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Go To Special: Excel’s Next-Level Productivity Hack!

In addition to teaching participants how to perform specific tasks in Excel, I try to help people do things in the most efficient way possible.

Shortcuts are always a popular topic in Microsoft Excel Training and I can’t think of a more useful shortcut than the Go To Special dialog box. As a matter of fact, I think Go To Special qualifies as a full-on Excel hack!

Go To Special lets you quickly find and select cells with specific attributes in common. You can easily locate constants, formulas, notes, and a dozen other elements in Microsoft Excel.

Here is what the Go To Special dialog box looks like.

Go To Special dialog box

How to Access the Go To Special Dialog Box

There are 3 ways to access the Go To Special dialog box:

  • Click Find & Select in the Home > Editing group then click Go To Special… from the drop-down menu.
  • Press F5 to display the Go To dialog box then click the Special… button (or press Alt + S).
  • Press Ctrl + G to display the Go To dialog box then click the Special… button (or press Alt + S).

Please note that all of these methods do exactly the same thing. Choose the technique that feels most intuitive to you.

Things to Keep in Mind When Using Go To Special

  • Go To Special will only search for cells in the selected worksheet not the entire workbook.
  • Once Go To Special has selected cells, you can format them or enter the same value across all selected cells by typing some text or a number and pressing Ctrl + Enter.

How to Use Go To Special in Microsoft Excel

A couple of examples might be helpful at this stage.

Remember if you don’t select any cells ahead of time, Go To Special will parse the current worksheet to find cells.

To restrict your search to a smaller region, select a range before launching the Go To Special dialog box then it will find cells within your defined range, not the entire worksheet.

How to Select Only Cells Containing Text

If you want to highlight all of the text in a spreadsheet, here are the steps.

  1. Click Find & Select in the Home > Editing group then click Go To Special… from the drop-down menu.
  2. In the Go To Special dialog box, click to select Constraints.
  3. Under Formulas, click to deselect Numbers, Logicals, and Errors so that Text is the only check box selected.
  4. Click OK.
Using Go To Special to highlight constants (text)

In the example (above), I used Go To Special to select all of the constants in the spreadsheet that are text. Constants are words or numbers that you type directly into a cell.

How to Select Cells Containing Numbers

If I wanted to select only cells with constants that are numbers, I would have configured the Go To Special dialog box like this.

Using Go To Special to highlight constants (numbers)

Notice that in the example (above), only numbers in B9:E12 were selected. These numbers are constants. They were all entered directly into those cells.

The totals in B13:E13 are formulas and were not selected.

Utilizing Other Options in the Go To Special Dialog Box

We’ve only looked at a couple of examples but the other options in the Go To Special dialog box essentially work the same way.

So, whether you’re looking for blanks, notes, or only the cells containing conditional formatting, the process will be the same.

If you enjoyed this article, there are many more shortcuts in Excel you can learn about!

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.