fan of moving my data and spreadsheets to the clouds. Over the past few months, I’ve been moving many of my invoices, tax documents and more into my Dropbox account which makes it easier to find, takes up less space in my house and is easy to get rid of when the time comes.

I’ve also started moving a lot of my life to cloud-based documents, either in Office2013 (for files that use macros, specific functions or add-ins such as ycharts. Thus, I now have files that:

-keep a live picture of my investment accounts
-list different things such as travel lists, things to do, etc
-files for work
-all pictures since I’ve moved to digital
-movies and music

As you can imagine, the cloud is becoming a big part of my life:) That is why I was THRILLED to see the latest change to the Office365 offering. The price remains the same but now comes with 1TB of free cloud-based storage.

1TB = 1000 GB

That is likely more than you’ll need for a long time. You could have hundreds of movies and still not come close to that limit. To give you an idea.

Dropbox charges $9.99/month for 100mb
Google Drive charges $9.99/month for 1TB
Office365/OneDrive charges $9.99/month for 1TB + Microsoft Office

It’s a pretty good deal (free trial from here) and no I’m not being paid by Microsoft to write about this haha:) Although if someone from MSFT wants to send me a check, I’d welcome that!

I’d be very cusious in hearing if you’ve started converting your files to cloud? The vast majority of the Excel users on this blog have not converted to Office365 so I’ll be interested to see if that changes over time.

Gathering Financial Data in Excel With YCharts

Excel 2013, Excel function tutorials

One of the most requested subjects on this blog is getting financial information into Excel. The easiest way of course is having a Bloomberg terminal which makes it possible to access a seemingly unlimited amount of data about the economy, publicly listed companies, indexes, etc. The possibilities are incredible. Think there is a drawback? Of course. Given it has a financial professional target audience, the cost is typically between $1000-3000/month depending on the type of service you have, if you’re getting live prices, etc. Yes you read that right, it’s per month.

It seemed incredible to me that no one was trying to disrupt this market no matter how complex it is. I have written a few times about how it’s possible to get some financial data from Google finance in Google docs, cloud-based spreadsheets:

-Using Google Spreadsheets As An Alternative To Excel For Stock Prices And Information
-Managing A Stock Or ETF Portfolio From Google Docs
-How To Add Exchange Rates In Google Docs

There’s no doubt that those capabilities are very interesting and make it easy to track the value of a portfolio for example. What if you’re trying to do more though?

One clear candidate emerges: YCharts

Ycharts is a website where you can do a lot of what you’d do on a site like Yahoo finance or Google finance. You can build stock lists, look into a company’s financials, past statements, etc. The big difference is that if you join one of their paid memberships, you can get access to their very powerful excel plug-in. While not exactly Bloomberg, the possibilities with this spreadsheet are very very impressive. Look at how I’m using it personally:

I have a list of 300-400 stocks that are on my screener and represent potential purchases. I then have all of those stocks in a spreadsheet and look to get specific metrics such as market cap, price, dividend yield, P/E and some growth metrics with their custom formulas. For example, to get Blackrock’s dividend yield, I’d enter:


Every time I refresh my spreadsheet, I’ll get updated values. This is what this specific spreadsheet looks like:

They also provide templates that you can use to either look at many companies or at one in more details:

I’m guessing at this point i’ts starting to look like I was paid to write about this but I’m just a big fan of what they’re doing and have been a paying member for 6 months now.

Has anyone else given YCharts a try? If so, I’d love to get your thoughts.

Counting Number Of Unique Entries (CountIf Function)

Excel function tutorials

I received a question that made me think of something I had tried to do in a spreadsheet a few months ago but never got around to discuss on this blog. Suppose that you have a large set of data that looks like:

There are a large number of things that could be done with such a set of data but one always tricky aspect is getting answers to questions that involve multiple columns. For example, if someone were to ask you, how many different locations of the store sold at least 1 Early Grey Russian black tea box on each day? I cannot simply add up the number of sales since some stores sell multiple boxes. What could I do? I’ll add 2 columns and include the “countif” function which will give me my answer:)

First, I will create a column with a “UniqueID” with the concactenate:

Then, I will use the “countif” function to see if the ID is unique:

As you can see, all numbers that are “1” are non-Unique. I can then manipulate that column in different ways

As always, you can download the spreadsheet here:)