x102 | Keystroke Mechanics

Give Your Mouse a Rest

Pippa Drawing 300 x 210 2014-03-24 23_07_06This course mirrors the content and objectives of the x101 “Joel Goodson’s Freshman Year Budget” course, the knowledge and skills from which you should consider a prerequisite for this course.  In this course, we will move beyond a way to achieve what we want with Excel, e.g. using the mouse for a large fraction of our actions, and teach the way to use Excel at a professional level.  This involves both knowing when and how to use keyboard shortcuts, but also crucially to practice so these techniques become second nature.  You must be able to execute them without thinking, leaving your conscious thinking for to evaluate whether the numbers on your screen are sensible.

Keyboard shortcuts are almost always more efficient than using the mouse to point and click your way around the computer – but you’ll never learn them if you keep leaning on your trusty mouse to do all the work. Stop for a moment, resist taking the easy way out with the mouse, and force yourself to learn at least one new keyboard shortcut per day. Yes, it’s a tiny bit of extra work. But it will pay off down the road: you’ll spend less time mousing around, and more time getting things done.
Source: Jeff Atwood, Going Commando – Put Down The Mouse

There are some general points of design and terminology introduced in x101 that will be used going forward, e.g. the concept of a balance corkscrew, but to focus only on the keystroke-specific techniques that you should already know:

  1. Clearing Cell Contents.  Use the Delete key to clear cell contents – pretty obvious
  2. Copy and Pasting Cells.  Use of Ctrl+C and Enter (not Ctrl+V).
  3. Edit and Point Modes.  Use the F2 key toggle between modes.
  4. Use the F4 Key!.  A 4-position toggle key between fully anchored, row anchored, and column anchored states.

As well, it is presumed that you have made the changes to your Excel environment advocated in “Changes to Excel Settings” and that you are familiar with F11 Quick Charting (a simple keystroke at one level, but a feature that should be built into the automatic habit of routinely viewing of your numbers as you build and work with spreadsheets).

There is a lot more to know / follow to become a professional user of Excel, but this course is an essential place to start. Tantamount to the equivalent in touch typing of getting in the habit of a good finger position on the keyboard and learning your ‘home row’. If you might use MS Excel actively in your job, then you should not only know all of the content on this course, but also practice each mechanic for fluency. Keyboard mechanics may not be very exciting, but they are fundamental to fluency with Excel.

2 comments on “x102 | Keystroke Mechanics

  1. West McDermott

    Who’d you get to that mouse in the lounge chair on your intro slides? Sort of makes me smile — can’t tell if a kid, or a pro trying to look like a kid did it.

    1. Swamp Fox

      Swampy’s 7th grade daughter. We put her on commission for that one, so she’s making her professional debut. Feedback welcome on the site, which she’ll probably take on board for refits, since she never listens to her dad.

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