Besides entering text, selecting text is probably the most common task for many Microsoft Word documents. We select document text to format, copy, move, and delete. Almost every editing and formatting task begins by selecting something, that is, to Select Then Do. The most common way to select or highlight text is to click and drag your mouse across the text. Sometimes this approach creates problems such as the runaway mouse where we lose exact control over the amount of text we want to select in a Word document. Working with Word keyboard shortcuts is often a better solution.
What other keyboard shortcuts and techniques can you use in Word to easily select text, graphics, tables, and other parts of a Word document?
[Shift] + Direction Keys
- To select one character or line at a time, hold down the [Shift] key while pressing the [Right], [Left], [Down], [Up]
- To move a screen up or down at a time, hold down the [Shift] key while pressing the [Page Down], [Page Up]
- Hold down [Shift] + [Home] to select everything from the insertion point to the beginning of the current line.
- Or, hold down [Shift] + [End] to highlight everything from the current position to the last character on the line.
- With your mouse, click at the beginning of the text you want to select and then press and hold down [Shift] and click at the end of the text.
Easy Keyboard Selection Secret
Even better than the [Shift] key is a little-known selection trick with the [F8] function key, which “turns on” a selection mode, so you don’t have to press and hold down the [Shift] key while highlighting it in a Word document.
To use this selection technique, simply:
- Move to the beginning of the area you want to select.
- Press [F8] once.
- Look in the bottom left corner of the Word status bar (across the bottom of the Word window) for Extend Selection; 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. No need to hold down the [Shift] key.
- Perform the action you want to apply to the selected area, such as formatting, cut, copy, etc. The Extend Selection mode turns off as soon as you do 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? Just press [Esc] to cancel. Move anywhere to clear the highlight.
More Click Tricks: Combine Word Keyboard Shortcuts & Your Mouse
- To select the current word, double-click it.
- To select the current paragraph, triple-click it.
- To select a sentence (not just a line), hold down [Ctrl] and click once in any place within the sentence.
- To select a vertical block of text, click at the start of the block. Then, hold down the [Shift] key and click a second time at the opposite end of the block. Hint: This is a handy trick when you only want to copy one column of a tabular list.
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.
- Click and drag to select multiple lines.
- 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).
Selecting Multiple Items
To select more than one item, such as 2 different non-contiguous (unrelated) items, use [Ctrl]:
- Select the first item.
- Press and hold [Ctrl] and select each of the other items you want to highlight (use any of the techniques listed above).
- Perform the action to finish working with the highlighted area.
Easy Select All
To make changes to an entire document or file, press [Ctrl] + A to Select All.
Select and Move
Try [Alt] + [Shift] + [Up] or [Alt] + [Shift] + [Down] to select and move the current paragraph (or table row). Keyboard shortcuts that are impressive and useful!
Want these shortcuts and more? Download a handout of Microsoft Word shortcuts to select text in a document.
© Dawn Bjork, MCT, MOSM, CSP®, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Productivity Speaker, Certified Speaking Professional