Two ways to select rectangular blocks of Word text

Selecting a block of rectangular data from the middle of a paragraph or table isn't always easy, but Word offers two selection methods that should help.

Selecting text is a fundamental Word task. Fortunately, there are many selection techniques for selecting just the text you need. Working in tabular formatted text presents a unique problem though as most selection techniques work with units, such as words, paragraphs, and so on. You might think it's difficult to select a rectangular block of text but it isn't, if you know the right selection method.

Perhaps the easiest way to select a rectangular block of data (or column of data) is to hold down the [Alt] key while you drag the mouse. I created the highlighted block in the following figure by clicking to the right of the word clients at the bottom of the block. Then, I dragged the mouse up and to the left a bit. Word goes back to normal selection mode when you release the mouse. It's a quick and easy one-time method. You can also press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[F8] and then use the mouse or the arrow keys to extend the block in a similar fashion. Word will remain in this special selection mode until you press [Esc], so you can work in this mode for a long time.
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Be careful when using either method because Word will do whatever you tell it to do - format, delete, and so on - to the selected text, sometimes with unexpected results. The following figure shows the result of changing a block into the bold format. Compensating for the bold font, forces text to wrap to the next line and the results probably aren't what you want. This is an extreme example though, so don't let that keep you from trying these selection methods for those hard-to-select tabular and columnar data.

About Susan Harkins

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.

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