Excel Keyboard and Mouse Combos Part 2 (Move, Copy, Insert)

Keyboard-Mouse Part 2 (move, copy, insert) In part 1 of this series I showed how you can use the keyboard and mouse together to select ranges and bring up the research pane. In this second article I am going to explain ways to use the keyboard and mouse together to move, copy and shift cells around a workbook by dragging the selection border that surrounds the cells you have selected.

Series: Excel Keyboard and Mouse Combos

Part 1 – Using the CTRL, SHIFT and ALT keys with the mouse
Part 2 – Dragging the selection border to move or copy or insert your selection
Part 3 – Right click then hit the underlined accelerator key

Move Excel selection (Drag)

Click-to-drag

Click and drag selection border with the left mouse button to move your selection

Why would you want to do this? You might have entered data in the wrong place, or put a formula too close to a chart, or any other number of reasons. You can move your selection (1) dragging the selection border with the mouse, or (2) using the cut and paste keyboard shortcuts. In both cases, the target cells are replaced with your original selection, overwriting what was there.

To use the selection border to move your selection with the mouse:
highlight-mouse-cursor

  1. Select the cells you want to move (e.g. by highlighting your selection with the mouse)
  2. As you hover the mouse cursor over the black selection border it becomes a 4-way compass cursor (see picture, left)
  3. Click the black selection border around your selection, and keep your left mouse button held down
  4. Drag and drop the selection to your desired target, remember that the target cells are replaced with your original selection

To do cut and paste with keyboard shortcuts:

  1. Select the cells you want to move (e.g. by highlighting your selection with the mouse)
  2. Hit CTRL + X (keyboard shortcut for CUT)
  3. A flashing dotted line appears around your selection
  4. Select the position where you want your selection to be pasted
  5. Hit CTRL + V (keyboard shortcut for PASTE)

Copy Excel selection (CTRL + Drag)

excel-ctrl-copy

Hold Ctrl while dragging selection to copy

When would you want to copy cells from one place to another? There might be some cells that you have carefully laid out and formatted, and you want to re-use these as a template in another place on the worksheet. Or you might have a column of formulas that need to be duplicated in another column.

You can achieve this (1) using the copy and paste keyboard shortcuts, or (2) holding CTRL while dragging the selection border with the mouse. In both cases, the target cells are replaced with original cells, overwriting what was there and the original cells are kept in place.

To use the selection border to copy your selection:

highlight-mouse-cursor

  1. Select the cells you want to move (e.g. by highlighting your selection with the mouse)
  2. As you hover the mouse cursor over the black selection border it becomes a 4-way compass cursor (see picture, left)
  3. Click the left mouse button on the black selection border around your selection, and hold the left mouse button
  4. Press CTRL then drag and drop the selection to your desired target, remember the target cells are replaced by your original selection

To do copy and paste with keyboard shortcuts:

  1. Select the cells you want to copy (e.g. by highlighting your selection with the mouse)
  2. Hit CTRL + C (keyboard shortcut for COPY)
  3. A flashing dotted line appears around your selection
  4. Select the position where you want your selection to be pasted
  5. Hit CTRL + V (keyboard shortcut for PASTE)

When you move or copy formulas, the cells references inside them will either stay the same if you use dollar signs (absolute references) or change relative to their position on the worksheet if you don’t use dollar signs (relative references).

Quick Note on relative and absolute references

Relative references are written like this “A1” or “B1:B10” and when you move or copy a selection that contains relative references, Excel recalculates the reference in relation to the new position.

Absolute references are written like this “$A$1” or “$B$1:$B$10” and when you move or copy a selection that contains absolute references, Excel keeps the reference the same, so it is always “$A$1” or “$B$1:$B$10” regardless of where in the worksheet you have coped the selection.

You can also mix and match the dollar signs to keep either rows fixed or columns fixed or both fixed. So “$A1” fixes the reference to column A but doesn’t fix the row. And “A$1” fixes the reference to row 1 but doesn’t fix the column.

Insert Excel selection (SHIFT + Drag)

excel-shift-insert

Hold Shift while dragging selection to insert

Here you want to shift your selection around the worksheet, and have Excel reorder your worksheet to accommodate the selection without overwriting the existing cells and without creating a new copy of your selection. This is really handy if you have a list of items and want to reorder that list quickly. You can either insert your selection between columns or between rows.

A gray I-bar will appear to show you where the selection will be inserted:

insert-between-columns

Press SHIFT while dragging selection to insert between columns or rows

To use the selection border to insert your selection between columns:

  1. Select the cells you want to move (e.g. by highlighting your selection with the mouse)
  2. Click on the black selection border around your selection, and keep your left mouse button held down
  3. Press SHIFT then drag the selection to your desired target
  4. Reposition your selection while holding the SHIFT key until you see a vertical gray I-bar in between the two columns where you want the selection to be inserted
  5. Let go of the left mouse button and your selection is inserted into place

To use the selection border to insert your selection between rows:

  1. Select the cells you want to move (e.g. by highlighting your selection with the mouse)
  2. Click on the black selection border around your selection, and keep your left mouse button held down
  3. Press SHIFT then drag the selection to your desired target
  4. Reposition your selection while holding the SHIFT key until you see a horizontal gray I-bar in between the two rows where you want the selection to be inserted
  5. Let go of the left mouse button and your selection is inserted into place

It takes some practise to get used to using the selection border especially when you are first learning. Once you get the hang of it, you will really appreciate this quick little productivity tip especially if you need to reorder lists manually.

What’s coming up in Part 3 of this series?

That brings us to the end of Part 2 in this series, so I’m going to recommend you have a break and try out these tips in Excel. Remember, “practice makes perfect” (actually it’s closer to the truth to say practice makes permanent, so practice well!)

In part 3 I’ll show you a trick with mouse right click → accelerator key combos that you can use to boost your speed in Excel. I find these accelerator key combos easier than memorizing keyboard shortcuts and you can use them in all Windows application that supports accelerator keys. What are accelerator keys I hear you ask? Well all is revealed in the final part of this series.

Series: Excel Keyboard and Mouse Combos

Part 1 – Using the CTRL, SHIFT and ALT keys with the mouse
Part 2 – Dragging the selection border to move or copy or insert your selection
Part 3 – Right click then hit the underlined accelerator key


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