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Hidden tricks in Excel 2003 - Part 1

However long you’ve spent using a program, chances are that there are always some things hidden away that you didn’t know were there. We take a look at some of these hidden features in Excel 2003.

By Helen Bradley

However long you’ve spent using a program, chances are that there are always some things hidden away that you didn’t know were there.

You may have by-passed them when viewing menus or perhaps they aren’t there any way or aren’t where you’d expect them to be.

This week and next I’ll show you a few things that are hidden inside Excel in places you may not yet have discovered.


While most toolbar buttons do exactly what they promise to do when you click them, a few of them have alternate personalities. These buttons perform a different task when you hold the Shift key when clicking on them. Here are the buttons that change behaviour and what they change to do:

Shift + Open becomes Save As

Shift + Save becomes Open

Shift + Print becomes Print Preview

Shift + Print Preview becomes Print

Shift + Sort Ascending becomes Sort Descending

Shift + Sort Descending becomes Sort Ascending

Shift + Underline becomes Double Underline

Shift + Double Underline becomes Underline

In theory, at least, if toolbar space is at a premium, you could remove one of each pair of buttons and use one button for two tasks.


There are some added tricks you can perform with the Shift key and some Excel menus. For example, if you hold Shift when opening the File menu you may notice that the Close option has been replaced with a Close All option allowing you to close all open worksheets in one command.

This also works in Word – hold down the Shift key then click on the File menu to see Save and Close change to Save All and Close All.

Tip: you have to press Shift before choosing the File menu – if you display the menu first it won’t change labels/action when you press the Shift key.

Hold the Shift key down as you open the Edit menu and some very different options appear. One of these, Copy Picture, lets you copy the currently selected cells or chart or image as a picture and later paste it back as an image into your worksheet.


You probably already know that you can fill a range of cells using one or two cells as a seed value. For example, type Jan in a cell and click in the cell then drag the indicator in its bottom right corner to the left or down to fill the selected range with the months of the year. You can create a sequence of numbers 1, 2, 3 etc by typing 1 and 2 in two adjacent cells, select them, then drag the fill handle. Something different happens when you type 1 in a cell and drag its fill handle – the range is filled with the number 1 and no sequence is created.

However, the situation alters if you drag with the right mouse button rather than the left. In this case one of the options is Fill Series which creates a numerical series from the starter value. If you type 1 and 2 in adjacent cells, select them and then right mouse drag the fill button you can choose to copy the cells which results in a 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1 etc. sequence.

While entering a date in a cell and dragging the fill handle fills the range with sequential dates, using the right mouse button lets you choose to Fill Weekdays so you don’t enter weekend dates. Alternately you can choose to Fill Months or Fill Years to create different date sequences.


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