Work Faster with keyboard shortcuts

This is a digression from the Copy Paste series – but it is an extension of the previous post about the Paste Special shortcut (CTRL ALT V).

Problem: We don’t actively try to be more efficient

Here is an example. Try this exercise for two hours when you are working on your PC next time. Start observing which buttons you click on most often. I am sure you already know some of these. But start observing it consciously. I am sure you will find many such buttons across Office tools.

Everyone knows that using a keyboard shortcut is faster and healthier than taking your hand all the way to the mouse and moving and clicking the buttons.

Anyway, now that you have noticed the commonly clicked buttons, the next thought is… can I prevent these mouse clicks by using a keyboard shortcut?

The next question is … does the button have a keyboard shortcut? How do you find the answer to this question?

NO NO. NOT by going to Help and searching for the
Keyboard Shortcuts topic!

The answer is much simpler.

Next time you are about to click on a familiar button –


Wait for ONE SECOND – hover the mouse there.
A tooltip will appear and display the shortcut – if available.

Suggested keyboard shortcuts

How often have you used format painter? Did you know these shortcuts?

Now that you know about CTRL ALT V and the ergonomics behind it, it is no surprise that this one uses SHIFT key along with CTRL!

Homework: Notice keyboard shortcuts and use them

Try this for the next few days and see how convenient this method is. If you find it useful, do post some feedback. That way, I will also gather some live proof of the effectiveness of my simple method of improving efficiency.

What if there is no keyboard shortcut available?

Do you give up? Absolutely not. Right click on the button and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Quick Access Toolbar

Now it will be added next to the Save, Undo and Redo buttons.

Customize Quick Access Toolbar

So what did we achieve? As of now, that button is available to you ALL THE TIME. You don’t have to worry about thinking which menu (Tab) it belongs to. Fine – but you still have to click that button using the mouse. Where is the keyboard shortcut?

Well – here is what you do next. Press and release the ALT button

Alt button

Notice what happens now. All these buttons and the menu tabs show some shortcut keys.

Shortcut keys


From now onwards


means Format Painter

Homework: Create your custom toolbar

Which buttons should you add to Quick Access Toolbar?

Those which you click on often and those which do NOT have a built-in keyboard shortcut.

Over next few days create your custom toolbar.

Post your feedback to let me know if you find it useful.

Also notice that there is a small drop down next to the last button on QAT. Open it and see .. it has something you always wanted!

Warning: You will soon run into various problems

Although this method is very good for creating a custom toolbar and a set of custom keyboard shortcuts, you will have issues soon.

I will cover those in the next article.

Copy Paste – Part 13 – A better shortcut for Paste Special

Most common ways of invoking Paste Special are:

  • Alt E S keyboard shortcut
    This was the older (2003 or before) version shortcut – Alt E = Edit Menu, S was the hotkey for Paste Special
  • Open the dropdown of Paste in Home tab in the ribbon and choose Paste Special
  • Right click – Paste Special

A better shortcut

Although all these methods work, Microsoft added a NEW shortcut since Office 2007. Most people don’t discover it. The shortcut is

Paste special shortcut

Why should you use this shortcut?

The reason is simple. Paste Special is a variation of Paste. Paste shortcut is CTRL V. For Paste Special CTRL ALT V is more intuitive. It is definitely better than using mouse anyway.

But there is more to it.

Compare the actual act of pressing the older shortcut –

Paste special shortcut

On the fact of it, there are three keys to be pressed in either case. So what is the difference?

Let me show you the difference using a keyboard layout.

You try pressing Alt E S using left hand and see the position of fingers.

Now compare it with CTRL V and CTRL ALT V

Usually we press CTRL key using little finger and V using index finger. The middle finger is anyway resting near ALT key. Look at the photo on left side – I have intentionally flexed the middle finger to expose the Alt key.

