Excel Data Entry Tips and Techniques

Excel Data Entry Tips and Techniques

Excel Data Entry Tips and Techniques

Excel Data Entry Tips and Techniques

  • [Ctrl]-[Home] takes you to A1
  • [Ctrl]-[End] takes you to the last data cell in your worksheet
  • Move to next sheet — [Ctrl]-[PgDn]
  • Move to previous sheet — [Ctrl]-[PgUp]
  • The VCR buttons to the left of the sheet tabs let you navigate through sheets.
    You can right-click on the VCR buttons and from the resulting menu select the sheet you want to view.
  • To move to the next window (open workbook) — [Ctrl]-[Tab]
  • Tools | Options | Edit tab has a dropdown for specifying the direction the cell pointer moves when tapping [Enter] after entering data in a cell.
  • The Status Bar, at the very bottom of the screen usually says Ready in the lower lefthand corner. It provides useful information. One useful feature is that when a block of cells is selected the SUM of the cells will appear in the Status Bar. Right-click the SUM in the Status Bar and you can choose another function to apply to the selected cells. You can’t do anything with this result, however, except view it in the Status Bar.
  • Window | Split or Window | Freeze Panes will divide the window above and to the left of the current cell pointer position. This will allow column and/or row headers to remain displayed in one section of the window while you scroll and move through data in another section of the window.You can also split the window by dragging the little gray bar above the up arrow in the vertical scroll bar and/or the little gray bar to the right of the right arrow in the horizontal scroll bar.

Selecting Cells

  • Holding [Ctrl] while using mouse selection lets you select a non-contiguous block of cells
  • Click the mouse once in the upper lefthand corner cell of a block of data you want to select, then hold the [Shift] key down when you click the mouse on the cell that defines the lower righthand corner of your block
  • Use the keyboard — [Shift] combined with any keyboard movement selects
  • Select the current block of data — [Ctrl]-*
  • Once you’ve selected a block of cells, pointing at the border of the selection will turn the mouse pointer to an arrow, this is the move cursor.
    To move cells, click and drag, clicking when you have the move cursor/arrow.
    If you hold [Ctrl] before click-drag moving cells, you can copy the cells.

Entering Patterned Data

  • Type the first two values in a sequence, select the two cells, click and drag using the Fill Handle to extend the patternIf you right-click and drag with the Fill Handle, when you release the mouse you’ll be presented with a list of options for the type of pattern/sequence you want to use.
  • Select a block of cells (contiguous or noncontiguous), type the value to enter, [Ctrl]-Enter will put that value in all the selected cells
  • Use a formula and then once all the data is entered, select the results, use Edit | Copy, click in the upper lefthand corner of the destination, and use Edit | Paste Special as Values
  • If you’d like to randomize your data, one option is to create a column of random numbers using the RAND() function and then sort your data with the random number column as your sort field.

Excel Functions

  • The IF function is frequently useful —
    IF(CONDITION, action or value if CONDITION is true, action or value if CONDITION is false)
  • If you have standard text to enter, maybe one of 5-10 possible entries, maybe using the INDEX function would help.
    • List of possible values in E1:E9
    • If you want the first value, you enter 1 in B1, 3rd value in the list, enter 3, …
    • Copy this formula down Column C — =INDEX($E$1:$E$9, B1)
    • Once you have the values you want in Column C, Add a column, and then use Copy | Paste Special | Values to copy the formula results to your new column
  • MATCH provides the complimentary operation for INDEX – given a value you want to find, look it up in an array of possible values, and return the index number for that  value’s location in the array.
    • MATCH (location of possible values, lookup value, match type)
      If match_type is omitted, it is assumed to be 1.
      If match_type is 1, array of values must be sorted in ascending order and
      MATCH finds the largest value that is less than or equal to lookup_value.
      If match_type is 0, MATCH finds the first value that is exactly equal to
      lookup_value. Lookup_array can be in any order.
      If match_type is -1, array of values must be sorted in descending order and
      MATCH finds the smallest value that is greater than or equal to


  • The INDEX function technique above can be combined with List Box or Combo Box tools from the Forms (or Control Toolbox) toolbar.
    • Once you’ve added your List Box or Combo Box the key is to right-click the Box and choose Format Control…
    • In the Control tab you specify (using the example above), Input Range: $E$1:$E$9
    • Choosing a value from the list will populate the cell specified in Cell Link, say: B1
    • You’d still have to convert this number to a value in another column using the INDEX function discussed above.
    • The List Box or Combo Box will only populate one cell with a value.
  • If you need to calculate or dynamically enter a cell reference for a formula, INDIRECT is a useful function.  SUM(INDIRECT(“A”&D5):A15)  would concatenate A with the row number specified in D5 and sum in column A from that row through A15.
  • Close relatives of the INDEX function are VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, and LOOKUP
      For Example:

