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113 - Selecting with Click-Shift-Click

In Windows, and virtually all Windows applications, when you want to make a modification to something (meaning: delete, replace, reformat, reword, rename, copy, cut or paste text or files), you first have to "select" the words or items to be modified. Once selected, the changes you make are applied to the selected items only. "Selecting", therefore, is an essential Windows skill, used over and over in everything you do on your computer. As usual in Windows, there are several ways to do it. However, in this bulletin I want to focus on one particular way to select. It's called the "Click, Shift-Click" method.

The tip follows, just below. Experienced users may just want to read that part and be done. If you would like to do a quick review of other ways to select, read the Additional Information, following the tip.

Here's the scenario -
Let's use an example of a word processing document that is multiple pages long. We want to use "cut and paste" extensively to re-arrange the text as we compose the document. If all the text we want to move can be seen on one screen, selecting is no problem. We simply paint the area being selected by clicking at the starting point, holding the mouse button down, and dragging the cursor to the end of our selection. The text to be acted upon is now highlighted, indicating that it has been "selected". At this point, we can perform any number of actions on our selection, including cutting, copying, changing fonts, reformatting, deleting or dragging and dropping the selection to another location. It all starts with selection.

But, suppose the starting and ending points of the selection are not on a single screen. Let's say that they span several screens. What then? The technique of painting the selection becomes difficult when you have to make the screen scroll to get down to where you want the selection to end. As computers have gotten faster, it has become virtually impossible to do it this way. The text scrolls by so fast that the ending point flies right on by, before you can react to stop it. There needed to be a different way to select, and there is. The better method is called "Click, Shift-Click".

Here's the tip -
I'll start at the beginning of the text in my example, but you can start at the end also. It doesn't matter.

  1. Click at the start of the area to be selected
    The click moves the insertion point to that spot. (The insertion point is indicated by a slow flashing vertical bar)
  2. Scroll down (move to where you can see the end of what you want to select on the screen, using the scroll bar)
    During this step, do not click again anywhere on the text. Instead, use your mouse pointer to move the vertical scroll bar on the right side of the screen and scroll the text to where you can see the other end of your area to be selected.
  3. Shift-Click at the end of the area to be selected
    While holding down the "Shift" key, place the mouse pointer to where the selection ends, and "Click".
It turns out that there are many places where this method is simply the most convenient way to do it, whether it involves scrolling the text or not. If you haven't used this method before, practice it a few times to get the feel of it. It is the most accurate way to select an exact area, especially if you find your mouse difficult to use.

Additional Information -
This strategy of using the same method from program to program is referred to as "the look and feel of Windows." If you learn how to do it in one program, it will work an another program. Here are some other examples of how selecting works in different situations:

Today's tip can be handy in other situations. If you have the feature turned on in Word where clicking on part of a word selects the entire word, then selecting part of a word is difficult. Click-Shift-Click will do that, where dragging to paint a selection often won't.

Today's tip also works when selecting a group of files in Windows Explorer. The Click-Shift-Click method selects all files between the starting and ending file in the list.

Today's tip also works in Excel. To select a block of cells, click on the upper-left corner of the area, hold down the shift key and click on the lower right corner. All the cells in between are selected.

Tip #2 - Selecting multiple files not side-by-side -
What if you want to select two or three particular files from a file folder, but they aren't all next to each other in the list? To do this, you point to the first one and click once on it. It will be selected. Now, hold down the Ctrl key and click on each of the other files to be selected. They need not be on the same screen even. As long as the CTRL key is down at the moment you click on each subsequent file, the selections will all remain highlighted. If you inadvertently click on a file while not holding the Ctrl key down, your prior selections will be de-selected. It's not a problem. You can add them back to the selection group with the same technique. Oh, if you click on the wrong file name for your selection group, keep holding the Ctrl key down and click on it a second time. That de-selects that one item. Once the individual files are all selected, you can drag them to another folder, delete them, cut, copy, etc.

Different programs may have additional ways to select things, but the standard Windows way nearly always work. Practice a little if you are rusty. It's worth mastering.

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