Remove Picture Background and Excel Book Giveaway

101excel2013tipsDo you ever put a picture or clip art on a spreadsheet? I don’t use them very often, but occasionally I’ll add a small picture on an instruction worksheet, or insert a company logo on a printable form.

If you do add pictures, do you fuss with them, or just slap them on the sheet, and leave them as is? I usually adjust the picture’s size, so it fits in the spot where I want it, and maybe crop a little off the sides.

Remove Picture Background

A couple of weeks ago, I saw John Walkenbach on Google Plus, showing how to remove the background from a picture in Excel. It looked interesting, so I decided to test that feature on one of my own pictures.

NOTE: The Remove Background feature was introduced in Excel 2010, so you can use it in that version too.

  • First, I inserted a picture onto the worksheet, and selected the picture.
  • On the Ribbon’s Format tab, I clicked the Remove Background command


  • The background changes to purple, and those are the sections that will be removed. There is a rectangular outline around the “Keep” section, and you can adjust that, to include or exclude more of the picture


  • To adjust the sections that will be removed, you can use the tools on the Background Removal tab.


  • For example, if a section is coloured pink, and you want to keep it, click the Mark Areas to Keep tool, then click on that part of the picture. If you change your mind, use the Delete Mark tool to remove the marks that you added.


  • When you’re satisfied with the background markings, click the Keep Changes command, to see the result.


And remember, you can put pictures in cell comments too, where they only appear if you point to the cell.


Excel Book Giveaway

That’s just one of the 101 tips in John Walkenbach’s new book – 101 Excel 2013 Tips, Tricks & Timesavers. You might already know a few of the tips, but there must be a few things that you don’t know – or you used to know, and forgot. Winking smile

For example:

  • Display a live calendar in a range
  • Count non-duplicated entries in a range
  • Use Flash Fill to extract data
  • Perform inexact searches

Katie Mohr, at Wiley, has kindly provided a ebook copy John’s book for a giveaway. If you’d like to win a copy of the book, add a comment below.

  • In your comment, share one Excel tip that you would include, if you were writing a book of 101 Excel tips.
  • Include your email address, so Katie can contact you if you win. Your contact information won’t be publicly visible, and it won’t be used for any other mailings.
  • The deadline is Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at 12 noon Eastern Daylight Time.
  • One entry per person.
  • The winner will be selected in a random draw, and announced here on Thursday, July 25th.



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37 Responses

  1. Tony Huby says:

    My all time favoutite tip is to do with selecting a block of cells:
    1 Click in the last cell of the block to be selected
    2 Enter the first cell in the Name Box
    3 Hold down the shift key and press enter

    The block is now selected

  2. Chris says:

    My favourite is Ctrl + D to duplicate the content from the Cell above, so useful when doing data entry.

  3. Dave Roberts says:

    I work with Subtotals and need to copy the collapsed view but selecting and copying only what I see copies even the hidden cells. The only solution is to press F5>Special>Visible Cells Only. Since I have a hard time remembering keyboard shortcuts longer than Ctrl+ more than one letter, I added the Select Visible Cells Only to the QAT.

  4. Cécile says:

    I have to do a lot of searches in tables and I learned the advantages of MATCH and INDEX versus the good old VLOOKUP/HLOOKUP

  5. Heather R says:

    My favorite tip – and it seems so simple to those ‘in the know’ is to always format the header and footer of any document that will be printed to include the date the document was printed. It saves so many questions regarding which version of a report someone is looking at. I actually format all documents before I even start working in them.

  6. Mahesh R.S says:

    The one Excel keyboard shortcut/tip I most often use is this : Alt+E+A+F which clears all formatting thats present in the range or selection of cells that I have chosen.Next favorite tip is Alt+H+B+A which applies “All Borders” to any block of cells.

  7. Michelle says:

    Do you often hide rows and then want to select visible cells only, so you hit F5, click special, select visible cells only then ok?? My favorite shortcut is Alt+; (alt semicolon) to select only visible cells of selected range.

  8. Stan says:

    I use “Control” + ; at least a dozen times every day that I am on Excel.

  9. jimmm says:

    I use this SO often: Ctrl+D copies the contents of the first selected cell of a column to other selected cells. Works on multiple columns, too. Must try it!

