Keyboard Shortcut for Switching between Workbooks

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 18, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Fred notes that in earlier versions of Excel he could switch between workbook windows by pressing Ctrl+F5. This does not seem to be the case in the latest versions, so he is forced to use the Switch Windows tool on the View tab of the ribbon. Fred prefers to use the keyboard, however, and wonders if there is a shortcut key that will allow me to switch between workbooks.

To my knowledge, Ctrl+F5 has never been a shortcut key to switch between workbooks. In very old versions of Excel (like Excel 2003), Ctrl+F5 was used to restore the size of the workbook window. In current versions of Excel, Ctrl+F5 refreshes the data in the current worksheet based on any links to external data.

The shortcut key that allows you to cycle between workbook windows is Ctrl+F6 (to move forward through the windows) or Shift+Ctrl+F6 (to move backward). This shortcut has been available since the earliest days of Excel and will still work in the latest versions.

There is another pair of shortcut keys that will do the exact same thing in Excel: Ctrl+Tab (to cycle forward) and Shift+Ctrl+Tab (to cycle backwards).

Of course, you can also rely on some shortcut keys provided by Windows. These allow you to cycle between active program windows, so it is not limited to just Excel. All you need to do is to hold down Alt+Tab to display the program windows currently open on your system. Then you can continue to press Tab (while Alt is still held down) to select the window you want.

I should note that using the Windows shortcuts for switching between program windows will only work as a way to switch between Excel workbook windows if you are using Excel 2013 or later. In Excel 2007 and Excel 2010, Microsoft used what is called a "multiple document interface" (MDI) for Excel, which allowed multiple documents (workbooks) to be open within Excel. Thus, Excel showed up within Windows as a single program window, and you would need to use the Excel shortcuts (noted earlier) to switch between workbooks. Starting in Excel 2013, Microsoft switched Excel to use a "single document interface" (SDI), which treated workbooks as individual windows that could be managed by Windows as if they were individual program windows. You can learn more about this switch from MDI to SDI here:

https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/office/vba/excel/Concepts/programming-for-the-single-document-interface-in-excel

With multiple ways to switch workbook windows available, you are free to choose the one that is easiest for you to remember or easiest for you to use.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8517) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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