F2 in Excel for Mac

Switching to a Mac has its advantages but Excel shortcuts isn’t one of them. The main gripe I have is that keyboard shortcuts should be the same in every version of Excel, yet the Windows and Mac worlds are light-years apart. The F2 key is a fundamental shortcut I learned early in my Excel life. It edits the active cell and positions the cursor at the end of the cell contents.

You want to edit a formula, hit the F2 key. But wait! In Excel for Mac the F2 key cuts text from the active cell. How could they do this? What were they thinking? Window users are screwed when it comes to keyboard shortcuts in Excel for Mac. Remember that well.

Edit the Active Cell in Excel for Mac

CONTROL+U is the new F2 when you’re using Excel with a Mac. If you want to edit the active cell use the keyboard shortcut CONTROL+U.

F2 in Excel for Mac

If you use F2 to edit a cell on a Mac, remember your screwed, and think FU. Then take control of the situation and use CONTROL+U to edit that cell and get on with your life.

UPDATE: This was true for previous versions of Microsoft Excel for Mac. In current Excel 365 for Mac, you can use both F2 key and control+U to edit contents of the cell.

46 thoughts on “F2 in Excel for Mac”

  1. OK, after months of searching, here’s how you can accomplish this.

    Download KeyRemap4Macbook (it’s a system preference app).

    Once installed, search inside this app for ‘Excel’ and click on the two checkboxes:
    * Change F2 to Ctrl-U
    * Change F4 to Command-T

    Voila, it’s like using excel on the PC again !!

    • @Brian many thanks for sharing this solution. The program you mention does quite a lot beside allowing key re-assignment for Excel. I just wish Microsoft would recognize our frustrations and give us a simple solution to standardize function and keyboard shortcut keys.

      • I still feel crazy, my F2 is assigned to dim-up the monitor and guess what — I DONT WANNA LOSE IT! (HAVE I?)

        • Hi Davi,

          The way that you’ll have to get it to work is this:

          In your System Preferences / Keyboard / Keyboard, you’ll need to have the checkbox “Use all F1, F2, etc keys as standard function keys” checked. This will let you use the F2 key in Excel without dimming your screen. This means though you have to hit the Fn + F2/F3 keys to dim/brighten your screen etc.

          Given the number of times I actually change my screen brightness vs the number of times I have to edit a cell in Excel, it’s a worthy change.

          The one weird (though good, if you like it as so) aspect of doing so is that the volume/mute function keys will still work without hitting the Fn key together, which is a pain in the butt because you can’t use F10~F12 as standard keys. Which then means you can’t map Insert a Sheet to F10 or Insert Chart to Shift F10, which is the standard Windows Excel mapping.

          (and don’t get me started about the ultra-retardation in the Windows ‘Ribbon’ recently. I’ve got all of that junk turned off permanently, although in Redmond’s Apple-esque wisdom, there is a lot of functionality in the Ribbon that isn’t available in the pulldown menus. I understand to increase their sales, MS has to keep mucking with their Office Suite, but they do it at the expense of everyone else who’s bought it up to that point).

          Time to switch to Ubuntu 10, methinks.

          • Many thanks for the instruction to Davi.

            I use all my F keys as standard function keys, but I still have to use the fn key for mute, lower and raise the volume buttons. But I’m using Lion and a wireless keyboard.

    • Dude, you are my HERO!

      I use Office applications all day at work and and cannot describe how frustrating it is to come home & fumble through the moronic Office for Mac keyboard shortcuts. F2 now works like it should & I finally have a proper “delete” key. Yeeeaaaahh buddy!!

  2. No worries. As a heavy PC user, I use this program to remap most of my keys on the Mac to make the transition back and forth easier, particularly on my MacPro. Several nice things that have eased my frustration with a ‘must-use-a-mouse’ Mac (didn’t they ever think of users who like using a keyboard?):
    * open files in the Finder when you hit ‘Enter’, rather than the retarded ‘Command-O’. On a Mac, this for some unknown reason seems to enter into ‘Rename File’ mode normally.
    * map the eject CD button to ‘Delete’ (the Mac ‘Delete’ key is actually a Backspace key).
    * map the right Option key to be used with the up/down arrow keys to be Page Up/Page Down – it’s frustrating to see that Apple thinks that when people use keyboard shortcuts, they like to use both hands (I think it’s normally fn+Up/Down).


    • Consistency isn’t Windows strong point either though if you think about it.

