Two text selection tricks

Even if you’re brand new to the Mac, as long as you’ve had some exposure to personal computing in general, you probably know how to select text—just click-and-hold, then drag the mouse, and the characters on your screen will be selected as you drag. Once you’re done selecting, you can then drag-and-drop, cut, copy, or otherwise manipulate your selection.

But did you know you can also select text not only character-by-character, but word-by-word or paragraph-by-paragraph? If you’re a long-time Mac user, you may already know this, as this hint dates to the earliest days of the Mac. However, if you’re new to the Mac—or perhaps even if you’re not—then these two methods may be news to you.

To select text (and this works in nearly any program that involves text) on a word-by-word basis, do a double-click-and-hold before you start dragging, instead of a single click. As you move the mouse along now, you’ll see that entire words are added to your selection as soon as the cursor touches their first character. So if you’ve got a fair bit of text to select, but still need precision, this is a pretty quick way to get it done.

If you’ve really got a lot of text to select, try a triple-click-and-hold, then start dragging. With a triple-click and drag, the Mac will select entire paragraphs of text as you drag the mouse. (Another way to select huge blocks of text is to click the mouse once at the start point for the selection, hold down the Shift key, then click at the end point for the selection.)

There’s a simple corollary to these tips, of course—if you just want to select a single word or paragraph in a document, just give it a double-click or triple-click, respectively. There are lots of other tips and techniques for text selection, though many vary on a program-by-program basis, but these double- and triple-click methods are two of my favorites.

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