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How to Use (Timesaving) Google Sheets Keyboard Shortcuts

This post is part of a series called How to Use Google Sheets (Essential Tutorial Guide).
20 Free Google Sheets Business Templates to Use in 2018
How to Add Formulas & Functions in Google Spreadsheets

I once took a spreadsheet course in which the first step was unplugging my keyboard. It was painful to learn to use the app without a mouse, but I quickly learned that the best way to use a spreadsheet is with your hands on the keyboard. Anything that you can do with a mouse can be done more quickly with a keyboard.

Even though the app lives in a web browser, Google Sheets has no shortage of helpful keyboard shortcuts that make working in it more efficient. You'll be able to maneuver and work in the data easily and quickly.

In this tutorial, I'm going to showcase some of those Google Sheets shortcuts and help you think about how to use them. If you pick up even a few of the shortcuts in this tutorial, you'll save yourself a lot of time while working.

Google Sheets Keyboard shortcuts

Because each of these Google Sheets shortcuts take place inside of a web browser, the keystrokes will vary based on the OS you use. I've listed those shortcuts for both Windows and Mac for each of the shortcuts below.

1. How to Move in the Spreadsheet

Just in case you aren't familiar with how spreadsheets work, a key to the format are the seemingly-endless sets of rows and columns. When rows and columns meet, cells are formed, and this is where we can store data.

As you're moving around in a spreadsheet, it's often far easier to use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move between cells easily.

It's not exactly a shortcut, but one key tip to move around inside of a spreadsheet is to simply use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move between cells. Press the respective up, left, right, or down arrows to move between active cells.

Instead of pointing and clicking from one cell to another, the natural position for using a spreadsheet is to keep your hands on the arrow keys.

Jump to Edges

Here's one of the most important Google Sheets shortcuts that I know: jumping to the end of a row or column. When you're working in a large spreadsheet, it helps if you can quickly jump to the edge of the data.

To do this, hold Ctrl on Windows or Cmd on Mac, and press one of the arrow keys to move in a selected direction. This takes you to the edge of the data in the direction of the key you hit.

In the example below, I've got a lengthy list of data that is almost 2000 rows. Instead of grabbing my mouse and scrolling through it, I simply held Cmd on Mac and pressed the down arrow to jump to the bottom of the text.

Jump to Edge of Data
Jump to the last continuous cell in a list by pressing an arrow key while holding the control or command key.

To jump to the bottom of a dataset, you could hold Ctrl / Cmd on your keyboard, and press the down arrow. Sheets will take you to the bottom of the data range. You could jump to the rightmost cell by holding Ctrl / Cmd and pressing the right arrow key.

This is one of the most important Google Sheets shortcuts because it's significantly faster than scrolling through the dataset. By using this keyboard shortcut, you don't have to hunt through the data to find the edge of the block.

2. How to Format Cells

Cell formats change the way that a cell appears. This could mean applying style to the text in cells, or styles like shading and borders to set off those cells from the crowd.

You can't apply every type of format from the keyboard, but you can apply some of the text formats you're probably familiar with, like bold, italic, and underline styles. Here are the shortcuts that you can use for each of those:

Format Windows Shortcut Mac Shortcut
Bold Ctrl + B Cmd + B
Italic Ctrl + I Cmd + I
Underline Ctrl + U Cmd + U

These Google Sheets shortcuts might seem familiar, because they work in practically any app that you can edit text in.

As always, applying formatting is about adding meaning to those cells. Here are a few examples of how you could use those formats to add meaning to a spreadsheet, and then an example of a styled spreadsheet.

  • Bold cells imply that the cell is meaningful in some way, and should stand out from the rest of the dataset
  • Italic cells feel a bit understated, and are ideal for leaving notes in your spreadsheet
  • Underlining a cell is perfect for a header, or a subtotal.
Styled spreadsheet
You don't have to add tons of shading and borders to add meaning to a spreadsheet; tweaks like bold, italic and underline can all be added with simple shortcuts.

These aren't the only formatting shortcuts that you can access from the keyboard. Check out these alignment shortcuts that can help you change the appearance of a spreadsheet without reaching for the mouse.

Cell Alignment Windows Shortcut Mac Shortcut
Centered Ctrl + Shift + E Cmd + Shift + E
Left-align Ctrl + Shift + L Cmd + Shift + L
Right-align Ctrl + Shift + R Cmd + Shift + R

Cell alignment shortcuts
Use these Google Drive keyboard shortcuts to align the data inside of a cell to the edge or center.

