What is so special about Go To Special? [15 tips]

Posted on March 12th, 2012 in Excel Howtos - 27 comments

This article is written by Myles Arnott from Excel Audit

I briefly covered Excel’s Go To Special function in the Managing Spreadsheet Risk series of articles and both Chandoo and I felt that it deserved a post all of its own.

What is Go To Special?

Go To Special is a tool within Microsoft Excel that enables you to quickly select cells of a specified type within your Excel worksheet. Once you get to grips with this function and what it can be used for you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

Where do I find Go To Special?

Shortcut: F5 or CTRL + G and then click on Special…
2003: Edit > Go To
2007 & 2010:Home > Find & Select > Go To Special on the Ribbon

(Note: a cut down selection of the most useful options in Go To Special can be selected directly under Find & Select on the Ribbon in 2007 & 2010.)

Lets look at Go To Special in action

Firstly download this workbook. This is more or less the same workbook that we used in the Managing Spreadsheet Risk series, modified slightly to allow us to cover all elements of the Go To Special function. (Note that it therefore includes a lot of errors)

Here are the options on the Go To Special dialogue box:

Excel Go to Special - What is it and how to use it?

Lets run through each of the Go to special options.

Comments

Action: Selects all cells with comments

Benefit: A quick way of finding all cells with comments, particularly useful if you want to clear all comments from your worksheet

 

Constants

Action: Selects all cells containing constants

Options:

Numbers: Selects all cells with constants that are numbers

Text: Selects all cells with constants that are text

Logicals: Selects all cells with constants that are logicals (TRUE or FALSE)

Benefit: The number constants in your spreadsheet should all be inputs. Highlighting all constants is a great way of checking the structure of your spreadsheet. I normally format inputs with a white background and blue font.

 

A great tool for auditing – select all constants and change the fill colour. This instantly gives you visibility of your model inputs and flags any inconsistencies.

Formulas

Action: Selects all cells containing formulas

Options:

Numbers:Selects all cells with formulas that return numbers

Text: Selects all cells with formulas that return text

Logicals: Selects all cells with formulas that return logicals (TRUE or FALSE)

Benefit: Highlighting all of the formulas within your spreadsheet is a great way of checking the structure and consistency of your spreadsheet.

Blanks

Action: Selects all blank cells

Benefit: A quick way to select all blank cells. This is useful if you want to quickly format all blank cells or as a way of identifying cells that look blank but actually contain a constant or formula (i.e. with white on white formatting).

 

(Related: Fill Blank Cells )

Current region

Action: Selects the current region

Comment: I would recommend using the shortcut CTRL + * instead

Current array

Action: Selects the entire array if the active cell is within an array

Comment: I have never used this option but would be very interested to hear if anyone has.

Objects

Action: Selects all objects (shapes, images, charts etc)

Benefit: A simple way to select all objects. This could be useful if you wanted to quickly delete all objects in the worksheet.

Row differences

Action:

Single row: Selects the cells that are different from the active cell within the selected row

Multiple rows: The comparison is made for each row independently. The cell used for comparison for each row is the cell in the same column as the active cell.

Benefit: This is a very useful auditing tool for highlighting inconsistent formulas in a row.

 

It also offers a quick and easy way to spot differences across multiple rows.

(Note: You can change the active cell within a selected row by pressing enter)

 

Column differences

Action:

Single column: Selects the cells that are different from the active cell within the selected column

Multiple columns: The comparison is made for each column independently. The cell used for comparison for each column is the cell in the same row as the active cell.

Benefit: This is a very useful auditing tool for highlighting inconsistent formulas in a column. It also offers a quick and easy way to spot differences across multiple columns.

Precedents

Action: Selects the cells that feed into the selected cell(s)

Options:

Direct only: First level precedent only

All levels: All levels of cell precedents

Benefit: Provides an alternative to Trace Precedents in the formula auditing bar. Personally I prefer using this tool to select and then colour-fill the precedent cells as it allows you to select the precedents for a range of cells rather than just one. I also find that the arrows in Trace Precedents can get a little messy.

