Stop the Runaway Mouse!
What’s the “runaway mouse?” You’ve seen it … you may have even yelled at your computer when it happened. All you want to do is select (highlight) some text or data in a Microsoft Office document by dragging your mouse. Suddenly, your mouse has a mind of its own and moves too far, too fast. I’ve even heard people shout out “Whoa!” as they try to handle the out-of-control mouse. What should you do? What are the secrets or Microsoft Office selecting shortcuts you need to know?
First, stop dragging your mouse! Add keyboard shortcuts to stop the “runaway mouse.” To begin, move to the top of the area you want to highlight. Then, press and hold down [Shift]. Move to the end of the area by pressing any directional keys such as the [Down] arrow or [Page Down]. Keep holding down [Shift] and continue moving to the end of the text or data that you want to highlight. When you have the area you want, perform the next action: formatting, editing, etc.
Do you still like a mouse? Press and hold [Shift] and click to pick the end of the selection area, even if it is at the end of the document. The key is not to drag; use the scroll bar if you need to make big moves.
Excel bonus: Okay, I admit there is a dragging trick in Excel. Instead of pulling harder on the mouse to move to the end of the selection, stop on the scroll bar. If you hop on and ride the scroll bar and gently pull the mouse, you can easily maintain control.
Easy Keyboard Selection Shortcut
Even better than the [Shift] key is a hidden selection trick. I compare this to taking the measurements of a large room. Ever have a measuring tape snap back when you try this yourself? It’s much easier with a friend holding the measuring tape at one end while you take your time to move to the other end. It’s the same idea with the hidden trick using the [F8] function key.
To use this selection trick, simply:
- Move to the beginning of the selection area.
- Press [F8] once.
- Look in the bottom center or left corner of your status bar for Extend Selection; older versions of Office programs display EXT. Don’t expect anything to flash or pop up.
- Take your time moving to the end of the selection area with your keyboard and/or the mouse.
- Perform the action to the selected area, such as formatting, cut, copy, etc. The Extend Selection mode turns off as soon as you perform an action. Just move anywhere to clear the highlight. What if you change your mind and you want to turn off the Extend Selection without continuing? In Excel, press [F8] again or press [Esc]. In Word, press [Esc] to cancel. Move anywhere to clear the highlight.
Selecting Multiple Items
To select more than one item, such as 2 different paragraphs in Word, 4 cells in Excel, 3 graphics in PowerPoint, or 10 files in Windows Explorer, choose either [Shift] or [Ctrl]. The basic steps work in Microsoft Office, Windows Explorer, and many other Windows programs.
To select a contiguous (touching) area, use [Shift]:
- Click once on the first item.
- Press and hold [Shift].
- Click on the last item you want to highlight, and everything in between will also be selected.
- Perform an action such as formatting.
To select non-contiguous (unrelated) items use [Ctrl]:
- Click one on the first item.
- Press and hold [Ctrl] and, click on each of the other items, press [Ctrl] again to unselect.
- Perform the action to finish working with the highlighted area. Some ideas for these options:
- Pick files from File > Open to open all of these simultaneously in your Microsoft Office program.
- Choose multiple slides in the PowerPoint slide sorter to apply a transition.
- Highlight groups of cells or sections of text to apply formatting.
- Select drawing objects to group, move, or change the formatting.
Selecting Tricks in Word With the Selection Bar
Have you ever used the selection bar? Just think of this as the left margin of your Word document. To locate the selection bar area, move your mouse to the left of the text until it changes from an upper case “I” to a white arrow. Selection tricks to try with the selection bar:
- Click once to highlight an entire line.
- Double-click to select the whole paragraph.
- Triple-click (can you do it?) to highlight the entire document (great for overall changes such as font formatting).
Easy Select All
To make changes to an entire document or file, press [Ctrl] + A to Select All. In Excel, this shortcut selects the current range; to select the entire worksheet, press [Ctrl] + A again.
Click here to get your own handouts of Office selecting shortcuts and other handy keyboard shortcuts.
© Dawn Bjork, MCT, MOSM, CSP®, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Productivity Speaker, Certified Speaking Professional