These alignment shortcuts are some of my favorite because they're pretty easy to remember. Left and right align go along with corresponding letter keys (L and R), and you just need to remember that E centers text up.

3. How to Use Date & Time Data Google Sheets Shortcuts

Here's a fun set of Google Sheets shortcuts that's useful when you're working in a spreadsheet. If you want to insert the current date, time, or both, these shortcuts are the perfect way to do it.

In the past, I've used these shortcuts to leave breadcrumbs in my spreadsheet to remind myself of when I've made an update to the spreadsheet. Quickly strike the date and time shortcut just to remind yourself of when you last made an update.

Data to Insert Windows Shortcut Mac Shortcut:
Insert time Ctrl + Shift + ; Cmd + Shift + ;
Insert date Ctrl + ; Cmd + ;
Insert date and time Ctrl + Alt + Shift + ; Cmd + Option + Shift + ;

Keyboard shortcuts for dates and times
Use these keyboard shortcuts to leave notes on when and where you updated the spreadsheet.

After you've used these shortcuts a few times, the keystroke is going to feel natural. You could even use this as a timesheet to remind yourself of when you're off and on the clock.

4. How to Use Selection Shortcuts

Before you reach for the mouse to click on or highlight cells, keep in mind that you can use your keyboard to select cells as well.

To select cells while moving around in the spreadsheet, hold the Shift button while using the arrow keys. You'll select all cells in the range while holding it down.

Select Ranges While Jumping

Here's a bonus tip for you: remember when we used the Control or Command key to jump to the edge of a row or column? Let's say that you want to select all of the cells in that range as we jump around.

To do that, make sure that you hold Shift at the same time. Basically the commands are:

  • Windows: Ctrl + Shift + an arrow key - to select all continuous cells in a given direction
  • Mac: Cmd + Shift + an arrow key - to select all continuous cells in a given direction
Select Entire range
By holding shift in this command, you'll select all of the cells in the range.

The advantage to this is that as you jump in the spreadsheet, you've got all of the cells selected in the range that you just jumped through.

Once you've got that continuous range of cells selected, you can apply transformations to all of the cells in the selection, such as the bold, italic, underline shortcuts.

Effectively, this is the same as clicking and dragging and highlighting a sequence of cells. As always, the keyboard shortcut is much faster than the point-and-click alternative.

5. How to Show All Formulas

Here's a simple shortcut, but it's extremely useful when you're trying to understand a spreadsheet. Have you ever been handed a spreadsheet and needed to understand it quickly? Or maybe you forgot how you built it yourself?

It helps me to view all formulas in a spreadsheet when this is the case. You can hit a quick keyboard shortcut to view all of the formulas in a spreadsheet quickly.

Toggle this feature on by pressing Ctrl + ` on your keyboard. That character that looks like a dust spot on your screen is actually called a grave, and you'll typically find it in the upper left corner of the keyboard. This shortcut is actually the same on both Windows and Mac.

SHow all formulas in Spreadsheet in Sheets
Toggle all formulas on with the Ctrl + ` shortcut to help you understand the structure of a spreadsheet.

One of the most important parts of working in a spreadsheet is occasionally auditing it to ensure that all of the formulas are consistent and correct. Quickly switching to this view is very helpful for those audits.

6. Bonus Tip: How to Show Google Spreadsheet Keyboard Shortcuts

In this tutorial, I really only focused on the combination of Google Drive keyboard shortcuts that are both useful and pretty easy to remember. In reality, practically everything in Sheets can be automated with a keyboard shortcut.

Use the Ctrl + / (Windows) or Cmd + / (Mac) to toggle this window on. From the window, you can explore all of the shortcuts that are available.

Keyboard Shortcuts in Sheets
Turn on the Keyboard Shortcuts window for a complete guide to using Google Drive keyboard shortcuts.

Turn this window on to reference and find new keyboard shortcuts.

Recap & Keep Learning

Spreadsheets are tools for productivity, so it only makes sense to find as many time-saving techniques as possible. Using a few Google Drive keyboard shortcuts will save time and help you keep working without constantly switching gears between mouse and keyboard. 

I spent time selecting and showcasing some of the most useful Google Sheets shortcuts that are easy to remember, but this is far from the full list of key commands that can save time. Check out Google's complete list of Sheets shortcuts.

If this is your first exposure to Google Sheets, I hope that you saw the power that lives inside of a web browser for a spreadsheet tool. Check out all of these articles below to keep learning more about what Sheets can do:

What was your favorite keyboard shortcut in this article? Are there any that I missed that you want to share? Let me know in the comments section below if so.

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