Software

Make a vertical text selection in Word

Every once in a while, you may need to select a portion of text from top to bottom instead of from left to right. This obscure mouse shortcut will handle the job.
Here's a trick that seldom appears on the shortcut lists. Most of the time, we select text horizontally -- a word, a series of words, a paragraph -- from left to right or vice versa. But occasionally, the selection has to be vertical. For instance, suppose you wanted to delete the leading characters in Figure A.

Figure A

To make a vertical selection, hold down [Alt] as you drag down through the text you want to highlight. Figure B shows the column of unwanted characters selected using this technique. Hit [Delete] and bam, they're gone.

Figure B

Although we selected text at the beginning of the lines in this example, you can make vertical selections anywhere on the page.

Note: Some users have reported that the Research pane appears when they try this selection technique. Here's the secret: Release the [Alt] key before you let up on the mouse button. Word should retain the selection. If you hold down [Alt] but release the mouse button, Word may think "[Alt]-click" and open the Research pane in response.

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About

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

35 comments
ebsatt
ebsatt

This is a great tool. Thank you for making life a tad easier.

pflores
pflores

I kept the Alt key down, let go of the mouse and that kept the letters selected. Then I hit the Delete key.

mpulgar2002
mpulgar2002

Great, thank for the tips, I m goona use it a lot

pvitkus
pvitkus

Interesting. I've been a Word user since version 0.2, and never knew you could do this. However, I can't think of when I might use it either!

Zeppo9191
Zeppo9191

I can't tell you how often I've wished for this functionality in Word. And to realize it's been available all along, if only I'd searched the Help files hard enough! Thanks, Jody!

kagnewrick
kagnewrick

Using W2003 it doesn't work for me if I only select the first column. 2+ columns it works fine. Thanks to frank_s as his tip using Ctrl-Shift-F8 does work for the first column only.

Dave-22
Dave-22

Good tip, agree it's been in Word "for ever" but not well known. And, yes the thing with the Research pane is that it happens if you are trying to do vertical selection inside a table, releasing the Alt key is no use - the text highlight just doesn't work. Non table text always seems to work OK. Does anyone know how to overcome this?

tmicom
tmicom

This has been around for a long time. It was removed from the menu a few versions back. I have always used SHIFT-CTL-F8 to use this. Still works in Office 2007. When used in combination with FIND/REPLACE (Find the repeating text and replace with the same text with a tab ^t embedded) one can clean up text very quickly.

shilps.verma
shilps.verma

This is just too gud.Never explored it before.. Thanks a heap for posting it :)

arunekams
arunekams

Really superb. Enjoyed the trick.

Rick_from_BC
Rick_from_BC

This works on the Mac too. Just use the Option key rather than the Alt key. It has been in the Mac since at least Word 98. I also use it to clean up a lot of imported text, especially when I am cleaning up prior to getting the info into Excel. (Word has much better search/replace than Excel, and using the wild-card functions can really speed up data preparation.)

zEmily
zEmily

I'm a shortcut-aholic, and this is something I've often needed to do. Thanks for posting!

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

I didn't get the Research pane as long as I made sure to actually drag the mouse after holding down the ALT key and making a selection. The order of releasing either the mouse button or the ALT key first doesn't seem to make any difference either. No trick to it.

NEWdeep
NEWdeep

may not work for text inside tables

terry
terry

That's an oldie but a goodie. I think it was in V2(???). Use it sometimes when cleaning CSV files of leading spaces. The one I use a lot more is ALT SHIFT up/down arrow to shift a row/paragraph up or down in paragraphs or a table.

stivat
stivat

If you are having trouble with the Research pane opening when you try to select vertically, just allow a slight pause between pressing (and holding down) the Alt key and then clicking and dragging with the mouse. The pause means it does not register as Alt + click. :-)

mpulgar2002
mpulgar2002

Very helpful, gonna use it quite a bit, thanks

Runn804
Runn804

Try Alt-Shift in Word 2003, too. (ALT did not work in Word 2002.

g.m.davey
g.m.davey

I tried method quoted did not work as you said but experimented with the Alt Gr key instead it worked!! Thanks for the reminder about this facility

benoddo
benoddo

I thought it didn't work either when I right-clicked the selected text. All that was selected was the text from the first line. If you use the keyboard, then it works. "Del", "Ctrl-C", "Ctrl-X","Ctrl-B", "Ctrl-I", "Ctrl-U" all work. Or if you use a button from the tool bar, it also works.

davidt
davidt

I tried to delete the 1,2,3, etc auto-generated tabs in a Word Document (2003 &2007) and it flat won't work.

frank_s
frank_s

Don't know how to use the mouse in tables for vertical selection, but Ctrl+Shift F8 and the arrow keys works (and of course it works with regular text also).

bkfriesen
bkfriesen

That would be a great technique for formatting SQL scripts. I like to use Word because of the good FIND/REPLACE functions with the special non-printing characters.

darpoke
darpoke

but on the Mac option = ALT...

lrogers81
lrogers81

It could be me, but with Word 2007, you need to 'un-click' the mouse and then you're good to go. I'm sure there's a setting to turn off the research pane though that could alleviate the pane from popping up...

nsands
nsands

I think it will work if you use the copy/cut/paste choices under Edit. I couldn't get it to work with shortcut keystrokes, but it did work using the Edit menu.

necessaryevil
necessaryevil

Even though MS help confirms that Alt + highlighting with the mouse should work it doesn't in Word 2007. No matter what sequence of steps I try whether it be releasing ALT first or the mouse first, I still get the Research pane (pain).

ThumbsUp2
ThumbsUp2

The auto-generated 1,2,3 are paragraph numbering. You can't select them. You have to turn off bullets/numbering for the whole paragraph.

ronwwallace
ronwwallace

How big are your hands? You must be a great pianist.

adams
adams

To get this to work in Word 2007 hold down Ctrl + Alt while selecting text.

bngb58
bngb58

yes. you are right. one must be pianist or gymanast or multidextrous or ambidextrous to do it? I had a hearty laugh at your comment!

kkroon_ftb
kkroon_ftb

Yes, I do play the piano; but no, I don't have Rachmaninoff hands. I just used the Ctrl and Shift keys on the right side of my keyboard -- they're closer to the F8 key, and it isn't that much of a stretch.

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

My Word 2007 worked as described (Alt key) in the tip. Perhaps it has to do with what verion of Word 2007 one uses.

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