Slash Key No Longer Works as Expected

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 6, 2019)


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:

  1. Display the Excel Options dialog box. (In Excel 2007 click the Office button and then click Excel Options. In Excel 2010 and later versions display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. Click Advanced at the left side of the screen.
  3. Scroll down until you see the Lotus Compatibility section. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Advanced options in the Excel Options dialog box.

  5. Change the Microsoft Office Excel Menu Key setting to something other than the slash. (Pick a key that you use very infrequently. For me, I find that the tilde (~) is a good choice. Of course, if you don't need a secondary way to pull up the KeyTips, just delete whatever is in the setting.)
  6. While you are at it, make sure the Transition Navigation Keys check box is cleared.
  7. Click OK.

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.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (13054) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

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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What is five minus 3?

2019-08-27 15:29:48

Isaac Sutton

this worked great! Looked all over for the answer to this

2019-07-31 07:45:08

Pak Mega Place (

A file stops responding to F9 Recalculation. Kindly share shortcut key of Recalculate Worksheet

2019-05-03 05:05:06


No matter what I do the alt key will not bring up the screen tips. I have tried the Lotus comparability settings but nothing will bring back the alt key for screen tips. I can however use the slash key to bring up the screen tips. Any thoughts ?

2019-04-24 04:56:11


Thank you so much Allen!! This works like a charm.

2018-12-04 11:06:25

Marc López

So many thanks!!

2018-11-23 16:33:32

Jeff Olsen

Thanks. This behavior was annoying and your article helped to quickly fix it. Thanks again.

2018-11-12 23:17:57


Hi - Thanks heaps - fixed the issue with the / * and other operant keysin excel
Cheers IB

2018-10-03 11:48:23


Thank you!

2018-09-07 09:49:44


Thank you

2018-05-08 08:42:24


Allen, you're a miracle worker. I was about to put Excel on fire, thanks for preventing me from doing so!

2018-04-23 01:35:45


It was driving me crazy!
Clear, short and useful. Thank you so much.

2017-10-18 09:56:12


Great!!! Thank you.


2017-08-21 03:36:48


Thank you! Under pressure when this happened.... Glad you have this solution online!

2017-05-22 18:43:18

wez nagwama

Thanks, was about to throw the computer out the window.

2017-03-20 19:52:23


Fantastic. i thought trying to figure this out would take hours. Thank you very much for the information

2016-10-13 06:12:06


You are the king!!

Thank you!!!! :)

2016-10-07 11:51:07


Thanks for a great tip to an obscure problem.

2016-09-02 11:51:42

Kristy Miller

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! I was ready to punch my laptop! You're a godsend!! :)

2016-08-27 11:01:48

Huong Le

Thank you so much. You saved me from getting headaches!!!!

2016-01-13 04:46:38






2015-08-26 05:17:11

Graham /////////

Thank you Dude!! Thank you!!!!

2015-05-05 03:09:37

Amit Manchanda

Excellent tip. Very useful. Ditto problem. Ditto solution worked. Was very frustrating. Thanks a ton!

2015-01-28 04:02:56


i have a problems key in slashes (/). it will appear as below :

i want to key in date or account number with slashes (/).

For example : 22/01//2015 (date) or 12100/67/000000/00 (acc no.)


APPEAR: 22none01none2015 or 12100none67none000000none00

so i am really need a solution for this cases. really appreciate it. thanks.

2014-04-05 23:12:26


In my opinion, it would be better for the secondary key support to be all together withdrawn as there are 2 ALT keys this is a mere relic that is anachronistic!

As we are moving to newer forms of UI, newer platforms, this transition I believe is much needed.

2014-04-05 08:35:25

Brian Hershman

I never found this problem when using the slash or backslash keys. But it certainly happened when I held down the ALT key without any other key, and I did not understand what it all meant. Now I do!

2014-04-05 06:40:49

Keith Jarvis

I also had this problem but only noticed that I could not enter the slash in cells. I had not noticed the short cut menus appearing I used the slash symbol as a means of ticking spread sheet entries against a paper list of entries.
I found that space bar and slash worked fine But now you explain in fine detail

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