Written and published March 15, 2000
After the past few weeks of technical stuff, I thought it would be nice to return to something basic that you can use every day. So this week the topic is selecting text in word-processing. If you're at all like me, you have the one or two ways that you know and you use those methods, forgetting that you ever knew another way. Or maybe you don't know that other way -- yet.
Not all methods will work in every application, but it's always worth trying the method you like best. Some of these methods can be mixed too, so experiment and have fun with it.
You all know how to click, then drag over text (I hope) so I'm skipping that one. Here goes ...
Overall rule -- Double-click or Triple-click
* Double-click anywhere on a word to select that word. This works just about everywhere, including in folder names. On thing to watch for is that in some apps, like Word, this also selects the space after the word. That's good if you're deleting the word, but be aware that if you're adding a style such as bold or a color, then you're adding that style to the space too. (This works in Excel too.)
This method is most helpful when you want to move a word or paragraph. You can use these simple mouse clicks to select, then while your hand is on the mouse, just drag that text.
Using the Arrow Keys
Overall rule -- Press Shift as you press an arrow key to move one character or line at a time, then use the opposing arrow to undo part of that current selection.
In this example, I placed the cursor after "Press the left" and then pressed Shift-Up Arrow twice to move up two lines from where I started.
This works for sure in Word, AppleWorks, Outlook Express, and SimpleText, It doesn't work in Note Pad.
Since you are selecting text one character or line at a time, when you Undo, it is also undone one character or line at a time.
Overall rule -- This similar to Option-clicking, but doesn't have a uniform effect.
It does not work in SimpleText, the Note Pad, or Excel.
Option-Clicking -- a Word trick
Overall rule -- Press Option as you drag. To deselect, just drag back over what you just selected.
Press Option as you drag. Like plain dragging to select, this selection begins exactly where you initially drag and ends where you stop. BUT ... the cool thing is that you're not limited to words, columns or other structures. These pictures say it all.
This is an Option-drag:
This is plain dragging stating at "More:"
This is an Option-drag stating at "More:"
This is only in Word. Option-clicking in an AppleWorks text doc creates a new text area -- something completely different.
Pointer in the Margin another Word trick
Overall rule -- move your cursor to the left margin of your text and click to select and entire line. Drag down or up to select more lines.
Overall rule Place your cursor where you want your selection to begin, then Shift-click where you want it to end. You can extend or reduce the selection by again pressing Shift and clicking again.
You don't have to start with anything selected, just placing the cursor is enough. But if you want, you can begin with an entire word or more selected.
(Word only) Whether you start with an entire word it selected or just by placing the cursor, it selects to the nearest character.
(Word only) If you begin by selecting an entire line using the margin click, it selects the entire line that you Shift-click in.
(Word only) If you begin by triple-clicking to select a paragraph, it selects the entire paragraph that you Shift-click in.
(AppleWorks) No matter how you begin the selection, it selects to the nearest character.
This works in Word, AppleWorks, Note Pad and SimpleText. It is particularly helpful when a selection is longer than what appears on your screen. You can do the first click, then pull the scrollbar until you see the ending text, and then Shift-click at the desired end. This can select entire pages of text at one time. It can be faster than standard dragging to select because you don't have to drag to the bottom of the window and drag to scroll ... and drag ... and drag.
I mentioned the significance of selecting spaces when selecting words. I think maybe I'll talk about why that's significant next week. Maybe ...