You just have to decide is it Paste or Paste Special at the last moment. If it is paste, don’t press the middle finger, if it is paste special – just press the middle finger (right side photo)


Another alternative is little finger for Ctrl, Index finger for V and thumb for Alt – which is also convenient. You try it out yourself and choose the method which is most comfortable to you.

This is ergonomics!

Imagine the amount of effort the Office team is taking to make our life easier and healthier… it is just that we simply don’t notice these things and therefore are not able to utilize the products effectively.

By the way, the imageshortcut works across ALL Office products. Including Project and Visio.

No Paste Special option in OneNote. Why?

It does not work for OneNote because OneNote does not have Paste Special functionality at all. It does not mean that you cannot choose the paste format in OneNote. It does offer four paste options as expected:


In that case, the question is – why did Microsoft not choose a default format for paste and provide Paste Special in OneNote (like all other products)? Just to avoid a Paste Special dialog? That does not sound like a good reason.

This is my guess but I think that is the logical explanation.

The reason OneNote does not have two separate options – Paste and Paste Special – because :

  1. OneNote is used for various types of copy paste from diverse sources. And it is a comparatively new product – and most people don’t even know that it exists – even if they have it installed! Therefore, Microsoft did not / could not finalize a default format based upon common user behavior pattern.
  2. If you have started right clicking instead of Paste or Paste Special – as recommended in my earlier article, you will realize that the demarcation between paste and paste special is simply irrelevant.

Next article

Although the Copy Paste series is far from over, I will deviate from it and show you how to find useful keyboard shortcuts and reduce the damage to your wrist and tendons (which can happen due to excessive usage of mouse, among other things).

Copy Paste – Part 12 – Reorder Content with Shift Alt Up/Down

The need

We often write in the order in which it comes to our mind. We then tend to reorder content by copy pasting it. There is a better method.

Just remember these very powerful shortcuts

Reorder content - keyboard shortcut for moving a bullet, line, paragraph, table row

Shift Alt Up / Down Arrow

Whenever you write content or text with paragraphs, in any Office product, you can use the Shift Alt Up and Down arrows to move it up or down.

This works with:

  1. Word paragraphs. DO NOT select the paragraph. Just click inside and use the shortcut
  2. Word Tables – reordering table rows is extremely painful if done manually. Try this shortcut and you will curse yourself for not knowing it for so many years!
  3. Word Outline view to reorder entire Headings or Sub-headings (provided these are collapsed)
  4. PowerPoint bullets
  5. PowerPoint SmartArt Text Editor
  6. Outlook (because it uses Word as the editor)
  7. OneNote
  8. It does NOT work with PowerPoint tables. Because these are more of graphical elements and not formal tables.
  9. Excel is a grid – therefore this method does not in Excel as well.

Shift Alt Right and Left Arrow

This is even more powerful.


In case of Word, by pressing Shift Alt Left arrow, you actually promote the heading style – or apply Heading1 Style.

If you use Shift Alt Right arrow, it demotes the style (and outline level)

This is the fastest way of creating documents with styles. No need to click on styles or use keyboard shortcuts which are more complex (Ctrl Alt 1 2 or 3).


Like Word, it can be used for promoting and demoting bullets.

Usually to create sub-level bullets we use TAB key. But that works just after a fresh new bullet is added. If you are somewhere in the middle of a paragraph, pressing TAB key will actually insert a tab and increase spacing.

However, Shift Alt Left / Right arrows work irrespective of where your cursor is.

Now the most powerful usage in PowerPoint is to edit hierarchical information in SmartArt Editor. Try to insert a SmartArt of type – Hierarchy – choose some Org Chart and then go to the editor. You can easily promote or demote items very quickly using this shortcut key.

Try these simple yet powerful shortcuts. Let me know your feedback. If you find more uses for this shortcut, do let me know.

Copy Paste – Part 11 – Why do we need 24 clipboards?

In the earlier post, we saw how to get up to 24 clipboards. But why would you need so many of them?

On the face of it, this sounds like an overkill. We are happily using ONE clipboard for years. So it is looks like a useless feature.