      Command-O is consistently used to “open” a file so why would it be any different in the Finder? Likewise, why would Windows implement nearly every other ctrl-letter equivalent EXCEPT for ctrl-Q (to quit a program)? Seems pretty retarted, if you ask me… πŸ™‚

      • Hi Jeff,

        Actually, here’s the reason Finder’s default key mapping is “retarded”. When you try to open a file with the context of an application like Word, Excel, or any other application, the application will pop open an instance of the File Chooser dialog box, which is actually just another view of Finder. In this dialog, you don’t hit Command-O to select the file you want to open; you hit Enter (or double click for those who don’t like to use the keyboard, but then, this thread shouldn’t be of any interest to you in the first place) to open the file. So why would you have one usage be Command Open while the other is Enter?

        Lastly, for anyone who lives by the keyboard, having to use two hands to manipulate the keyboard to select a file is highly highly inefficient, and THAT is truly retarded. Imagine if in a photo album application, where all of the photo thumbnails were displayed, after you were able to keyboard your way to a particular photo, you had to hit Command-O to open that photo? You’d go crazy! I’ve tried some photo applications like that, but I gave up on those quickly as they clearly didn’t understand the normal usage flow of their heavier users.

        Again, this is for the heavy super-users. Those who like to use the mouse for everything and never use keyboard shortcuts (98% of the population) are oblivious to all of this, as they should be. Ignorance is bliss πŸ˜‰

    • Which would you use for Delete if you didnt have an eject button? Yes, Mac Air. My best guess would be the Power button so far 😎

      • I’d probably map it to Right-Shift + Delete so that you can at least delete with one hand only. Some Mac applications appear to already do forward delete with Shift+Delete, but it’s not consistent through the OS.

  3. the key remapping download mentioned above was the fix I needed. As a new SWITCHER, I really wanted to try and go fully Apple….then bought MS office for mac, so I could work with most of the people in my universe…then realized how much I used F2 when in Excel. HAND ON THE KEYBOARD!


  4. I’ve been missing the F2 function in Excel for ages and am very happy that the ctrl-U seems to work in the same way BUT for the fact that it also underlines the text in that cell. How do I get around this?



    • @Stephen, when I use CONTROL+U there is no underlining of the cell contents. If I use COMMAND+U then there is underlining going on.

      Choose Tools > Customize Keyboard and select Format in the Categories window, then look in the Current Keys window to see if CONTROL+U has been mapped to this keyboard shortcut. If so you can delete it and there will be no more underlining of text with CONTROL+U.

  5. OMG this post was unbelievable! I have been searching for such a tool for months!

    I read that the eject key was hard-wired and that there was no way to remap it to fwd-delete. The noEjectDelay is also fantastic.

    Excel also works like a charm now. I used to have to google “F4/F2 shortcut in mac excel” every time I needed such shortcut. I made me so angry, that I even considered using my MBP always on bootcamp, and using OSX only to watch movies and stuff.

    Thank you very much for sharing this.

  6. Hey Gregory-using Key Remap for mac and randomly the f2 will switch back to the cut function. What is causing that? is there a solution? THANKS!

    • I’ve not dealt with Key Remap for Mac. When Excel 2011 is open the F2 key always activates the cut function, so I don’t use it at all. Sad to say that I’m now programmed to use Control+U.

  7. +1 Brian on the KeyRemap4MacBook Util … I’ve been using it too … I develop apps on Windows – Linux and Mac too …. I’ve gotta have my keys in sync …

    If you want some real keyboard calisthenics … Trying learning a few {hundred} Vim shortcuts … πŸ™‚

  8. The easiest solution: just replace your Mac keyboard with a standard 102 key layout keyboard with function keys. It just works.

  9. Hi, I always used the “End” and down or arrows to get to bottom or top of a list of info in Excel. Do you know how to do this on a MacBook?

  10. The one that still drives me crazy and that I haven’t been able to fix.. when you highlight a group of cells and hit ‘Delete’, only the top left cell is deleted. Not sure how this makes any sense to anyone.

      • Thank you everyone! I just switched to a Mac and was about ready to switch back b/c I hated Mac Excel so bad. These workarounds have made my life so much better!!

  11. I was frustrated cause excel disable remove key for F2
    but your give simple solution to get back F2 function as usually.

    many Thanks… Hero

  12. This is more exciting than when I bought my Macbook. I was about to go back to a PC, THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH.
    I really hope apple and microsoft read these things, what the hell were they thinking when they changed these universal things?????!!!!

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