Quick Excel data entry trick

Use this easy-to-implement trick to force Tab to jump to the first cell in the next row when entering new data.

Pressing the Tab key, by default, moves the cursor to the right. This is useful when entering a new row of values — at least until you reach the last column in that row. Then, you must grab the mouse and select the first cell in the new row or press Down and Left Arrow a number of times. Regardless of your manual technique, it's awkward at best. Fortunately, there's a simple selection trick that forces Excel to move the cursor to the first row in the next record when you reach the last column in a selection. Before you start entering data, position the cursor in the first cell of the first blank row, as you normally would. Then, highlight the columns and rows necessary to accommodate the new data. For instance, let's suppose the current data is in A1:E10 and you need to insert three new records. In this case, you'd select A11:E13.

Once you've selected the necessary cells, enter the first value — that would be cell A11. Then, press Tab. Enter the appropriate value for Cell B11 and press Tab. Continue in this fashion until you reach cell E11. Enter the value for E11 and press Tab. Instead of selecting F11, the cell to the right, Excel cycles around to the next cell in the selection, which is A12. That's right where you need to be to start the next new record!

This selection method cycles through only the selected cells, so you must select the appropriate number of records, or more records than you need. If you press Tab while in the last cell in the selection (cell E13 in the above example), Excel will cycle around to the first cell (A11). Consequently, if you're not careful, you could overwrite existing data. The trick, when you don't know exactly how many rows to select, is to select more rows than you need.

About Susan Harkins

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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