  10. Rick Rothstein (MVP - Excel) says:

    This tip is actually similar to Tony Huby’s tip, but extends it somewhat. When faced with selecting a range that spans many rows and/or columns, simply type the range into the Name Box (the field to the left of the Formul Bar), either set of cells making up the diagonals of the rectangular range will do, and then press enter… the cells will be selected. To give an example, suppose you needed to select whose diagonals are C3 and BZ10000, you can type either C3:BZ10000 or C10000:BZ3 into the Name Box and press enter… voila, the cell will be selected.

  11. Michael Pennington says:

    Custom number formats.
    ;;; to hide the cells contents.
    MMMMM to show the first character of the Month (i.e. J F M A M J J A S O N D).
    YYYY to show just the year
    0.0,,”M” to show millions

    Etc, etc.

  12. Nick says:

    Find & replace is one of my most used time saving features of Excel – it is very powerful for updating an entire workbook of formulas with slightly different variables – I’m always discovering new unique ways of using it to make my life easier!

    Would love to get this book :)

    Thanks for all your awesome content btw.. keep it up!!

  13. Lyn says:

    Using user forms to send data to lots of different worksheets.

  14. Niyaz says:

    The tip I would include is the usage of ‘F9’ while writing fomulas. It helps like a debugger to find answers to sub parts of the formula. Select the part of the formula you want to know the calculation to, then press F9. It displays that certain part as values.

  15. pepe says:

    “CTRL+D” – so simple and useful ;)

  16. Trouttrap2 says:

    A usefull trick is to CTRL + [. This highlights precedents, so you can see the source-cells that makeup your formula.

  17. Lynda Maynard says:

    I have found that a lot of people get overwhelmed thinking they need to learn a whole bunch of keyboard short-cuts right away. My useful trick is to pick one a week and make a conscious effort to remember to use that one as much as possible. The ones that are of use to them personally will become habit by then. And in just a couple of months, they will be amazed at how many they have learned.

  18. Hermes says:

    I use this all the time: Alt + E + A + A for clearing everything in the selected range. And Ctrl + F1 for hidding the ribbon.

  19. Ishan K says:

    When doing calculations on multiple sheets we often refer back to a sheet again and again for checking a value in that sheet, the best way to same time is to use the Watch Window function in Formulas tab to monitor the value of a cell without going on to other tab.

  20. Tip for Excel 2013:
    I liked the Sheet & Sheets functions which are newly added in Excel 2013 by Microsoft. They both are information functions.

    The Sheet function provides you the sheet number which is set accordingly on the sheet tab.
    Example: =SHEET(“Rahim”) – Returns the sheet number of the worksheet named Rahim.

    The Sheets function is applied when you want to know the number of sheets it contains.
    EXAMPLE: =SHEETS() – We have three worksheets in a workbook and it will give us number 3 Because there is no Reference argument specified, the total number of sheets in the workbook is returned (3).

  21. David W says:

    For selecting large chunks of data or simply navigating around massive data sheets just use CTRL, SHIFT + an Arrow Key; up, down, left or right and hit the arrow again to skip blanks or change direction until you get all the data you want to select or use a simple mouse click hundreds of cells from where you started to teleport onto the edges of your current data universe!

  22. Neil says:

    One technique that saves me a lot of time (and always seems to impress my colleagues!) is Ctrl+Enter to enter the same text/formula into a range of cells.

    This is particularly useful when combined with Goto>Special>Blanks to populate several blank cells that are in the same column.

  23. Greg B says:

    In conditional formatting, making a new formula rule that highlights an entire row based on one cells value. If A2 was “Yes”, the rule =$A2=”Yes” would then highlight row A — (highlight means to set it to the desired format). Remember to set the cell/array or table to which the rule should apply. Better yet, the rule setting cell (in this case “A2”) does not have to be in the pertaining array. This is especially useful if you give a cell a drop down list (through validation) to trigger the rule, then a nearby table will highlight certain rows based on the drop down.

  24. Anthony says:

    I love Ctrl-* to select the whole range and Shift-F9 to only calculate the sheet. This is very useful if you’ve turned manual calculations off and have already done your data crunching then when you are just playing with output you can quickly update that without having to recalculate the sheet.

  25. Jeff says:

    My favorite tip is CTL+SHFT+L to turn filters off and on. I use it to quickly clear all filters.

