Ctrl+Shift+Enter and Array Formulas in Excel (A Comprehensive Guide)

November 6, 2023 2.0K views

Excel provides you with many functions and this allows you to work with various data. There are a lot of shortcuts you can implore while working but sometimes, because the shortcuts are numerous, some people don’t know about them or don’t know how to use them. Ctrl+shift+enter is one of the functions people don’t know how to use and this piece was put together to make sure you become knowledgeable about this function.

What does Ctrl+Shift+enter mean in Excel?

In Excel package, there are standard formulas. However, standard formulas cannot perform every calculation especially complex calculations. This is where Ctrl=shift=enter comes in. Ctrl+shift+enter creates array formulas which can execute complex calculations. Ctrl+shift+enter is the key to unlocking array formulas. When using regular formulas, calculation is done row by row but with array formulas, you can execute multiple rows at a time.

After entering a formula in arrow, when you press enter it becomes a regular formula but when you press Ctrl+Shift+Enter, it becomes an array formula that can execute multiple rows at a time. This shortcut works for vertical and multi-dimensional arrays. It is very effective for division, multiplication and matrix calculations.

Ctrl+Shift+Excel example

What are array formulas?

Array formulas are Excel formulas that allow you to perform multiple operations which regular formulas cannot do at a time. The greatest advantage of array formulas is that they make your work faster since they can work on multiple cells at a time. We will be seeing more of how array function works as we go on.

Array Formula

How to use array formulas with Ctrl+shift+enter in Excel

You cannot separate Ctrl+enter+shift from array formulas. A formula becomes an array formula when a command ctrl+shift+enter is pressed instead of a normal enter to install the command. Let’s leave the stories and proceed to know how it’s done.

  • Fill in your command, or selected data into the formula bar. This data typically includes the row location or range of rows and any other data you want to input either numeric or alphabet.

Array formula to execute an array function.

  • Press Ctrl+shift+enter to implement the command. The implementation of the command will ensure that the effect of the command reaches the rows that have been stated either in the formula bar or on the sheet.

Ctrl+Shift+Enter command to implement array formula

Ctrl+shift+enter is sometimes shortened to CSE command. It is used for many functions in Excel, it is a versatile function and cannot be overlooked for optimum use of Excel. The CSE command has many applications in Excel. Ctrl+shift+enter command can be used to maintain value order on an excel spreadsheet. It can be used to find total cost just like the example above. It can also be used to find the addition of three best values from a set of data. The ctrl+shift+enter has many more applications but the ones above are very widely used.

What are the applications of array functions in Excel? (With Example)

1. A single cell array formula;

A single cell array formula is different from a normal excel formula in its operation because it can perform multiple operations. A single cell array firstly performs a multi-cell array calculation and then use a simple function like sum, average or division to combine the result from the multi-cell array. For example, the multi-cell array might firstly perform multiplication on two cells and then sum the result of the multiplication.

This is an example to explain single cell array

Array formula to execute single cell array

The formula has been put in the formula bar now.

2. A multi-cell array formula

A multi-cell array formula spreads the results of the array formula over selected range of cells. The multi-cell array formula returns multiple values and this I why the values can be spread across cells. The example we will be looking at here is an instance where you have to pay 20% tax on every sale you make and now you want to calculate the task on each product with a single formula.

Explanatory example for the implementation of multi-cell array

This example illustrates multi-cell array

Formula to execute multi-cell array

The formula has been imputed into the green space that was highlighted above. The next picture will give the answer.

Implementation of multi-cell array

3. Using an Excel array function to return a multi-cell array

This application of Ctrl+shift+enter also extends to return the result of a multi-cell array. In this example we will be doing a transpose which means changing the rows to columns.

  • The first thing you need to do is to select the set of cells where you want the result to be transposed into. Since the original data has a number of rows and columns, you need to select the cells in a way that the column of the transpose space equal to the row of the original result and the row of the transpose space is equal to the column of the original data. This is done to ensure that your transposed data enters into the right space, don’t forget to interchange the size of your row and column for your transposed data.

Formula to return a multi-cell array using normal data

  • Ensure that the file is in edit mode. If you discover that the file is not in edit mode, you can press F2 to put your file in edit mode.

The space where you can see the formula highlighted has been selected in terms of row and column. For this example, it will be a 4x5 cell arrangement.

Formula to return multi-cell array into the same cell

  • Then you can enter the formula.


Use ctrl+shift+enter

The Multi-cell array has been returned in a new style.

Common mistakes and troubleshooting tips

There are many mistakes you can make with an application that runs with command functions like Excel. You have to make sure you get every sign right and with the right spacing as well. When using array functions, you have to put everything in order before using ctrl+shift+enter. You have to do this so that the command can fit into the data. Take for example, our just concluded example of transposing, imagine that we did not pick the right no of rows and columns. What would happen? The transposed data will not fit in properly. Let’s look at some specific issues you should watch out for when using CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER and array functions.

  1. Forgetting to include the curly brackets at the beginning and the end of the formula. This is one issue you can face when trying to use an array function because your mind might escape it. When you press CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER, curly brackets will be automatically added to any formula you put in the formula bar. Without these curly brackets, the array formula will not be implemented. Therefore, watch out for the curly brackets whenever you are using array functions.

  1. Accidentally press the regular Enter key instead of the CTRL SHIFT ENTER shortcut. What makes a formula become an array is the ctrl+shift+enter function. If you press only ENTER, you have omitted two and problems are inevitable. The array function will most likely not be implemented when you press just Enter and this is why you need to be careful of it, the natural response of our body when finalizing something on our pc. You can rectify this mistake by ensuring the right command is in the formula bar and then use ctrl+shift+enter which is the right command.

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FAQs about CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER in Excel

  • Can I use Ctrl shift enter for regular formulas?

The answer is no, ctrl+shift+enter is a function that is only used for array formulas.

  • Can I use array formula in Google Sheets?

The answer is yes, array formulas can be used in Google Sheet, it will work well.

  • What are array formulas and how do they differ from regular formulas?

The greatest difference between array formulas and regular formulas is that array formulas can perform multiple functions and operations at a time but regular formulas work on an individual cell at a time.

  • What are the limitations of array formulas?

One of the limitations is the ‘entire column rule’. This rule ensures that you cannot perform an operation that uses the whole sheet, that would be cumbersome for the software to carry out. Also, very large array operations takes a lot of space on your gadget.


The ctrl+shift+excel function makes work much easier since it activates an array function. Array functions make your work fast and much easier to carry out. Nobody would want to do something that makes their life tougher, I mean using regular formulas. Don’t also forget that There is a file package that is even better and embodies Excel and other important packages, you know what I’m talking about, WPS Office. I have extensively talked about this wonderful application, you definitely want to try it out, follow the steps to download WPS Office above. Enjoy speed in your work as you work with array formulas. Bye!!!

15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.