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Back To Basics: Master Microsoft Excel


Back to the Basics

At Corporate Training Solutions Australia (CTSA), we begin each of our computer training sessions with a ‘back to the basics’.

What does this mean? We provide you with an opportunity to recap what you should already know how to do in the computer program.

For example, in Microsoft Excel training we start with a review of what features are available to you in the current version.

You will be surprised with how many people don’t already know what they should know with the version of excel they are using.

It surprises us each time too. That is why we keep doing a revision at the beginning of our sessions, and why we offer a refresher each year!

In these sessions, so many students are shocked at what they didn’t know. They exhale with frustration as they have finally found a better way to complete an exhausting task. 

An example that we are always astounded by is students not knowing about the text to columns feature. When we show them how to simply split text with a wizard, they are shocked at how many hours they have wasted manually cutting and pasting data.

By the way, this feature was released in 2013. Since its release, there have been multiple opportunities to attend excel training or refresher courses. There is no excuse to not know about the test to columns feature. This just demonstrates how important it is to maintain your skills in excel and engage in continuous learning.

We want to provide you with the same opportunity to refresh your skills. So here are three (3) fundamentals that you should already know about Microsoft Excel. Do you know all of them?


Fundamental 1: Navigating and Selecting Cells


When you need to find the last row of a table to add more data or to find blank cells, it can be time consuming to scroll through your data. Sure, you might think, “it only takes 5 seconds”, this time. But each time you open the spreadsheet, those 5 seconds add up to become a long waste of time. We know it frustrates you each time you need to do it.

So next time, use this helpful shortcut.

  • Select a cell (any cell) that contains data
  • hold Ctrl + press an arrow key

This will take you to last cell containing data, for the arrow direction selected. If you are at the top of the table, use the down arrow key to find the next blank cell. If you are in the middle of the table, use either the up arrow key or down arrow key to move accordingly.

If you start from any blank cell in the table (a cell without any data), the shortcut will take you to the last blank cell, for the arrow direction selected. You can move up or down, left or right.

Why is this useful?

You can quickly find the bottom row or last column of a table with a click of a button, no more scrolling.

Additionally, you can also find blank cells across rows or down columns, just use the left or right arrow keys.

Bonus Tip:

  • Select a cell (any cell) containing data
  • hold Shift + Ctrl + press an arrow key


This will take you to last cell containing data and select all the cells in between, for the arrow direction selected.


Likewise, if you start from a blank cell (a cell without any data or equations), the shortcut will take you to the last blank cell and select all the cells in between, for the arrow direction selected.


This is a quick way to select a large range of cells without having to drag the cursor. 


Note: this shortcut is affected by blank cells.  If you want to keep blank cells in the selection, then you can simply continue pressing the appropriate arrows to complete the selection.      


Fundamental 2: Current Date and Time


Be honest here, how often do you need to insert the current date and time in Microsoft Excel? It is probably more than you think.

Do you remember how to do it? There is an easy formula you can add by simply typing into the equation bar. Or, you might also be familiar with inserting the formula from the insert ribbon.

While these two methods are very rapid, there is an even faster way. Here are CTSA, we are all about improving your efficiencies so you can focus on your work, not on how to use a computer program.

Here are two shortcuts to help you quickly insert the current date and time.

Insert Current Date:

  • Hold Ctrl + Press ;


Insert Current Time:

  • Hold Ctrl + Shift + Press ;


Fundamental 3: Disable Autofit in Pivot Tables


All that work that you have done to resize the columns of your pivot table is all reverted when you reopen excel. Worse, you had manually adjusted the design so that it was more presentable for your managers, only to find that when they opened excel, the pivot table was almost illegible. 

Annoyingly, pivot tables autofit column width by default. If you have resized the width of columns of your pivot table, you will notice that they snap back to autofit when you refresh the pivot table or reopen excel.

The solution to this is simple! You can disable the autofit for any of the pivot tables in excel. Here is how:

  • Right click on the pivot table
  • Select PivotTable Options
  • Select the Layout & Format tab
  • Uncheck the ‘Autofit column widths on update’


The Wrap Up


Starting our training sessions with a revision is how we can get you back to the basics. It is our way of showing you that there is so many great features of Microsoft Excel, that if you don’t know you cannot implement them. And that can waste you a lot of time.

It is so important that you engage in continuous learning so that you can maintain your skills. That is what we offer you with our yearly refreshers in our computer program training of your choice.

We are not just masters of excel. We offer training in many more computer programs. You can learn to excel in everything, not just to excel in excel!

But all jokes aside, we are sure that you have at least one take away from this article. Imagine the take aways you can gain from our computer training courses.

Click here to check out which computer programs we offer training in and become a master today!