F2 – It is about inputting and editing… what? Please elaborate!

Among the F1-F12 keys, I use F2 most often.  Why? Because it helps me edit cell contents quickly.  On the other hand, F2 is extremely  helpful when I try to edit cell reference in chart or revising reference in Name manager.

In short, F2 key does the following:

  • F2 alone – Go to edit mode
  • Shftt+F2 – Insert/Edit comment
  • Alt+F2 – Save as
  • Alt+Shift+F2 – Save

That’s all??! Absolutely no!

F2 alone – Go to edit mode

Let’s pay attention to details here.  Normally, your spreadsheet will be in “Ready” mode. Pressing F2 key takes you to “Edit” mode so that you may move inside the cell with arrow keys for editing purpose.

Excel Tips - F2 (1) Excel Tips - F2 (2)

Simple and straight forward.

Now, let’s look at another situation where your active cell contains a formula.

Excel Tips - F2 (3)

Pressing F2 again takes you to “Edit” mode.  Now you may move within the cell with arrow keys (left and right) to edit the formula, by typing whatever you want to edit.

Excel Tips - F2 (7)Excel Tips - F2 (4)

Here’s the tricky part: When the active cursor stops at a reference portion of a formula, like the screen shot below, pressing F2 takes to you “Enter” Mode.

Excel Tips - F2 (5)

Now pressing Arrow key (left arrow in our example) takes you to the cell reference that is one cell left to the active cell.  Pay attention to the status bar, now you should be in “Point” mode.  In this mode, you can change the cell reference in the formula by using arrow keys instead of mouse.  Of course, you may use your mouse to “Point” to a cell reference.  I guess this is what it means actually…

Excel Tips - F2 (6)

Once it is done, press F2 key to return to “Edit” mode, where we may use arrow keys (left or right) to move within the formula to continue editing.  Or simply press Enter when editing is done.

Excel Tips - F2 (7)

If you love your keyboard more than your mouse, you have to know this trick because it may save you lots of time in editing a formula.  Nonetheless, you need to spend time to practice it in order to master it.  No Pain No Gain.

F2 key is more than that.  Perhaps you have already notice that pressing F2 key in a cell with formula will highlight all the cell references (on the active worksheet) that the formula refer to.  Like the screenshot below.  Did you know… you may actually edit the cell references highlighted by mouse drag?

Excel Tips - F2 to drag and drop

Here’s my favorite part of F2 key as mentioned in the beginning of the post.  If you do charting or Naming range, you probably have encountered a situation like the screenshot below, which is quite annoying.

Excel Tips - F2 (8)

Now, you should know that the key to avoid such annoying thing is F2.

Excel Tips - F2 (9)

After you click into the “cell reference input box” (please excuse my wording here as I do not know the terminology of that thing), before you use the arrow keys, press F2 to go to “Edit” mode first.  Then you are free to move around with your arrow keys (left or right) without the hassle of “pointing “to other cell reference.  Isn’t it nice?!

Another tip in using F2 – Adding hyperlink to URL

When you copy a URL from your web browser to Excel, there will be no hyperlink added to it.  What I do is simply: Select the cell with URL, Press F2, Press Enter.

Excel Tips - F2 (10)

The rest of the F2 key combinations is easy.

Shift+F2 – Insert/Edit comment

Excel Tips - Shift F2

Alt+F2 – Save as

It opens the “Save As” dialog box.

Alt+Shift+F2 – Save

I wonder who will use this combination when there is a simpler “Ctrl+S” for performing the same action.


The shortcut combinations stated above have been tested with Excel 2010.  If you find it doesn’t work in other version of Excel, please let us know by leaving your comment.

Also feel free to share with us your tips in using F2.

For other Function keys:

F1  F2  F3  F4  F5  F6  F7  F8  F9  F10  F11  F12

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4 Responses to F2 – It is about inputting and editing… what? Please elaborate!

  1. Sabine says:

    You really made my day MF!
    I didn’t know I can use F2 + Enter for adding hyperlinks to url.
    thx Sabine


  2. I didn’t realise it did so much! Why use Alt + F2 when F12 also opens save as and needs one less key pressed!


    • MF says:

      Hi Peter,
      Yes, you are correct. F12 is also for Save as, and it is quicker and easier than Alt+F2. Thanks for your input!🙂
      As you will see in my coming posts, there are many shortcuts doing the same task in Excel. It’s really our preference (or habit) to choose the one, normally the shorter one, we get used to.


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