Hardware

Five ways to select text with your mouse

Dragging through text to select it can be imprecise and tedious. These mouse tricks offer a more efficient way to select text in your Word documents.

Selecting text is a common task in Word. You can use the mouse to highlight text by dragging the cursor over it, but that can be tedious and a bit cumbersome -- and fortunately, unnecessary. Here are a few easy selection techniques for mouse lovers:

  • To select a word, double-click it.
  • To select a single line of text, click in the left margin next to the line.
  • To select a sentence, hold down [Ctrl] and then click anywhere in the sentence.
  • To select a paragraph, click three times in the paragraph. Alternatively, click twice in the left margin next to the paragraph.
  • To select the entire document, click three times in the left margin.

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.

35 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the title. yes, this works in Word, and a few other applications, but it doesn't work in every application, which the title implies - through the lack of the application name in the title. What really surprises me is - that anyone can get through ANY course on using a computer (except a how to build one course) without learning most of these basic mouse activities. Hell, next I'll learn most people don't know they can get a sub-menu window simply by using the right mouse click while hovering in the application.

PCF
PCF

THANK YOU THANK YOU. I knew a few of the items in the post replies, but none of these, especially the margin ones! An awesome article; short, sweet, and extremely useful. :)

samuel.a.dyck
samuel.a.dyck

To select all text, Ctrl-A selects all the text.

asalwin
asalwin

Hit F8 to create a start point for the selection. Then as you move through the document (via any combination of clicking, arrow keys, Page Down, End, whatever)all the text between the start point and the current cursor location gets selected. Alas only works in Word.

macmez
macmez

that's great! thanks.

petremure
petremure

Put the text in Outline view and Ctrl+click to select random paragraphs.

jwlindsey
jwlindsey

Susan always posts good info. Some of my favorite tricks and shortcuts come from these short articles. I have been trying to determine what I get if I click my heels three times. Any help?

alyssa_articolo
alyssa_articolo

If you hold down the Alt key and drag your mouse across and down the text, you can select a vertical section of text. This can be very helpful when you want to select a column of text that was formatted using tabs instead of a table or columns.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I'd like to point out that this is a useful tip for those who don't know it. And there are those who don't know it. I have students every semester who are amazed to discover so many simple things about their software. Things like the above, that we take for granted.

n_wojcik
n_wojcik

Great article! To speed it up a bit download StrokeIt, a mouse gesture program, and use the copy and paste gestures.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

So simple yet totally useful. I already use one of the tricks, but now I have several more. Thank you.

Senior Program Analyst
Senior Program Analyst

I have known these tricks usually learned (self taught via articles such as these). Every now and then Its a good refresher to see these tricks pop up. I get in the habit of using a few of these and the rest get swapped on into my memory disk. These articles tend to allow me to pull them back off of the memory disk into RAM memory for awhile. Thanks for the refresher and for those who are currently self-teaching themselves I hope Tech republic and others continue to put out these tips. By the way - There are those who dont know about the Right click Sub-menu (I see that in my Desktop Support work from time to time).

djones
djones

1. You presume all people take courses 2. You presume all people retain all thats taught I for one am self taught and admit I already know these common shortcuts. However for many they are new and useful. ALso while I know these common ones through these fora I often pick up new ones Contributors - please carry on the great work

DarkWaterSong
DarkWaterSong

I have always found the mouse to be imprecise in Word because of the spaces you pick up. I prefer SHIFT+Arrow Keys, CTRL+A for selecting everything, and CTRL+End or Home are useful to jump around in a document. These aren't critical in Word, but when you get into Excel or Access they can be life savers.

PCF
PCF

I like this added tip, it may really help people who are pretty slow in dragging their mouse around or who can't seem to get the right amount of clicks or who let go of the Ctrl key at the wrong time. (Not me, but I see it all of the time at work so I'm going to pass this one on to them.) :)

ray.labrecque
ray.labrecque

Here's all of them together, and NO I have not tested ANY of the new ones. But then you don't know what's new to me and I'm not tellin... ? To select a word, Double-Left-Click it ? Once you Double-Left-Click a word continue to drag and select more text by whole words ? Double-Left-Click a word and then [CTRL]-Double-Left-Click to select random, non-adjacent words; useful for formatting or deleting. This will also work with Triple-Left-Click paragraphs ? To select a single line of text, Left-Click in the left margin next to the line ? To select a sentence, hold down [CTRL] and then Left-Click anywhere in the sentence ? To select a paragraph, Left-Click three times in the paragraph. Alternatively, Left-Click twice in the left margin next to the paragraph ? Put the text in Outline view and [CTRL]Left-Click to select random paragraphs ? To select the entire document, Left-Click three times in the left margin ? To select text vertically, you can hold down the [ALT] key and Left-Click and drag ? Left-Click at the beginning of the desired selection and Shift-Left-Click at the end to select everything in between; a few words or pages ? Use the [TAB] key to move through the form or table fields. This would apply to Access, Excel and Word, and possibly others ? Shift [Tab] to go in reverse? ? Hold down the [CTRL] key and use the left or right arrow keys to move left or right one word at a time ? Hold down the [CTRL] & Shift key at the same time while using the left or right arrow keys to select one word at a time. ? Hit [F8] to create a start point for the selection. Then as you move through the document (via any combination of clicking, arrow keys, Page Down, End, whatever) all the text between the start point and the current cursor location gets selected. Alas only works in Word

Rande
Rande

Hold CTRL and click in the left margin and you select the entire document. Much easier than triple clicking.

