Home » Ch 10 - decision support with spreadsheet software » The power of the F4 key in Excel

The power of the F4 key in Excel

The F4 key In Excel, using various shortcuts helps enormously in saving time when creating spreadsheets. One of the most useful shortcuts I know is using the F4 key when entering a cell reference in a formula. Hitting the F4 key when a cell or range reference is selected cycles through various combinations of absolute and relative references.

An example. Let’s say we want to multiply a growth rate in cell A1 with a range of revenues budgeted for 2013 in cells B1 to B10, and let’s say we wanted to calculate the increase the revenues for 2014 by 10%. How would we do that quickly? First, we would create a formula in cell C1 that multiplied cells A1 (growth rate) by cell B1 (first revenue) like this

=A1*B1

To save time, we just want to copy this formula down to cells C2:C10. To keep the reference to cell A1, we need to make this an absolute reference. We of course could add a $-sign before the column reference A and the row reference 1. Using the F4 key allows us to do this much quicker – once we selected cell A1, we just hit the F4 key once (hitting it twice or three times creates mixed references, a fourth time back to the relative reference we started out with). In spreadsheets with a lot of formulas that require several absolute (or mixed) references, the F4 key saves a lot of time.

If you use a Mac, the keyboard shortcut to achieve the same result is CMD-t.

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