15 helpful Microsoft Excel tips to use in the software

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Microsoft Excel is a popular spreadsheet application that has become a vital tool for companies to manage their data for multiple purposes, including data analysis. It has a powerful suite of features that makes it easier to work with data, especially if you have the knowledge of Excel's abilities. To get the most out of your Excel software, it can help to learn a few tips that can increase your productivity and organisation. In this article, we share 15 Excel tips for both new and advanced users.

Related: How to prepare for an Excel assessment test (with tips)

15 Microsoft Excel tips

With the right Microsoft Excel tips, you can unlock a huge range of features and functionality that makes working with Excel much easier. From using Excel as an analysis tool to organising data more efficiently, knowing how to get the most out of Excel can vastly improve your experience with it. Here are several useful tips for beginners and advanced Excel users:

1. Highlight all cells in a spreadsheet

This handy tip allows you to quickly highlight all the cells in your spreadsheet so that if you want to edit all cells at the same, you can do it in a few clicks. To select all cells, click CTRL + SHIFT + *. You may do this if you want to change the formatting or apply a text style.

2. Use format painter

Format painter is a tool that lets you apply formats across multiple cells. This can help with formatting how a spreadsheet looks, so if you want to colour-code certain cells or make specific rows bold, you can do so quickly. To use the format painter, do the following:

  1. Click on the cell that you want to copy the formatting of.

  2. Click on the home menu.

  3. Select ‘format painter'.

  4. Click on the cell that you would like to paste the formatting to.

  5. If you want to format multiple cells at once, double-click on the format painter icon to leave it engaged, then select the multiple cells and click the icon again to disable it.

3. Turn on flash fill

Flash fill is a feature within Excel that recognises patterns in formatting automatically and replicates them for you. If you're typing in formatted phone numbers, for example, Excel picks up on the pattern after you input it twice. From here, Excel replicates the pattern automatically, so all you do is input the numbers rather than the formatting. To do this, click the ‘data' tab and select ‘flash fill' to switch the feature on.

4. Import data

You can import data into Excel from an external source easily using the ‘external data' feature. This can be useful if you have data sets from other sources, especially if they are complex or contain a lot of data. In most cases, copying and pasting data works, but for larger data sets, it may be an easier and quicker process to import. To import data into Excel, do the following:

  1. Select the ‘data' tab.

  2. Click on ‘get external data'.

  3. Use the instructions Excel provides to pull the data from the external source.

Related: How to write a report in 9 steps (with definition and tips)

5. Copy and paste across multiple cells

You can copy and paste the same data across multiple cells easily in Excel, which can save you a lot of time. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Select the cells that you want to paste data into.

  2. When you reach the last cell, input the data you want to copy into multiple cells.

  3. When complete, click CTRL + ENTER to copy and paste the data from the last cell across all selected cells.

6. View formulas in Excel

If you have a populated spreadsheet from someone else, it can be useful to look at the various previously used formulas that populated the cells. Do this by selecting the ‘formulas' tab and selecting ‘show formulas'. This brings up all the used formulas across the entire spreadsheet.

Related: 15 basic Excel formulas to learn (with examples)

7. Freeze rows and columns

Spreadsheets in Excel can contain a huge number of rows and columns, so if there's a lot of data, the spreadsheet can become quite wide and long. This can make it difficult to find the correct data points, but you can work around this by freezing specific rows or columns in place. To do so, apply these steps:

  1. Click on the area of the spreadsheet that you would like to freeze.

  2. Select the ‘view' tab.

  3. Select the ‘freeze panes' button.

8. Pivot tables

Pivot tables is an advanced feature of Excel that allows you to reorganise the data found in a spreadsheet. It doesn't change the existing data, but it can sum up various values and draw comparisons between different data sets in the spreadsheet. To make a pivot table, follow these steps:

  1. Select the columns and rows that you want to evaluate.

  2. Click on the ‘insert' tab.

  3. Click on ‘pivot table'.

9. Replicate patterns

If you have a pattern that you would like to replicate across Excel, you can do this easily using this trick. First, input the start of the pattern in the row or column across separate cells. Next, click on the small square located in the bottom right of the last cell. Finally, drag that square until you have selected all the cells that you want to replicate the pattern into. Excel does the rest by populating the selected cells with the right figure.

10. Input text to columns

If you are inputting multi-word data sets, such as full names, Excel can make the process much faster thanks to the text to columns feature. If you need a group of words to appear in their cell, text to columns can read large data sets to automate the process. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Highlight the data after copying it into Excel.

  2. Click on the ‘data' tab.

  3. Click on ‘text to columns'.

  4. Adjust the formatting to your specifications.

  5. Click ENTER.

11. Insert graphics

Inserting graphics is a little-known feature of Excel that can drastically improve the functionality of a spreadsheet. This is a great way to illustrate data or display more visually appealing spreadsheets. To insert graphics into your spreadsheets, do the following:

  1. Highlight the cell where you intend to place the graphic.

  2. Right-click and select ‘series'.

  3. Select your graphic.

  4. Insert the graphic into the cell.

Related: How to create an Excel graph in 5 simple steps (with tips)

12. Save your charts to templates

Excel allows you to customise several graphics, such as charts and graphs, to better illustrate data and trends. You can even save these graphics as templates to use again in future spreadsheets. To save a template:

  1. Right-click on the completed chart.

  2. Select ‘save as template'.

  3. Save the file as a .CRTX file. This saves the chart as a template that you can use in the future.

Related: A guide to the different types of charts and graphs

13. Create a drop-down menu

If you want to format data within certain rows or columns, a drop-down menu can cleanly display the data. To create a drop-down menu within Excel, do the following:

  1. Highlight the data you want to include in the drop-down menu.

  2. Click on the ‘data' tab.

  3. Select ‘data validation'.

  4. Click on ‘allow'.

  5. Choose your list.

  6. Add your list items under ‘source'.

14. Hide specific rows or columns

Excel can become confusing when there are lots of rows and columns within the same spreadsheet. To make it easier to focus on the cells you're working on, you can hide rows or columns that aren't in use. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the header of the row or column you want to freeze.

  2. Select the ‘home' tab and click on the ‘format' button.

  3. Select ‘hide columns', then click on ‘hide columns'.

15. Copy and paste across different spreadsheets

To transfer information from one spreadsheet to another, Excel makes this a relatively simple task. In Excel, do the following:

  1. Press the CTRL button while highlighting the tab of the spreadsheet you want to copy information onto.

  2. Select the cell that holds the information you want to copy from.

  3. Press the F2 key and then ENTER.

What is Microsoft Excel?

Microsoft Excel is an application that reads, edits, creates spreadsheets and performs data analysis. Spreadsheets consist of rows and columns that create cells, or boxes that contain data. The type of information that you can input into the cells could be numbers, words or phrases. When using Excel, you can also input various formulas to make work easier by automatically sorting, copying or manipulating the cells in some way. Excel has a lot of functionality, with a wide range of features and shortcuts that make tracking, analysing and sorting data much easier.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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