Software

15 ways to select text in a Word document

There are many ways to select Word text - 15 at least! Susan Harkins shares her favorite selection methods.

Besides entering text, selecting text is probably the most common task for most Word users. Almost every task begins by selecting something. Perhaps that's why there are so many ways to select text. The following list includes the methods I use. There are more - I left off a few because I've listed easier methods. If you have a favorite that I haven't listed, please share it with us.

Click and drag

Probably the most intuitive and common way to select text is to click and drag the mouse in any direction.

[Shift]+arrow

To move one character or one line at a time, hold down the [Shift] key while pressing the right and left arrow keys and the up and down arrow keys, respectively.

[Shift]+[Home] | [End]

Pressing [Shift] + [Home] selects everything from the insertion point to the left margin in the current line. Similarly, [Shift]+[End] selects everything from the insert point to the last character to the right.

Double-click

To select the current word, double-click it. Word will select to the left and right of the cursor, until it encounters a space character.

Triple-click

A triple-click selects the current paragraph.

Margin+click

To select an entire line, move the cursor into the left margin. When you see the insertion pointer turn into an arrow pointer, click. Doing so will select the current line. You can also press [Home]+[Shift]+[End], but doing so is a bit awkward.

Margin+click and drag

This selection method is similar to the previous one. If you drag while holding down the mouse, Word will select multiple lines, even paragraphs. Word will stop selecting when you stop dragging.

[Ctrl]+a

Pressing [Ctrl]+a selects the entire document.

[Ctrl]+click

To select a sentence (not just a line), hold down [Ctrl] and click any place within the sentence.

Click+[Shift]+click

To select a block of text, click at one end of the block. Then, hold down the [Shift] key and click a second time at the opposite end of the block.

[Alt]+drag

This combination selects a vertical block. While holding down [Alt], click and drag up or down. (You must press [Alt] first.)

Selection+[Ctrl]+selection

To select two noncontiguous blocks of text, select the first bit of text. Then, hold down [Ctrl] while you select the next, and the next, and the next - use it to select two or several non-contiguous areas. (I probably use this one more than any other besides click and drag - it's great for applying the same format to several spots.)

[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Right arrow] | [Left arrow]

Use this combination to select from the current position to the right or left of the current word, depending on whether you press the right or left arrow, respectively.

[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Up arrow] | [Down arrow]

This combination selects from the current position to the beginning or ending of the current paragraph, depending on whether you press the up or down arrow, respectively.

[Alt]+[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Page Up] | [Page Down]

This is another awkward keystroke combination that selects from the current insertion point to the beginning or the ending of the current window (what you see on the screen), respectively. This one's awkward enough that I'd probably use a quick click and drag instead.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

12 comments
profsmh
profsmh

Move the mouse pointer pass left margin (left indent) after mouse pointer change direction, point to a line, single click to select a line, Double click to select a paragraph, and click three times to select the entire document.

claffey
claffey

If you know the key combination to move the Insertion point, you can generally select (highlight) the text by using the same key combination while holding down the SHIFT key. For example, CTRL+HOME moves the Insertion point to the beginning of the document, and SHIFT+CTRL+HOME selects the text from the insertion point to the beginning of the document.

ingvarjson
ingvarjson

It is very convenient to simply select blocks, if that is sufficient for your purposes. But why not go one step further, and select very precisely, perhaps only a fraction of a sentence. You then mark a portion of text beginning with an individual word and ending with another individual word. Start by double-clicking the first word, and then proceed like in *Click+[Shift]+click* above. [This is in fact just a small variation of *Click+[Shift]+click* above.] This happens to be the technique that has been most useful to me in the past.

mhagin
mhagin

To highlight columns that are not in a table within a document, use [Ctrl]+[Alt] and drag to highlight columns. Works great when cutting and pasting between Word and Excel!

JodyWood
JodyWood

This will select everything from your cursor to the beginning of the document or the end of the document (respectivly).

Burghwallis
Burghwallis

You also forgot to mention margin+double click to select a paragraph and margine +triple click to select the whole document

petremure
petremure

You forgot to mention selection by F8: pressed twice, it selects the word around (or touching) the cursor; pressed thrice, it selects the whole sentence: pressed four times it selects the whole paragraph; pressed five times, it selects the whole document. To escape selecting mode, press.... Esc. P.

jbenton
jbenton

I love using alt-shift-up/down In one keystroke it selects and moves the current paragraph (or table row) - always impressive! (alt-shift-right/left promotes or demotes one heading level)

zimmerwoman
zimmerwoman

you took the words right out from under my fingers.

jbenton
jbenton

Love this method, but it's quite easy to overshoot By pressing shift-F8 you shrink a step back to the next unit down Also, clicking after F8 selects from the beginning of the selection to where you click (you'll find this out by accident when you forget to cancel selection mode with ESC - see joanne.e.m's post)

joanne.e.m
joanne.e.m

After god knows how many years I never realised you could do this with F8 in Word (and other Office applications). This post just resolved one of the single most annoying faux-sticky keys issues ever to annoy me. Thanks.

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