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4 Basic Excel Tricks You Should Definitely Know

Topics: Career Advice

If you’re a millennial like me, you might recall learning all the tricks of the beast that is Microsoft Excel back in your high school days, or even college. But let’s be real for a quick minute. A lot of time has passed, and you probably don’t remember all the time-saving tricks your teachers so graciously showed you back in the day. Knowing how to use Excel efficiently can streamline your work and make you more productive. So if your memory is fuzzy, take note of these easy and super basic Excel tricks that will make you look smarter at work and save you a lot of time.


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Sorting is the easiest and most common way to analyze your Excel spreadsheet. Once you have your data together and organized into specific columns and categories (e.g. first name, last name, email address), pick the rows you want to organize. For example, if you had a list of people you wanted to sort alphabetically by last name, you would select the first and last name columns, and then click the Sort and Filter function and hit Sort A-Z.


If you’re working with a lot of different categories in an Excel spreadsheet, the most basic thing you can do is learn how to filter the columns. This is best done after you’ve gone through and sorted your data – allowing you to do a deeper analysis. You can do this by creating specific columns for each category of information you have. Then, select the entire row of categories and click the Sort and Filter option > Filter. This will give you nice, organized columns that will allow you to further filter your information based on whatever category you want.

Freeze Panes

The bigger your spreadsheet, the more likely it is that you will need to use Freeze Panes. The main point of using Freeze Panes is that it allows you to see your top level categories while you scroll through the bottom-depths of your spreadsheet. If you decide not to do any freezing on a  big spreadsheet you can still get to your information, but it will take twice as much mouse scrolling. To freeze panes in Excel, highlight your top row of categories. Go to the View panel in your toolbar, and click Freeze Top Row.

Copy/Paste Methods

I know you know how to copy and paste in Excel, but here are some other methods of doing it that might be quicker, especially if you’re working with a big sheet. Using the Drag and Drop method, you can select the cell(s) that contain the data you want to copy. Use your mouse to point to the edge of the cell, where the pointer will take the shape of an arrow. If you’re on a Windows machine, press and hold the Control key. For Macs, use the Option key. Once you see the little plus sign pop up, drag the cell where you want to paste the data. You will be able to see an outline of where the data will go. Release your mouse button.

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