Microsoft

A keyboard shortcut for returning to the active cell in Excel

Susan Harkins explains how to use a keyboard shortcut to quickly return to the active cell in an Excel worksheet.
Some spreadsheets are large and extend well past the right and lower edges of your screen. There are many ways to navigate a large spreadsheet, but scrolling right or down and losing sight of the active cell is quite common. A simple scroll up or left will return you to where you were—to the active cell--in a small spreadsheet. Getting back to the active cell might prove more difficult in a large sheet. Of course, you probably remember the general direction of the active cell, but depending on just how far you've wandered, scrolling back to the active cell is probably the least efficient way to get there.

Now, if you remember the active cell, you can press [Ctrl]+G and enter the cell address or range name and click OK (or press Enter). Most likely, you won't remember the cell reference, but that's Okay because there's a keyboard shortcut for returning to the active cell—from anywhere in the same sheet. After losing sight of the active cell, just press [Ctrl]+[Backspace] and Excel will return you to the active cell.

When you test this, keep in mind that the active cell shouldn't be visible. If it's visible, the screen doesn't change. Be sure to scroll to the right or down until the active cell is no longer on your screen. In addition, this every sheet has its own active cell, so you can't use this shortcut to jump to another sheet.

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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

13 comments
stapleb
stapleb

Nifty trick Susan. I tested this along with using the Name Box to return to the active cell. There is a slight differnce in the way they behave - Ctrl + Backspace returns to the cell and the display shows row 1; Name box made the row containing the active cell the top row in the display. Not major I know, but something to be aware of if showing people different ways of moving around a sheet. I must admit I would have used the name box as my way of identifying my currently active cell.

basil.cinnamon
basil.cinnamon

People seem to undervalue the lowly Name Box (on the upper left). It will always show the active cell even if you have scrolled off to infinity. Click and hit enter, you're home. To get back to the active cell, use the fact that the Name Box is also a navigation tool: enter any cell (or name) in that box and hit enter, and it will take you there. Since the Name Box contains the reference to the active cell, click in the Name Box and hit enter. Voila'.

pweegar
pweegar

So, which version of Excel does this work for? I use Excel 2003 and the Ctrl + backspace combo doesn't work. In fact, it doesn't do anything. Help does in fact list the Ctrl + backspace combo, but again, on my Excel, it doesn't work.

jbenton
jbenton

if you're going to want to return to a particular cell after various scrolls or edits either name it and then use F5 and double click it or (as a quick and dirty one-off) freeze panes on the active cell then ctrl-home will always take you back there - obviously this has major limitations but sometimes it just fulfils the need

RU7
RU7

Just press one of the arrow keys and you are at or within one cell of the original active cell.

dhays
dhays

I am using O2003 and it works for me.

jbenton
jbenton

Ctrl-backspace keeps the same selection and scrolls the view until the active cell is in the centre of the window Other methods lose the selection and scroll until the active cell is just back in the window (the 'correct' one of these is arguably shift-backspace, which collapses the current selection to the active cell without entering a cell or activating a new one - but there's no real advantage) I just use Enter ('Move selection after Enter' option is cleared) this will keep your selection but will move the active cell if more than 1 is selected)

lyambor
lyambor

While this might be useful if you are scrolling to another part of your worksheet it only works if you have NOT clicked on another cell which is not usually the case

ssharkins
ssharkins

I'm not sure what you're trying to describe. If I press the arrow key, it moves one cell in the respective direction.

RU7
RU7

I use this frequently. A cell has a formula that refers to a distant cell. I activate the cell to see the formula, then scroll to the referenced cell to see what is in the area. Often it is a table for vlookup. AFter seeing the table I do a one-handed right-arrow/left-arrow combination and I'm back at the original cell with it active.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

that cell is now the active cell the only way to return to the previous active cell is with the undo command (provided there is something to undo in that cell)

R Woell
R Woell

After you have moved away from the active cell, just be sure you don't click in another cell because it then is the active cell. Try this, go to cell c3 and enter a number. Then using the scroll bars, move the sheet down and away so the cell with the number moves off screen. Then try either of the two methods described above. Both should work.

jbenton
jbenton

You really should try the Trace Precedents facility for this Available on the Formula Auditing toolbar, clicking this visually links to any cells used in the active cell's formula. Double clicking these lines then toggles the active cell between the cells at either end. No need for scrolling or even letting go of that mouse

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