Excel hacks: 5 tips for teachers

Fear the spreadsheet no more – these simple hacks will save you time and stress

How can we cut teacher workload?

I’ve never been a fan of spreadsheets. As an English specialist, I’ve always considered numbers to be something of a nemesis.

But all of my data entry was done in Excel, so letting it beat me was not an option.

Instead, I set about learning shortcuts and time-saving moves.

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Here are some of the most useful:

1. What's the date?

I was often using Excel to enter data from exams or tests and needing to insert the date.

[Ctrl] + ;

Ta-dah! Job done.

Another nice, easy shortcut for data entry is when you want to just repeat the same value as the cell above. For this, just enter:

[Ctrl] + D

No more fiddly copy and pasting and messing up the formulas.

2. Paragraphs inside cells 

You won't always just want numbers on your spreadsheet. Text is particularly important when you’re recording targets or feedback comments, or even just details about the child’s behaviour or punctuality.

In these cases, what you want to type is quite long and complex, and therefore requires paragraphs. However, if you hit the Enter key, you find yourself skipping to the next cell.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Instead, [Alt] + [Enter] will give you a line break inside the same cell, leaving your text easy to read and your spreadsheet comprehensible. Bingo.

3. Typing symbols

You do not, as I previously thought, have to print out and add the symbols in with a Biro afterwards. No, no. Here is your print-out-and-keep list to stick above the computer in the workroom (n.b., these symbols shorcuts will only work on Windows computers):

Degree symbol º: [Alt] + 0176

One-quarter 1/4: [Alt] + 0188

One-half 1/2: [Alt] + 0189

Three-quarters 3/4: [Alt] + 0190


4. Adding a row between each line

You could get repetitive-strain injury from adding blank rows between each row of data by using the "insert row below" function. Or you could do a quick copy and paste, and then "filter by order" and add it in that way.

  1. Highlight the column where you’ve numbered each row of data.
  2. Copy and paste just the numbers below the data.
  3. Select all and filter by numbers ascending.

Voila, you now have a blank row between each data row, allowing you to add in comments or insert new data.

5. Resize the columns

Often, I end up putting too much text into a cell and then trying to merge cells to get it all to fit. This can make the spreadsheet a little unwieldy and tricky to use.

Instead, I now revise the columns by highlighting more cells to the side, and just double-clicking.

As if by magic, the cells resize and the text can be read. Hallelujah.

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