    • The lookup table of the INDEX example would be extended to two columns.
    • Column D would number the values in Column E, that is, Column D contains the numbers 1 through 9.
    • In Column B you enter the number of the value you want to pick from the lookup table.
    • Column C contains the formula: =VLOOKUP(B1,$D$1:$E$9,2)
      This translates to ==> Lookup the value in B1 in the first column of the table in $D$1:$E$9, find the value in a row in the table, return the value in the 2nd column of the table.



  • Format | Conditional Formatting might be useful for error checking (invalid values could show up formatted in red)
    If you have multiple conditions specified, the conditions are evaluated from the top of the list. Once the cell satisfies a condition it applies that formatting and doesn’t continue down through the rest of the possible conditions.


  • To find cells that are formatted with Conditional Formatting use Edit | Go To… | Special and choose the Conditional formats radio button. To find cells with identical conditional formats to the selected cell,click Same below Data validation. To find cells with any conditional formats, click All below Data validation.
  • Tools | Options | Calculation | Precision as Displayed  checkbox could prevent you from falling into a potentially embarrassing “rounding error” situation 
  • Want to transpose your columns to rows or rows to columns? The transpose feature in Office 97/2000 is in the Edit | Paste Special dialog box.
    1. Select the cells to transpose, Edit | Copy
    2. Right-click on the upper-lefthand corner of a range of empty cells that can accommodate the transposed result.
    3. Choose Paste Special and check the transpose checkbox
  • Selecting cells and tapping the Delete key only deletes the cell contents, equivalent to Edit | Clear | Contents
    • Edit | Delete “chops out” the cell and asks you how you’d like to fill in for the missing cells
    • Edit | Clear | Formats will let you delete the formatting of the cell, e.g., borders, fonts, numeric formatting, …
  • There may be certain portions of the worksheet that you’d like to protect from any possible changes. By default all the cells in the worksheet are locked but the locks are ignored. Tools | Protection | Protect Sheet activates recognition of the locks. Before using Protect Sheet you would unlock all the cells you want to be able to edit when the rest of sheet is protected — Select Cells, Format | Cells | Protection tab and uncheck the default lock. Then use Tools | Protection | Protect Sheet.
    If most of your cells are going to be unprotected with just a few protected —

    1. Use [Ctrl]-A to select all the cells in the sheet
    2. Format | Cells | Protection tab and uncheck the default lock
    3. Select the cells you DO want to protect
    4. Format | Cells | Protection tab and CHECK the lock back on
    5. Tools | Protection | Protect Sheet


  • Electronic Post-It notes might be useful to make comments on your worksheet, Insert | Comment.
    Options for printing comments with the sheet are in: File | Page Setup | Sheet | Comments option dropdown
  • Data | Text to Columns is a useful tool for separating into multiple columns text that is currently contained in one column. For example, maybe you have social security numbers in column A and you just need the last four digits of the SSN. Data | Text to Columns would let you separate the SSN into two columns.
  • Sometimes you may want to combine into one column text that is currently contained in two columns. One way to do this is to write a formula in a third column which uses the concatenation operator, the ampersand. This formula in C1 would return the contents of A1 followed by the contents of B1: =A1&B1
    If you want to include a literal character, say a space, use the form: =A1&” “&B1
  • The Wizard used in Data | Text to Columns is the same tool you have available for opening text files you want to import into Excel. File | Open with some text file will bring you to Step 1 of the Data Import Wizard.
  • Use File | Page Setup | Page tab | Fit to checkbox if your printout is extending just beyond one page
  • To move or copy an entire worksheet to a new workbook:
    1. Open the original workbook and choose Edit, Move Or Copy Sheet
    2. When the Move Or Copy dialog box opens, click the arrow at the right side of the To Book list box. Choose New Book from the list.
    3. If you want to copy the sheet, select the Create A Copy check box and click OK.
    4. Excel moves or copies the selected sheet to a new workbook.
  • Sometimes codes used in data entry need to be sorted in some order that is not alphabetical or numeric. You can define a custom sort order in Tools | Options | Custom Lists. Rather than Adding the list, the easiest way to enter the values is to Import list from cells. To use your list, Data | Sort | Options button has a dropdown where you can choose your list for the sort order.

Courtesy: cof.orst.edu 

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