Microsoft Office Selecting Shortcuts

by Dawn Bjork, MCT, MOSM | The Software Pro


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 text or data that you want to highlight. When you have the area you want, then perform the next action: formatting, editing, etc.

Still like the 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.

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:

  1. Move to beginning of the selection area.
  2. Press [F8] once.
  3. Look in the bottom center or left corner of your status bar for EXT; don’t expect anything to flash or pop up; EXT stands for Extend Selection.
  4. Take your time moving to the end of the selection area with your keyboard and/or the mouse.
  5. Perform the action to the selected area such as formatting, cut, copy, etc. The EXT 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? 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]:

  1. Click once on the first item.
  2. Press and hold [Shift].
  3. Click on the last item that you want to highlight and everything in between will also be selected.
  4. Perform an action such as formatting.

To select non-contiguous (unrelated) items use [Ctrl]:

  1. Click one on the first item.
  2. Press and hold [Ctrl] and click on each of the other items, press [Ctrl] again to unselect.
  3. 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 at the same time 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 and apply formatting.
  • Select drawing objects to group, move, or change 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 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 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] + Ato Select All. In Excel, this shortcut selects the current range; to select the entire worksheet, press [Ctrl] + Aagain.

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Dawn Bjork is The Software Pro®, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and is a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOSM) Master and Microsoft Office expert. Dawn is passionate about sharing smart and easy ways to increase your software productivity through her work as a technology speaker, software trainer, computer consultant, and author of 9 books. Discover more software tips, techniques, and timesavers at Dawn also shares oodles of daily tips on Twitterand Facebook.

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