Dependents

Action: Selects the cells that the selected cell(s) feed into

Options:

Direct only: First level dependents only

All levels: All levels of cell dependents

Benefit: As above this provides an alternative to Trace Dependents in the formula auditing bar.

Last cell

Action: Selects the last used cell within your worksheet (containing data or formatting)

Benefit: A quick way to locate your last cell. This is a very effective way of identifying the range of cells used of the worksheet.

 

If your simple spreadsheet suddenly becomes very large in MB terms this can be due to Excel incorrectly thinking that you are using a lot more of the cells than you actually are . A good indicator of this is that the right hand scroll bar slider becomes very small. Using Go To Special Last cell lets you quickly identify the last cell Excel thinks you are using.

Visible cells only

Action: Selects cells that are not hidden (& therefore are visible)

Benefit: Useful if you only want to change the non-hidden cells and leave the hidden cells unchanged

Conditional formats

Action: Selects all of the cells with conditional formatting applied

Options:

All: Selects all cells with conditional formatting applied

Same: Selects all cells that have the same conditional formatting as is applied to the active cell

Benefit: An easy way to quickly identify all of the cells with conditional formatting applied to them. A useful tool for understanding the formatting applied to a spreadsheet.

You need to be aware that, depending on the conditional formatting set, you may not be able to highlight the cells using a fill colour as the conditional formatting may override it.

Comment: The manage rules option within the conditional formatting menu also enables you to identify cells with conditional formatting applied.

Data validation

Action: Selects all of the cells with data validation applied

Options:

All: Selects all cells with data validation applied

Same: Selects all cells that have the same data validation as is applied to the active cell

Benefit: An easy way to quickly identify all of the cells with data validation applied to them. This is particularly useful from an auditing perspective or if you want to clear the validations in these cells.

Some considerations for Go To Special

  • Go To Special only selects cells in the current worksheet rather than the whole workbook.
  • Go To Special searches within the selected range, if you want to select the entire worksheet ensure that only one cell is selected

Putting this in to practice

In order to give you some examples of how to use the Go To Special tools covered above I have put together a list of actions for you to run over the attached spreadsheet. Have a play and see what you discover:

(note that the action “Select cell A1” is simply to clear the current range selected. Failing to do this will restrict the new search to the currently selected range)

1) Look for cells containing data validation and conditional formatting

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Data validation (All)

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Conditional formatting (All)

2) Check the structure of the spreadsheet

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Constants ,text, fill the selection in brown

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Constants ,numbers, fill the selection in blue

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Constants ,errors, fill the selection in purple

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Formulas (leave all options ticked), fill the selection in green

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Formulas, errors, fill the selection in red

(Note: any cells with conditional formatting will not be changed by the fill colours above)

I have recorded the above steps into a macro to give you a useful audit macro that could be adapted for future use. Click on the button on the Info tab to run the macro.

See these pages for information on macros.

3) Check the range C9:S9 for any inconsistent formulas

Select the range C9:S9, Go To Special, Row differences, fill the selection in yellow

4) Review the precedents for the formulas in row 25

Select the range C25:S25, Go To Special, Trace Precedents, Direct only

5) See if there are any charts in the spreadsheet

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Objects

6) Find the last cell

Select cell A1, Go To Special, Last cell

Added by Chandoo:

Do you use Go to Special?

I use go to special (both dialog box and keyboard shortcuts) all the time. It is a really easy way to navigate a complex workbook and quickly select what you want. My favorite uses of Go to special are, selecting blank cells, finding data validations, locking formula cells, formatting input cells (constants). To find conditional formatting I usually go to home > conditional formatting > manage rules and see all the formatting rules in current worksheet. For formula auditing I rely on audit toolbar & manual inspection of the workbook.

What about you? Have you used Go to Special? What are your favorite features? Please share using comments.

Thanks to Myles

Many thanks to Myles for compiling all the tips & sharing this with us. If you have enjoyed this article, please say thanks to Myles. You can also reach him at Excel Audit or his linkedin profile.

