Get help entering Excel functions with a keyboard shortcut

This keyboard shortcut displays function arguments, syntax, and helps guide you through the input process.

There are numerous ways to enter a function and the trick is to find the method that makes you efficient. Knowing a function's syntax is part of working efficiently, but who can remember the syntax for every function they use? Don't even try - just let Excel guide you through the process instead.

You probably know about the Fx feature's autocomplete capability, which helps you choose the appropriate function. In addition, you can click Fx in the Formula bar to display the Insert Function dialog, which displays information about a function's arguments and syntax. What you might not know about is the [Ctrl]+[Shift]+a shortcut that completes a function by displaying its arguments.

Let's work through an example, step-by-step:

  1. Enter the function's name and the opening parenthesis, say, =pmt(. (The period is the end of the sentence and not part of the function name.)
  2. Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+a, and Excel will display the function's arguments and select the first argument.
  3. Press [Enter] to enter the function and its argument names.
  4. Click inside the Formula bar and Excel will display ScreenTip links to each argument. Click rate in the ScreenTip and Excel will highlight the rate argument in your function.
  5. Enter .05/12 to represent a 5% annual interest rate.
  6. At this point, you could manually highlight the next argument, but you don't have to. Instead, click the linked argument, nper, in the ScreenTip and Excel will highlight that argument for you.
  7. Enter 5*12 to denote a five-year loan.
  8. Click the third argument, pv, and enter 10000, to represent the loan's value.
  9. You've entered all the required arguments, so delete the two optional arguments and press [Enter].

Some people won't like the back and forth switching between the keyboard and theĀ  mouse, but for those who don't mind, this is a helpful guide for entering a function's arguments.


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.

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