Open Excel Files Faster

I’m not sure about you, but, sometimes I sort of miss the old days of Excel when Ctrl+O immediately displayed the Open dialog box. This dialog box allowed me to quickly navigate my computer and find the file I wanted to open. However, when Microsoft introduced the Backstage, this keyboard shortcut stopped displaying the Open dialog box. Instead, it displays the Backstage view. Now, don’t get me wrong, Backstage is a really nice enhancement, but…I miss my Ctrl+O shortcut! The good news is that there is a simple checkbox we can use to restore the Ctrl+O shortcut.


Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s confirm our understanding and our objective.

Before Backstage was introduced, Ctrl+O caused Excel to display the standard Open dialog box, as shown below.

Excel Open Dialog by Jeff Lenning

Now, using Ctrl+O opens Backstage, as shown below.

Excel Backstage by Jeff Lenning

Our objective is to restore the Ctrl+O shortcut, but, still have Backstage available as needed. Can we do it? Yes, we have the technology.


To restore Ctrl+O, you want to head into the Excel Options dialog box (File > Options). Click Save on the left nav panel, and then check the “Don’t show the Backstage when opening or saving files” checkbox, as shown below.

Hide Backstage by Jeff Lenning

Now, give it a try. Hit Ctrl+O…yes…the Open dialog immediately appears!

Don’t worry, Backstage can still be opened just by clicking the File tab with your mouse or pressing Alt+F.

That is one of the many little settings Microsoft provides in the Excel Options dialog box. If you have any other favorites, please share by posting a comment below…thanks!



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This article was written by Jeff Lenning


  1. John Atamanczyk

    Jeff, thank you for another great tip 🙂

    On this note, the other behavior I really miss from 2007 was the ability to press Alt + F and then press a number key to open a recent file. I’m all about the keyboard shortcuts, and I haven’t found one in 2013 to open a recent file. My current approach is to right-click on my Excel jump list in my task bar or to press Alt + F and use the mouse to select a recent file, but… both of these require the mouse 🙁

  2. Best Excel Tutorial

    Thanks. During the workday I open a lot of Excel files. It looks like i will save some time thanks to you.

  3. Jim Heetderks

    Thank you! The Backstage feature (I didn’t know it was called that) has been driving me nuts for months.

    1. Learning Excel

      Yes, same here; Thank you, Jeff!

  4. Ирина

    Another step you can take is to reset the file’s data range— the area that Excel interprets as containing data, which mistakenly also includes cells that have been cleared of data. To do that, open your workbook and press Ctrl+End. If you’re taken way beyond your data, that indicates Excel considers even those apparently blank cells as part of the workbook’s data range, and those apparently empty cells artificially inflate the file.

  5. Thomas Potash

    Thanks!!!! The Backstage feature has been driving me crazy. So much quicker to open files this way!

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