Written by Chandoo
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27 Responses to “What is so special about Go To Special? [15 tips]”

  1. Mel says:

    I love using Go To Special, Formulas, Errors to audit a column of formulas that will not sum up because of an error. Allows me to find and fix the precedent data and quickly find the next record with incomplete/incorrect data. I use Go To Special, Visible Cells Only after using the subtotaling feature, collapsing the outline to just subtotals, so that I can cut and paste only the subtotals to another worksheet to use or to color fill or bold the subtotals so they stand out more.

  2. Jack says:

    I copy into Excel information from a table on a web page that contains a small graphic in one of the columns for each row. I do not need (or want) the graphics so I use the "Go To/Objects" to select them all and delete them using the Delete key.

  3. simlaoui says:

    Great infos about Go to Special
    thank you very much
    for me i use Go to Special mostely to copy a visible cells after using filter.
    Yours

  4. I often use the visible and blank cells. Using the Fill trick with blank cells on data copied from a pivot table can make things a breeze.

    Also, I use the Goto method in VBA to set the visible window range when macros call for it.

  5. Lyn says:

    Thank you for the article on go to special. I have never really used it but now I have seen some examples I am keen to try. Thank you for your tutorials with examples, they are the best!

  6. Ekaterina says:

    Many thanks to Myles ans Chandoo for such useful tips!
    I've never used it either and surprisingly found that I could significantly reduce my "polishing" time. Thank you =) Have a nice day!

  7. Andrew says:

    Sometimes I have to work with data imported from an external source which has some blank cells. I need to fill in the blank cells with the same value as the cell above.

    I use go to special - blanks to complete the cells.

    It is hard to explain in writing - I learnt the technique from this Mr Excel video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHmh_viESuw. It has saved me hours of work since!

  8. Note that in Excel 2003 and older, if the result of the goto special contains more than 8192 areas of cells, the command will fail.

  9. [...] formatting quicker and easier I have created three simple macros. These macros use Excel’s Go To Special function and then some simple formatting to the active [...]

  10. Peter Poole says:

    please tell me how to get rid of the entries in the go to box; they keep accumulating, even after I am done with them. I am using office 2004 on a mac

  11. Sofia says:

    Hello,

    I'm an Excel Trainer since 2002 and add never used this function! This article it's awesome – simple, practical and very easy to understand 🙂

    Thank you so much,

    Sofia

  12. Robert C says:

    I downloaded the Go To Special workbook and would like to use the macro in other workbooks, if I am permitted to do so. How would I do that? I initially tried to save this as Personal.xlsm in my XLSTART directory and successfully did so, only to find that the macro didn't work for me in other Excel workbooks. Please advise. Perhaps I left out some needed step?

    Rob C

  13. khaliqdad Roshan says:

    i sir could you please show me the easy work of current array in go to special if you show by example that will be your kindness
    thanks a lot
    Roshan Helmand Afghanistan

  14. […] we still manage to look awesome. Thanks to superb sidekicks – Goto Special & […]

  15. […] we still manage to look awesome. Thanks to superb sidekicks – Goto Special & […]

  16. […] ones like Slicers, Data Validation, and What-If-Analyis. And also the completely hidden ones like Goto Special. Not only do all those things do things natively that would require many Shekels of VBA code to […]

  17. MF says:

    I work with Go to Special a lot. I think it's a not-commonly-used Excel feature as people are not aware of its great benefit.

    Btw, Go to Current Array could be useful if you want to delete the whole array... as "You cannot change part of an array"... ;p

    On the other hand, Go to Reference is also great! I use that a lot to "Teleport" around the world in Excel.

  18. Vikas Gupta says:

    I think shortcut 'Ctrl + End' is more quick & time saving instead of using 'Go To - Special - Last Cell'.

    Thanks for sharing Go To Special.

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  24. hardcore says:

    Thanks for finally talking about > Go to Special - Detailed Tutorial on how
    to use this Excel feature | Chandoo.org - Learn Microsoft Excel Online
    < Liked it!

  25. Manikandan says:

    Dear Mr.Chandoo, Very useful updation. Thanks to all....

  26. pankaj kumar mahto says:

    i am using to fill blank(down blank cell in pivot table, go to special 1. blank 2. =up 3. crlt + enter.) in worksheet but i want reverse my work after some work without using (undo or pivot) in report. is it possible? if possible the how?

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