Key Learning: There is nothing like a useless feature

This is a very important thing to remember. Adding a feature is a very complex and costly process. Microsoft is not going to add a new feature if it was not serving any purpose.
Those of you who understand programming know that behind every feature there is a need, a problem or a use case. Unfortunately, when you use a product developed by someone else, the feature is visible first and the underlying need may not be apparent.

So what do we do? We do it in two steps.
First, we learn the functionality – what does it do? In this case we already know that. At this stage you know the technical feature. But that is NOT called knowledge. That is partial knowledge.
The next step is more important. You must find the underlying need or problem it is trying to address. Why do you care? Simple! Because it may be your need. If you do not discover the need, you may never use the feature in spite of understanding how it works technically.

Finding your needs behind every feature is called Applied Learning!

Of course, there may will be features which you do not need in your current context. But in any case, if you know when they are useful, you will be able to use them if the need arises in future.

Multiple Clipboards: Usage Scenarios

Word: Executive Summary

Executive Summary  contains key sentences which summarize details from the document. We write Executive Summary AFTER the rest of the document is created. Here is how you can do it faster.

  1. Write the document
  2. Activate Office Clipboard
  3. Move through the document, select key sentences and copy
  4. Continue the process till end of the document (or 24 clipboards)
  5. Go to Executive Summary and choose Paste All
  6. Each copy will be a separate paragraph
  7. If you want to combine these paragraphs into one paragraph, follow this sub-task
    1. Select all the Executive Summary
    2. Press Ctrl H (Find – Replace)
    3. Type ^p^p in the Find textbox
    4. Type ^p in the Replace textbox
    5. Click Replace All
    6. We will discuss how this works in a separate article (Word Find and Replace is a treasure. Very powerful, but very rarely used appropriately)
  8. Now your Executive Summary is ready

Excel: Combine Tabular Data

Very often we get tabular data from multiple files or sheets (regions, locations, months,etc). How do you combine this into a single master data sheet?

Copy – Paste to Master, Copy – Paste to Master, Copy – Paste to Master and so on.

Now you know what to do

  1. Enable Clipboard
  2. Copy  – Copy – Copy
  3. Go to destination
  4. Paste ALL

PowerPoint: Collect Pictures and arrange them using SmartArt (Picture Layout)

This is a very powerful method. Let us say you are browsing for various products and you want to capture many images and put them on one slide. Another scenario would be logos of your customers.

Here is how you do it.

    1. Start PowerPoint
    2. Activate Clipboard
    3. Go to browser and copy various images as required. Right click the image and choose Copy (CTRL C will not work here as it is a web page and the focus may be ambiguous)image
    4. In PowerPoint add a new slide
    5. Choose Paste All
    6. Unfortunately that does not solve your problem
    7. All images will be overlapping one anotherimage
    8. But don’t worry. PowerPoint knows your problems.
    9. While all the pictures are selected, just choose Picture Tools – Picture Layout and choose a layout you want. (You can hover mouse over each to temporarily draw the picture layout and choose the best one. You can also do it later)clipboards Powerpoint
    10. Now, depending upon the overall area occupied by all selected pictures, PowerPoint will layout the pictures automatically
    11. Resize the area as desiredimage
    12. Now it is a SmartArt object
    13. You can click on Design and change the layout if needed
    14. Finally, you will need to add captions for each picture
    15. DO NOT click in the textboxes to add them.. there is a small edit arrow (double or single arrow) on the left margin of the SmartArt bounding box
    16. Click that and add titles

Can you think of more usage scenarios?

If you find more scenarios, please post them here. I will also learn something new.

Next Article

There is more to copy paste and the series is not ending any time soon. But I am sure you want some variation. So next article will be something different. We will continue the Copy Paste series later.

Copy Paste – Part 10 – How to get 24 clipboards

The limitation

All of us know that there is only ONE clipboard. WRONG! There are actually 24 clipboards if you use Word, Excel or PowerPoint.

