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12 Basic Shortcuts That Will Make You An Excel Guru And Add Hours To Your Life

Microsoft Excel is a crucial tool for anyone operating in modern business. 

But there are risks.

For one thing, it can be intimidating for beginners.

Furthermore, Excel errors can have devastating consequences, such as the one that undermined one of the most famous economics papers of all time.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are a few basic skills and shortcuts that can really save you a bunch of time.

It takes years to become an Excel expert, but if you’re trying to justify putting it on your resume you should at least know these 12 shortcuts.

Let's say you have some ugly raw data that needs formatting...

Ctrl + Shift + $ makes the number format into currency, with commas at the thousands and two decimal places

Control + Shift + ! automatically formats them into a number with two decimal places and commas

Control + Shift + % makes the format into per cent.

Control + Shift + : (colon) posts the current time into a cell.

On the same token, Control + ; (semicolon) posts the current date into a cell.

There are also a few basic functions which are used to edit text

For example, =LEFT(B2,12) outputs the 12 leftmost characters from the string in box B2

On the other hand, =RIGHT(B2,19) outputs the 19 rightmost characters from the string in box B2

The function =LEN(B2) is really helpful. It spits out the number of characters in B2

All three of these are most powerful when used in concert together.

VLOOKUP is one of the more powerful functions in excel. It's the kind of function that you'll never hear of until you desperately need it, at which point it will save you hours.

Next, we select the array that we're interested in, which is A4:C104 here.

And it returns 1933, Barbara Feinstein's birth year.

The rand() function generates a pseudorandom number between Zero and One.

This is excellent for generating simulations, like a Monty Hall trial.

Let's say we fill out a row of formulas, and want to fill it in all the way down. We can just double click on the square in the bottom right corner of the highlighted section...

...and it'll fill in through the rest of the file. This is very handy when the file is massive.

Finally, the LINEST() function is also very useful. Here, we're going to run a linear regression to see if there's a relationship between the Fed's monetary base (in billions) and the price of gold.

The output of this function is an array. So, select a two by five section. Type in =LINEST. First select your x-values.

This tells Excel that you want it treated as an array function. Here's what the output of the 2 by 5 array looks like. The reasonably high r-Squared shows that there is a potential correlation between the two. The slope tells us that generally, for every $1 the price of gold grows, there's $1.7 billion in a growth in the monetary base.

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