F4: A little Known Microsoft Excel Masterkey

The F4 key is a little known and yet extremely powerful shortcut key that works in all Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In any Microsoft program, F4 can be used to repeat the last action.

Let us explore its uses through a few examples.

  1. You have a worksheet with some data. Now, you need to insert blank rows after every row of data. For doing so, you will select the rows, one by one, right-click anywhere on the selected row and then click on Insert in the menu that right-click opens. Alternatively, you can do the whole process once and then use F4 to repeat the action. In this method, you would begin in the same way as before: select a row right click and click on Insert. However, after this step, you just need to press F4 after going to any cell in the row above which another row has to be inserted.
  2. You can use the same method for inserting a new column if you need to insert columns in multiple worksheets. Do it on one sheet, use F4 on other sheets to repeat the action.
  3. Yet another example is deleting certain cells in Excel. As is well known, using the DELETE key on the keyboard only deletes the content. If you need to delete a cell, you have to right-click on the cell and then click on Delete. Excel presents the undernoted options:

Make the required selection and click on OK. Now, for deleting another cell and making the same choice as before, there is no need to repeat the whole process. Just press F4.

If you use F4 a few times, I am sure that you will be hooked by its versatility. Just remember that it repeats the last action that you had taken, before pressing F4.

Note 1: The efficiency improvement by using F4 happens due to two reasons, the first is obvious: you do not need to repeat the process of selecting the row and right-clicking. However, an even more important cause of efficiency improvement is that you don’t have to use the mouse; you can use the keyboard to move around and hit F4 to take the action. In general, using the keyboard is a more efficient method than using a mouse to do the same thing. You can only appreciate this, once you have used it a few times.

Note 2: F4 has yet another trick up its sleeve. In Microsoft Excel, F4 plays another super role. You can use F4 to automatically convert a relative reference to absolute reference and vice versa. For example, if you place the cursor adjacent to or in between a cell reference such as C3, and hit F4, the reference is instantly converted to $C$3. Use F4 a few times more and watch the different referencing options that it rotates through.

Please share your bouquets, brickbats and feedback. I promise to respond to each of them.

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