See the Secret Excel Error Number

I've been working with Excel for approximately 125 years, and never realized that there was a hidden number in the worksheet error messages.

For example, if you try to insert a column in Excel 2007, you might see this message that warns "Cannot shift objects off sheet".


To see the specific error number for that message, you can press the keyboard shortcut:

Ctrl + Shift + I

The number appears in the bottom right corner of the error message.


That number could be useful if you're doing a Google search, to find a solution to a problem, or if you're searching in the Microsoft Knowledgebase for specific help.

Did you know those error numbers were hidden in the messages?


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10 Responses

  1. sam says:

    I have been using excel for 124 years and am certain that I would not have discovered it for another 125…. How on the earth did you know this….

  2. Rick Rothstein (MVP - Excel) says:


    While apparently not widely known, this feature has not been a secret. A Google search using…

    excel “error message” “ctrl+shift+i”

    showed several hits. A quick look at some of them revealed an online posting from nearly 4 years ago (5/3/2007) that mentioned it…

  3. Talk about hiding information from the user!

  4. Jeff Weir says:

    @Rick: Problem is if you know enough to Google something as obscure as those search terms, then you probably don’t need to Google it ;-)

    Great tip

  5. Roger Govier says:

    Hi Deb

    Going by age difference, I must have been using it for about 160 years!!!

    Never heard of it, well done for finding it and posting.
    How many other “goodies” are hidden away from us I wonder?

    Speaking about not knowing things, it was only whilst talking to some of the guys whilst in Seattle, I realised that under Windows 7 if you use the Windows key + left arrow, it will size your currently active Window to half of the screen on the left, similarly with the Windows right arrow key to place another window to the right.

    I don’t use it a great deal, as I am normally on 3 monitors, but when working on a single screen that is really neat.

  6. Jon says:


    It’s been a long long time too i’ve been practising excel without knowing that tip.
    I usually query Google or else with the whole error textlines.

  7. Rick Rothstein (MVP - Excel) says:


    I wasn’t saying we should have known to be able Google for the information; rather, I was just pointing out that this tip has been known about for sometime now. How did others come to know about it in the first place… that is a whole other question (and one I wonder about myself).

  8. @sam, I discovered the shortcut when re-reading the MSKB article on “Cannot Shift Objects Off Sheet”:

    I don’t remember seeing that tip before!

  9. @Roger, thanks for the Window 7 tip, and that’s a good question — how many other hidden gems are there?

  10. AdamV says:

    Great tip, which could help with finding KBs or MSDN articles in future – thanks!

    @Roger – Windows “snap” is really helpful, as you say, using Win+left / right for halves of a screen and up/down to maximise/restore/minimise. For your multiple monitor setup, just add a Shift in there to move a window to the next screen left or right (eg Win+Shift+Left). It will move in the same relative position too, ie maximised or snapped to one half for example.

    Another neat new trick (for Vista / 7) is to add Ctrl when using Alt+Tab or Win+Tab – this makes the selection window stay visible, even when you let go of the keys, so you can navigate using arrow keys (great to go up/down rows when you have loads of windows open), mouse point and click, scroll wheel to roll through – lots of options, almost all of which are quicker than Alt+Tab, Tab, Tab, Tab….

    For Excel another very handy Windows Vista / 7 shortcut is to hold Shift and click on the Taskbar icon for an app which is running (eg Excel, or Explorer), which will open a new instance of the application. Now you can easily have multiple separate Excel windows open to put on your 3 monitors (unfortunately as with other methods of opening a 2nd instance of Excel, they are unaware of each other so this does not help with creating formulas which link between workbooks by point and click, but hey, you can’t have everything!)

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