Unveiling the Hidden Gems: Things You Might Not Know About Using Excel

Excel, the ubiquitous spreadsheet software, is a staple tool for data analysis, financial modeling, and organising information. While many people are familiar with the basic functions and features of Excel, there are several hidden gems that can enhance your productivity and make your data management tasks even more efficient. In this article, we will explore some lesser-known features and tips that you might not be aware of when using Excel.


Flash Fill:

Excel’s Flash Fill feature is a powerful time-saver. It automatically detects patterns in your data and fills in the remaining cells accordingly. For example, if you have a column of full names, you can start typing the first few names in a separate column, and Excel will intelligently recognise the pattern and fill in the rest of the names for you.


Custom AutoFill Lists:

Did you know that you can create custom lists for AutoFill? If you frequently use certain terms, phrases, or sequences, you can define a custom list in Excel. This allows you to quickly populate cells with your predefined values by simply dragging the AutoFill handle.


Data Validation:

Excel’s Data Validation feature allows you to set specific criteria for data entry in a cell or range. You can define rules such as limiting the input to a certain range of values, requiring specific formats (e.g., dates or phone numbers), or creating dropdown lists for easy selection. Data Validation ensures data consistency and accuracy in your spreadsheets.


Conditional Formatting:

Conditional Formatting is a powerful tool that lets you visually highlight cells or ranges based on specific conditions. You can easily identify trends, outliers, or important values by applying formatting styles, colours, or data bars to cells that meet your criteria. This feature provides quick insights into your data at a glance.


Quick Analysis Tools:

Excel offers a range of Quick Analysis tools to speed up data analysis tasks. Simply select a range of data, and a small icon will appear at the bottom-right corner. Clicking on the icon reveals a menu with options for formatting, charting, totals, tables, and more. This allows you to perform common data analysis tasks with just a few clicks.


Power Query:

Power Query is a powerful data transformation and cleansing tool in Excel. It enables you to connect to various data sources, such as databases, websites, or CSV files, and perform data cleansing, merging, and reshaping operations. With Power Query, you can automate the process of importing and transforming data, saving you time and effort.



PivotTables are an invaluable feature for data analysis and summarisation. They allow you to quickly summarise and analyse large datasets by creating custom reports, applying filters, and performing calculations. PivotTables provide a dynamic and flexible way to slice and dice your data and gain insights from different angles.


Keyboard Shortcuts:

Excel is packed with keyboard shortcuts that can significantly speed up your work. Learning a few key shortcuts, such as Ctrl+C (copy), Ctrl+V (paste), Ctrl+Z (undo), and F2 (edit cell), can save you a considerable amount of time. Excel also offers a “Tell me what you want to do” feature (Alt+Q), allowing you to quickly find and execute commands without navigating through menus.


Formula Auditing:

When working with complex formulas, the Formula Auditing tools can be invaluable. These tools, found in the Formulas tab, help you trace cell references, evaluate formulas step by step, and identify errors or inconsistencies in your calculations. This feature is especially useful for debugging and troubleshooting complex spreadsheets.


Excel is a versatile tool with a wealth of features and functionalities. By exploring these lesser-known features and tips, you can unlock the power of Excel to fuel your business. Excel is part of MS Office 365 Suite. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of moving to MS365 please get in touch.

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