When you copy something, whatever was already there in the clipboard gets overwritten. If you want to change that behavior you must activate these 24 clipboards.

Activating 24 clipboards

It is simpler than you think. Just click on that unseen, unnoticed yet extremely powerful arrow at the corner. Technically these guys are called Dialog Launchers. Why? Because these activate the dialog related to the name written next to it.

Just click on it and a new pane (docked window) will open on the left side of the application.

Activate 24 clipboards

This shows the clipboard contents. If the clipboard has something in it, it will be shown. If not, the pane will be empty.

empty clipboard

Now onwards, whenever you copy something, it will accumulate – it will NOT overwrite the existing clipboard.

Whenever you copy, notice what happens at the bottom right side of the screen – it shows you a small popup which counts how many clipboards are colledted (1 of 24, 7 of 24 and so on).

Try this NOW

  1. Open any Word Document
  2. Open the Office Clipboard
  3. Select a paragraph (triple click selects a paragraph, in case you did not know)
  4. Copy it
  5. Notice that it is shown in the clipboard


  • Now open an Excel file
  • Copy some data
  • We have not opened the Clipboard in Excel, but still it is active
  • You will see a notification at the bottom right of the screen (notification area)



  • Now open some web page
  • Copy something
  • Now go to File Explorer and copy a file
  • If you feel like, open some non-Office products and copy something
  • Finally go to Word
  • You will notice that all these copied items are there24 clipboards
  • Now open PowerPoint – notice that we have not copied anything from PowerPoint
  • Open the Clipboard in PowerPoint
  • Notice that all the clipboards are available in PowerPoint as well
  • Go back to Word
  • Click on each item to paste it
  • Or choose Paste All and see that all the items are pasted in the order in which these were copied
  • Amazing! Is it not?

    More details

    Some kind of copying cannot be added to the clipboard – like copying files. In that case the popup will indicate the problem.


    Notice the options

    There are a few options. I will discuss these options in the next articles. But why don’t you figure it out yourself, in the mean time.

    I will also show you practical usage scenarios of this powerful feature.

    Before you ask, it has been there for many years. It is just that nobody noticed it – like thousands of others!

Copy Paste – Part 9 – Insert Object and PowerPoint Psychology

In the last post, we saw how to use PowerPoint Actions to open a linked or embedded file during the presentation.

Although this method works with inserted objects as well, there is a practical problem there. In fact there is a psychological problem.

The problem

Insert Object is used in two situations.

To package a collateral file with the presentation

This is usually done when you are going to send or upload the presentation for others to view it offline. You insert the related files as objects on relevant slides. In this case, others are supposed to see the icon so that they can double click on it to open the file (in edit mode) or add an Action for opening it during presentation mode. There is no problem in this scenario.

To be prepared to answer queries

Inserted Object is shown as an icon. You use it when you DON’T want to show any data from your Excel file upfront. You just want to describe the situation. And in case someone asks for details, you want to be prepared. That is why you have done Insert Object and add the Open Action.


In this case, you know that you have access to the detailed data. But the problem is that, the audience can also see the file icon. If they see it, they will naturally ask you what it is. This is not desirable. Why not? Because opening the file may lead the presentation on an unwanted tangent.

Therefore, you want to have the ability to open the file on demand (if you are in trouble) but you don’t want others to view the icon to arouse their unwanted curiosity.

These are paradoxical requirements. How do you manage this?

NO problem. Little bit of ingenuity will help you here.

When you add the object, don’t show it on the slide. Just take it beyond any of the corners of the slide.

Insert Object

What is the benefit?

Nobody can now see that you have a file inserted. But you know that it is there. Anytime you want to open the file, you just have to go to that corner blindly… make sure the cursor has changed to the hand icon and click…. voila …. the file opens!

That is best of both worlds!

The psychology part

Although Office is a technology, its usage is driven by psychology. When you are presenting, you want to be in control. You should think like the audience would and then take corrective action.

