Quick access to Excel formula bar via keyboard

A quick keyboard shortcut puts you right into the Formula bar. You don't need the mouse at all!

When entering formulas, you select a cell and start typing. To edit an existing formula, you probably make changes in the Formula bar. Recently, I noticed several Excel students reaching for the mouse and clicking the Formula bar to edit formulas. That method's Okay, but some people find it easier to work from the keyboard as much as possible. If that describes you, press [F2] instead of reaching for the mouse the next time you want to edit an existing formula.To me, it hardly seemed worth mentioning. Admittedly, substituting a single keystroke for a mouse click doesn't seem like a big deal, unless you prefer the keyboard (at least most of the time). The keyboard approach isn't more efficient, it's just different.

If pressing [F2] positions the cursor in the cell instead of the Formula bar, do the following:

  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.
  2. Click the Edit tab.
  3. Uncheck the Edit Directly In Cell option in the Settings area.
  4. Click OK.

If you're using Excel 2007, do the following:

  1. Click the Office button and then click Excel Options (at the bottom right).
  2. Select Advanced in the left pane.
  3. Uncheck the Allow Editing Directly In Cell option.
  4. Click OK.


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.


This article is labelled incorrectly! It DOESN'T give you access to the formula bar - it allows you to EDIT a cell (whether it has a formula or or a value!) If this had told me how to be able to insert a function using the keyboard, it might have been useful! But this 'tip' is misguided!


... I hate having to give up the "edit in cell" option for this. Lots of formulas are really simple (sum comes to mind) and the in-cell editing with the arrow keys is pretty fast. The ones I usually need to edit in the formula bar involve nesting, and/or, or other complex items. Sure wish there was a way to have both options, like alt-f2.


Help -> Keyboard Shortcuts -> Keys for entering, editing, formatting, and calculating data -> Enter and calculate formulas -> F2: "Move the insertion point into the Formula Bar when editing in a cell is turned off." So ha ha.

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