Skip to main content

Create Shortcut Keys for Repetitive Tasks in Microsoft Excel

Joshua earned an MBA from USF and writes mostly about software and technology.

Creating shortcuts with shortcut keys within Microsoft Excel is an excellent way to speed up tasks during the workday. Many tasks can be automated by creating a macro and then assigning that macro to a custom shortcut key.

In this tutorial, we cover what a macro is, how to record one, and discuss a few shortcut examples that you can create within a spreadsheet. Throughout this article, we’ll be using the table below to illustrate examples. Please download the example workbook here if you would like to follow along with the examples.


What Is a Macro?

A macro is a loop of VBA code that can be created by manually typing the code or by recording the actions taken that create the code. Once the code is created, the macro can be assigned to an object such as a button or a shortcut key.

Using macros can save a lot of time for monotonous tasks that have to be repeated throughout the workday. The macro doesn’t have to be created for just repetitive tasks. You may want to create them for tasks that take an immense amount of time to complete.

For example, suppose you have a .csv document that you receive regularly, and your job is to create the same report with that raw data. If the data comes to you in the same format, you can turn that 20 min task into a 2-second task with the power of the Excel macro. For this article, we will only be creating a macro with the Excel macro recorder and assigning the macros to a keyboard shortcut.

How to Record a Macro

Check out the record macro button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen in the below illustration. Once this button is clicked, all actions taken within the Excel program can be recorded step by step. The macro button will turn into a square-shaped stop button which needs to be pressed to finish the recording process.


Example 1: Creating a Filter Shortcut Key

In this first example, we are going to filter by discipline and then by sales greater than $5,000. After the macro recorder is activated by clicking the macro recorder button, another window appears. This is where the shortcut for the operation is customized. The macro needs a name, a shortcut key, and you can optionally add a description to it. After clicking OK, the macro starts recording.


First, what is needed is to filter only by the pediatrician discipline. To find the filter options for the discipline, click on the down arrow in the discipline header. Uncheck “Select All”, check “Pediatrician” and then click the OK button to proceed.


Next, click on the down arrow on the Total header to get the filter options to appear for that column. To only display numbers greater than, less than, or equal to a certain number, you must find the “Number Filters” option. What needs to be displayed is records greater than $5,000, so “greater than" needs to be clicked.


The Custom AutoFilter box should appear. At this point, we need to check to make sure the greater than option was selected and type in 5000 for that filter. After clicking OK, the secondary filter will take effect.


To stop the macro recording process, the square button at the bottom of the left-hand corner needs to be pressed. The illustration below shows the data after the two filters were added. To track the shortcuts that you create, you can insert a text box for reference. If a text box is added, be sure to keep it above and out of the way of the records.


Example 2: Creating a Clear Filter Shortcut Key

Now that there is a mechanism to create the report, I’d like to be able to revert to the original table with the use of a shortcut. To do so, start by clicking on the record macro button. This time we will create a shortcut with a capital letter.

When you use a capital letter for a shortcut key you will have to use the control and shift keys to activate the macro. After filling out the necessary data and clicking OK, the macro will begin recording.


To clear both filters for the table, go to the Home table and find the Edit section to the right of your screen. Click on Sort & Filter, then Clear. This will remove all filters made to the table.


After clicking the square stop button in the lower left-hand corner, you are now able to toggle in and out of the sort that was created with the shortcut keys Ctrl + k and Ctrl + Shift + K.


Editing the Shortcut Keys

At some point, you may want to edit your shortcut keys. For example, I used Ctrl + k as a shortcut for sorting tables, but Ctrl + k already had a function tied to it. The normal function of Ctrl + k is to insert a hyperlink.

For this reason, I’d like to change the shortcut key to Ctrl + u. To change the shortcut key, you must go to the view tab and click the macro button in the macro section. Then, click on view macros.


Next, choose the macro from the list where the shortcut key needs to be changed from the list. Click on the options button and you will have the opportunity to change the shortcut key.

Saving the Workbook

Workbooks that have recorded macros need to be saved under the .xlsm file extension. To do so click on the File tab and then click “Save As.” Find a location to save the file and click on the down arrow to the left of the save button. Select the “Excel Macro-Enabled Workbook (*.xlsm)” option and click save.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Joshua Crowder