F8 – It is for selecting range(s) of cells

In the introductory post of Function Keys, I used F8 as an example to illustrate the situation when we thought we know English but cannot comprehend a sentence.

F8: Turns extend mode on or off. In extend mode, Extended Selection appears in the status line, and the arrow keys extend the selection.

Source: support.office.com

Actually there are there more combinations for F8.  In short,

  • F8 – Extend selection
  • Shift+F8 – Add to selection
  • Ctrl+F8 – Resize the window of the workbook when it is not maximized
  • Alt+F8 – Open the Macro dialogue box

Are they clear now?  Maybe the final two, but definitely not the first two.  

F8 – Extend Selection

This is essentially the same as the action you press Shift Key with arrow keys.  It allows to select a continuous range of cells.  The only difference is you don’t have to HOLD the Shift Key all the way.  Once you press F8, you turn on the “Extend Mode“.  You will see the “Extend Selection” on the status bar, as shown below:

Excel Tips - F8 (1)

With “Extend Selection“, you may freely extend the selection with arrow keys or mouse drag.  Once it’s done, press F8 or Esc to turn off the “Extend mode“. Excel Tips - F8 (2)

Who will actually use F8 key when we can use Ctrl and Shift Key to select range of cell quickly?

Shift+F8 – Add to Selection

The even trickier part is to select multiple ranges.  Shift+F8 switches to “Add to Selection“.   See screenshot below:

Excel Tips - F8 (3)

Literally, it means the selection(s) you made is now “Added”.  Now pressing down arrow key twice will take you two cells downward, with the previous selection remained selected.

Excel Tips - F8 (4)

Then press F8 again to switch back to “Extend Selection“.  Now you may select the extra range you need.

Excel Tips - F8 (5)

To repeat the steps above, you may select multiple non-continuous ranges, with or without your mouse.

However, please pay attention to the status bar.  If you press arrow key when the “Extend Selection” or “Add to Selection” is off, all previous selection(s) will be gone.

Excel Tips - F8 (8)

“Who will use this trick to select multiple cells / ranges when using mouse to do that is so easy?  What we need is to hold Ctrl key while dragging mouse.”  This question stayed in my mind until I created my first dashboard.  In my dashboard, there are many mini charts. Like the one below:

Excel Tips - F8 (example)

In order to better utilize the real estate on my spreadsheet, I turned the background of all charts into “transparent”, i.e. no fill.  By doing so, I input figures directly in the cells under the charts while the figures are still visible.

Excel Tips - F8 (example1)

The drawback of this approach: Selecting the cells underneath is IMPOSSIBLE with mouse click.  Not to mention to select multiple non-continuous cells under the charts.

F8 and Shift+F8 come to rescue under this circumstance!

With the techniques described above, I can select, say, the “% Change” of COGS and Expense easily.

Make sense?

Tip:  Another quick way to do so is to type the cell references, e.g. B10,D10 directly in Name Box.  Comma “,” is required.

Ctrl+F8 – Resize the window of the workbook when it is not maximized

This is another function I have never used before… (except for this post)

Excel Tips - Ctrl F8

Alt+F8 – Open the Macro dialogue box

Excel Tips - Alt F8 1 Excel Tips - Alt F8

This one is also obvious, provided that you use Macro.


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 your tips in using F8 key.

For other Function keys:

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

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2 Responses to F8 – It is for selecting range(s) of cells

  1. Igor says:

    Hi Fung.
    Could you tell little bit about creating dashboards in Excel, please. I found one page you posted “What I did during the CNY holiday?” but there should be more to this.


    • MF says:

      Hi Igor,

      To me, an Excel dashboard is a summary page of information that your targeted readers care most.

      To build an effective dashboard, you need various skills in Excel and probably design, I guess. And it is a big topic.

      As mentioned in my post “What I did during the CNY holiday?”, my starting point was to read a book. And this is the book I read:
      “Information Dashboard Design – Display data for at-a-glance monitoring” by Stephen Few

      On the other hand, you may get many insights from
      Chandoo’s site:

      and Mynda Treacy’s site:
      A free Webinar on Excel Dashboard

      You may find more information and even training course on Dashboard there.

      Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate to the book and sites I recommend above. I recommend them to you because I learned a lot from there myself.

      Hope you will get some insights about there.



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