by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 7, 2020)
Recently the / (slash) key stopped working on Rebekah's system, but only in Excel. When she tries to use it, nothing is typed and instead in the top-left of the screen two rows of virtual buttons appear—1, 2, 3, on the top and F, H, N, P, M, A, R, W on the bottom. The only way she can type the / key is to activate the cell or to use the apostrophe first. Since she uses Excel quite a bit, these approaches are not efficient. Rebekah wonders why her Excel is behaving this way and what can she do to return it to normal.
This one is easy because Excel is supposed to behave this way. The "virtual buttons" that appear are actually called KeyTips, and they provide a way to invoke ribbon tabs and tools using the keyboard. There are actually two ways that you can display the KeyTips: either press the slash key or the Alt key. The slash key is considered a secondary menu key, while Alt is considered the primary menu key. (In other words, Alt is the primary key used to display the KeyTips and slash is the secondary key for this purpose.)
Actually, this behavior of the slash key is a holdover from the way Lotus 123 used to work decades ago. That program used the slash key to switch from editing to command mode; Excel included the behavior of the slash key as a way to make old Lotus users more comfortable with using Excel.
If you find yourself using the slash key quite a bit you can, if desired, change the secondary key to something else. You do it by following these steps:
Figure 1. The Advanced options in the Excel Options dialog box.
That's it; Excel should now be operating as you expect it to. The Alt key will still display the KeyTips; you can't change that. However, the slash key will no longer act as the secondary menu key—whatever you specified in step 4 will fit that purpose.
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