  26. John says:

    My favourite tip is “Fill in the Empty Cells”
    I get a report each month that has the salesman’s name directly above his sales figures. I want his name to appear at the left of his sales on a line by line basis.
    To do this I move each salespersons name on cell to the left so I end up with a series of blank cells beneath salesman #1 and #2, etc. that I want filled.
    I go to the bottom of the report and highlight the column and hit F5 and select special the click on blanks. I then go to the formula bar and key in the cell address of the first salesman’s name (usually A2) so +A2.
    Then I key in Ctrl + Enter and presto! all the cells are labeled with the salespersons name. I the highlight the column and copy it to the same location and do a paste special as values so the data is hardened.

  27. Ben Kiwak says:

    Ctr + alt + arrow key to select an entire row or column.

  28. Joe says:

    I always have students that love making charts easier to create. With that said, there is a great way to do this. With one button!
    Step 1: Select the data for your chart.
    Step 2: Hit the F11 key.

    This will create the default chart type (usually a column chart) on a new worksheet.

  29. Lori says:

    Open Excel without also opening a blank worksheet by editing your desktop Excel shortcut’s target file to include a /E at the very end. Open Excel using this modified shortcut and you will no longer have a blank workbook automatically load.

    “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\EXCEL.EXE” /E

  30. Mike says:

    A couple tips for you:

    1) Data validation doesn’t have to point to cells in the current sheet. You can just hard-code a comma-separated list right in the dialog box when you set up validation (Ex. Choice 1, Choice 2, Choice 3). For many drop down uses, it is better to just type in the list than to put it in cells.

    2) Use Ctrl+ArrowKeys to navigate a large table. Use Ctrl+Shift+Arrow to select a large table. Ctrl+Arrow will start in the current cell and go to the next blank cell in the current region. There are few ways faster to select an entire table than Ctrl+Shift+DownArrow followed by Ctrl+Shift+RightArrow (starting from the upper left cell). I cringe every time I watch a co-worker scroll with the mouse… you know when you scroll down and it takes forever to get to the end, and then Excel keeps on going and you pass the end, so you have to scroll back up again… It is so much slower and frustrating than these simple keystrokes!

    3) If you select a certain range of cells frequently and paste into other places, help yourself by grouping cells around it. If my table is in cells B2:H25, I will merge cells A1:A25 and merge cells B1:H1. Then selecting the table is as simple as clicking in cell A1 and pressing Shift+RightArrow! This is great for pasting quickly into email or PowerPoint.

  31. John A Robinson says:

    The problem with sharing your favorite tip is you do it so often you assume everyone already knows it. Time saver for me is to save my Excel workbook as binary when the size gets over 10,000 KB. Speeds up opening and saving and I have not found any drawbacks.

  32. Ron says:

    Shift space bar to select a row
    Control. space bar to select a column
    Control minus (on keypad) to delete the selected row or column
    Control plus (on keypad) to insert a row or column at the selection point

  33. Doug says:

    One of my favorite tips is to really hide a tab on a spreadsheet. You may know about how to hide a spreadsheet with the right click > Hide option. But if someone know about this they can just right click and Unhide the tab. The really, really hide a tab use the Developer tab and click the Visual Basic icon to bring up the Visual Basic Editor. Select View > Properties Window. Select the tab (sheet) you really want to hide. In the Properties Window select the dropdown for Visible and select xlSheetVeryHidden.

    This will really hide the tab (sheet). Video example here

  34. Anne says:

    Well my favourites tend to vary but one I really like (excellent for entering the same information multiple times). Press down the Ctrl key, click on the cells you want to add the entries to, when you come to the last cell, type in the entry you want to duplicate, press Ctrl and Enter and it adds it to all of them. :-)

  35. Andrea R says:

    Great tips! One I love for people who work with a lot of data is using the Text to Columns feature. For example, if I want to break up a column of names formatted as First Name,Last Name, I first make sure the column is all the way to the right (or has several blank columns to the right so there is a place for the data to go). I then highlight the column, select Data – Text to Columns, and then follow the prompts to pick a delimiter (in this case a comma). The preview shows you that it will put the first names in one column and the last names in the next column, using the comma as the place to break out the text. there might be a little data cleanup to do but it is certainly better than breaking them all out manually!

  1. July 23, 2013

    […] Remove Picture Background and Excel Book Giveaway […]

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