Zookz1
Zookz1

These are two that I use all the time: Hold down the Ctrl key and use the left or right arrow keys to move left or right one word at a time. Hold down the Ctrl & Shift key at the same time while using the left or right arrow keys to select one word at a time. This works in most, if not all, Windows programs, not just Word.

FionaT67
FionaT67

If you want to select text vertically, you can hold down the Alt key and click and drag.

gawiles
gawiles

Use ALT and drag mouse to select a column or block of text. Very useful to remove empty spaces they fill betwee text and left margin.

downey
downey

There is an additional selection that is very useful. To select a column of information, even though it is part of a paragraph or paragraphs that go all the way across a page, hole down the alt key and click and drag mouse over the are you wish to select.

ellenp
ellenp

Most of us learned these at one time or another, but it's a good refresher. Thank you for the all the contibutors too. Loved the vertical select information!

staffordd
staffordd

but just in case you don't. One of the things I do a lot is, when I am in any kind of form, or table - I use the tab key to move through the form or table fields. This would apply to Access, Excel and Word, and possibly others... Now, everybody probably knows about that, and it's a quick way to get through a series of fields, TAB, fill in the data, TAB, fill in the data, TAB, etc. But the variant of this I like is, if you want to go BACKWARDS through the fields, all you have to do is SHIFT-TAB instead. So now whenever I am tabbing, my left hand is set to push down Shift in case I need to go back. Apologies if you all already know this, but if you didn't, it MIGHT come in handy. And, kudos to Susan for starting this thread - excellent tips for Word. Thanks! dave But

WLaddR
WLaddR

Once you double-click a word continue to drag and select more text by whole words. Click at the beginning of the desired selection and Shift-Click at the end to select everything in between; a few words or pages. Double-click a word and then CTRL-Double-click to select random, non-adjacent words; useful for formatting or deleting. This will also work with triple-click paragraphs.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

majority of computer users in NSW, ACT, and Vic come in one of three main groups: 1. Those taught computers at school - late X Gen, all Y Gen, and younger. 2. Those taught computers in the work place as adults; the majority of whom had been sent off on courses when first introduced to computers. Mostly Baby Boomers and up to very early X Gen people. 3. Those introduced to computers very late in life - those pre Baby Boomer. Most of these have been exposed to computers in retirement, or just on retirement, and have been scared of them; they do IT courses at community colleges to learn how to use them. All the courses given in school about using word processing programs include how to use the mouse, as do the work place courses and the community college courses. Except for someone from a country with virtually no computers, it would be an exceptional situation for someone to have no prior experience with a computer before today, or the last decade. Heck, many primary school kids know how to use computers, even though they don't have one at home, thanks to school classes.

mwb78
mwb78

I agree that the mouse can be sloppy when Word picks up more than you select with the mouse. The good news is you can change the options for selection. In 2007, click the Office Button, Word Options, then the Advanced category. Under Editing options (at the top) deselect the option When selecting, automatically select entire word. Now Word will select only those characters that your mouse selects. Yes, there are times when it's easy to let Word "complete" the selection for me because I get close, but I'd rather have the control instead of being stuck with what Word thinks I want.

JCitizen
JCitizen

that is always a great one when the mouse drops dead; that way you can use the keyboard. I remember it from the days before mice!! OOoh! Those were bad old DOS days!

ssharkins
ssharkins

Thanks for the additional tips!

mirossmac2
mirossmac2

Namely, people like me who started computing in 1980 on top-of-the-range systems with all of 48K of RAM ... who went through CP/M, then DOS 1 to DOS 6.5, then every flavour of Windows, who had to UNLEARN almost everything at each new plateau and who are unflaggingly grateful to today's geeks for posting tips and comments like this set! Without TechRepublic I'd be drowning, not waving.

PCF
PCF

Sorry, it was no great find (I really can't find an *important* use for it). I only figured I'd use it when testing file sharing in a real-time meeting (basically, just a way to fill up text really fast vs. me typing up stuff). I often type 'the quick brown....' as test text, so it's kinda neat that that's what it enters.

Senior Program Analyst
Senior Program Analyst

Ive been trying to come up with a use for that and so far havent really seen one. Except maybe a quick way to repeat a paragragh to test fonts on Do tell what use you found.

PCF
PCF

And, I didn't think I would, but I have found a use for "=rand()". :)

ideason88
ideason88

Two short-cuts I use frequently that I did not see listed here (though I'm sure you probably know them already) are CTRL + Shift + End or Home to select all the text from that point to the end of the document (or the beginning). Also to generate random text, type =rand() then press enter. Numbers may be inserted in the parenthesis to duplicate the generated text. And finally, if you really want to dig through the pile of shortcuts and come up with some more useful nuggets of information, here's how to generate a complete list. In Word 2007, click Developer on the Ribbon, then Macros. In Macro name (this field will have the focus when the dialogue opens), type ListCommands then click Run. It will generate a document listing all the short-cuts in a table. This works in 2003 as well, under Tools, Macros, Macros. Cheers!