Three timesaving Ctrl-key tricks in Excel

Working with Excel data is a whole lot easier when you know a few shortcuts -- like these easy efficiency-boosting keyboard tricks.

Trick 1: Fast navigation

When you press Ctrl and any arrow key (north, east, south, or west), you jump to the last populated cell in that direction. Think of using the Ctrl-arrow key shortcut as an alternative to pressing Page Down to find the bottom row of a data set or pressing Tab to find the last column. Bonus tip: Hold down the Shift key while you press any Ctrl-arrow key shortcut to select all the cells between where you are and where you jump with the Ctrl key.

Trick 2: Noncontiguous selections

You can select any cells you want, regardless of whether they're next to each other in a row or column. Hold down the Ctrl key while you click on a cell or click and drag through a range of cells. As long as you hold down the Ctrl key, you can click and select to your heart's content.

You can also use this in conjunction with the AutoCalculate function on Excel's status bar to analyze any combination of individual cells or blocks of cells. Just select the values you want to analyze, right-click on the status bar, and choose the desired function to see the results (Figure A).

Figure A

Trick 3: Fast data entry

Suppose you want to put the same string, number, or formula into two or more cells. Using the old-fashioned approach, you'd type the string, number, or formula into the first cell and then copy and paste that entry into the destination cells. But there's a little-known tip that makes short work of placing the same entry in multiple cells. First, select all the cells you want to populate. Type the entry, but don't press Enter. Instead, press Ctrl + Enter. When you do, Excel will copy what you typed into all of the selected cells.

Editor's Picks