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

# The power of the F4 key in Excel 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.