Word Processing

For both keyboard and mouse, this article presents the most efficient techniques for selecting text.

Selecting Text

Efficient text selection is a basic skill essential to effective editing and formatting operations. Many users waste time and energy using inefficient text selection methods. The keyboard and mouse text selection techniques below are fast and efficient.

Using the Keyboard

The mouse offers some great techniques to select text, but very often keyboard methods are faster, more accurate, and present lower risks of injury.

These keyboard selection techniques work under all circumstances in all software programs - try them and you'll find yourself using them frequently.

Ctrl-AEntire document
Shift-Ctrl-EndFrom cursor location to end of document
Shift-Ctrl-HomeFrom cursor location to beginning of document
Shift-Ctrl-Down ArrowFrom cursor to beginning of next paragraph
Shift-EndFrom cursor to end of line
Shift-HomeFrom cursor to beginning of line
Shift-Left/Right-ArrowOne character at a time left/right
Shift-Ctrl Left/Right ArrowOne word at a time left/right

Extend Selection

Extend Selection (F8) is the keyboard technique of selecting discrete words (F8 x 2), sentences (F8 x 3), or paragraphs (F8 x 4).

After selection is made, use Ctrl-C (copy) or Ctrl-X (cut) and then Ctrl-V (paste).

Extend Selection ends when you press Ctrl-C or Ctrl-X, but you can cancel it at any time by hitting Esc and then the left or right arrow key.

Using the Mouse

Inexperienced users often make the mistake of selecting text exclusively by dragging over it with the mouse. This is undoubtedly the least efficient method of all to select text.

As can be seen in the table below, the mouse offers highly efficient techniques for selecting discrete portions of text such as entire words, sentences and paragraphs.

Combined with Drag and Drop, the mouse is a powerhouse in "close-quarters" editing.

The Selection Bar is key to many text selection techniques using the mouse. The Selection Bar is the white space between the edge of the screen and the left text margin in MS-Word.

Holding down the Ctrl key while using the techniques below permits the selection of multiple items at the same time.

Mouse ActionSelection
Single-click in Selection BarSelect line
Double-click in Selection BarSelect paragraph
Double-click on a wordSelect word
Triple-click in a paragraphSelect paragraph
Triple-click in the Selection BarSelect entire document
Ctrl-Click in sentenceSelect sentence

Bruce Miller, 2000, 2005, 2014

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