If people see something, they can ask you questions about it. If they cannot see it, you are better off.

In fact, the art of presenting effectively is all about understand how audience will react and then tweak your presentation to get the desired response and influence the audience.

I always say “PowerPoint is all about manipulating the minds of the audience rather than animations and transition!”

Of course, I am not suggesting that you use it in an unethical or illegal way. But all said and done for every presentation there is an objective. Selling, Teaching, Convincing and so on. It is your job to align the audience with your objective. That is psychology!

Next article – How about 24 clipboards?

We always had ONE clipboard. You copy something, it does into the clipboard. The original clipboard is overwritten every time you copy. But that is not the case.

You can get 24 clipboards to play with… sadly, this great feature has been there for 24 years I think Sad smile

We will explore it in the next article.

Copy Paste – Part 8 – How to open a collateral file with Insert Action

The Location

Writing this blog sitting under this beautiful Auckland Sky Tower… Lovely weather.


The need

  • Let us say you are presenting  sales performance by month
  • In a particular month, the sales is very low
  • Someone asks you to show details of the transactions


  • You have to now open the original Excel file which contains the raw data.image
  • How do you do it?
  • You have to stop the presentation, open Explorer and figure out where the file is
  • Many things are against you right now:
  • You are under stress… You may not find the file or find an outdated version
    Worse still, you may open some unwanted folder

Common mistake: Stuffing raw data into PowerPoint

We want to avoid such trouble during a presentation. Therefore, we try to solve the problem by trying to copy pasting the raw data into PowerPoint. Unfortunately, large amount of data cannot fit into the limited space available on the slide.

This is not really a limitation of PowerPoint. It is just that you are using the wrong approach. Here is the correct way…

The solution: Be Prepared

When you suspect that someone may question you on your summary data, you need to be prepared. How do you do that? You already know.

First step is to get the context of the original file into the slide.
Use Paste Link, Embed or Insert Object

In either case, WHILE EDITING the presentation, you can write click on the pasted object and open the Excel file. What we really want is to have the same ability DURING THE PRESENTATION.

To understand how it is done, we need a small detour.

PowerPoint Presentation = Trigger + Action

I will cover this in detail in another article. But here is the shorter version.

A presentation contains slides. Each slide has various shapes and objects on it. When you run the presentation – PowerPoint shows the first slide and waits. When you click it goes to next slide … again waits … then you click – next slide … and so on till you end the presentation.

Is this a problem in word as well?

The CLICK is called the TRIGGER and MOVING TO NEXT SLIDE is the ACTION. In our case when we click on the slide containing the summary data, it simply goes to the next slide. If you right click, the menu now shows presentation related controls. The open worksheet command is missing.

The Solution: Insert Action

This is the time we change the default behavior of PowerPoint and ask it perform a DIFFERENT ACTION when we click on the Summary object. How to do that?

  1. Click on the Excel object (it could be Paste Link or Embedded or Inserted Object icon)
  2. Open Insert tab on the ribbon and choose ACTION
  3. As you can see the default action is DO NOTHING (which means do nothing special – do the default action – which is going to the next slide)
  4. Choose Object action and select OPEN
  5. Click Ok

Powerpoint Insert Action

Now run the presentation and see what happens. On this slide, if you click anywhere outside the Excel data, it will just go the new slide as expected.

However when you move the mouse cursor over the Excel data, the cursor shape changes to indicate that it is a hyperlink. Click on it to open the Excel file.


Show the details and then press ALT TAB to come back to the presentation. It is still running undisturbed.

Next article: PowerPoint and Psychology

Although this method works with inserted objects, there is a practical problem there. In fact there is a psychological problem.

What is the problem?

Inserted Object is shown as an icon. Therefore, your audience knows that you have a collateral file. So even if they have no reason to trouble you, they may just ask you to show the file. You don’t want that to happen. Why ask for unnecessary trouble?

We will handle that interesting situation in the next article.