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Free text selection in Microsoft Word Apps
Normally when selecting text in Microsoft Word, you are constrained by selecting on a word-by-word, line-by-line basis. However if you hold down the Option (Alt) and Command (Apple) keys, you can select text anywhere in the document free of these constraints -- i.e. a sort of "free text selection".

Why is this useful? Well for one, if you deal with a lot of delimited text, using free text select it is possible to select a 'column' of data and copy/remove it, etc. Normally you would have to use something like Excel to do this, and even then it's only possible if the data is very well formed.

For cleaning up documents, free text select can save hours of time. I believe this functionality has been in Word since at least version 5.1, but I haven't seen it documented here...
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Free text selection in Microsoft Word | 17 comments | Create New Account
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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: RussellK on Aug 17, '06 07:39:01AM

The concept behind this hint is quite helpful (i.e., it never occcurred to me that I could command-click on separate text bits within Word to select the separate bits simultaneously).

BUT...as far as I can tell, holding only the command (Apple) key achieves this functionality, while also holding the option (alt) key seems to "lose" the functionality. So why the two-key hint, when only the command key is required?



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: wuf810 on Aug 17, '06 09:45:22AM

RussellK - I don't see this working with just the Apple key down. In this case I get the standard behaviour. The only way I get the free text selection is by holding both keys down. Wonder what the difference is?

Regards. M.



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: fresler on Aug 17, '06 07:46:06AM

As expected, CMD-Double-click works as well. When I first read about this feature way back when Office 2004 was released, it was one of the selling points for me to get a copy. It is, indeed, very useful.



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: dogboy on Aug 17, '06 08:38:14AM

This is standard behaviour in Cocoa. Any text field in a Cocoa app should do the same.

Cmd clicking (double and triple clicks work too) will select and deselect, just like with folders in the Finder.

Option-clicking will give you a marquee selection so you can select, say, a coumn of text.

And use of both together lets you select multiple marquees etc.

It's super useful.



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: wuf810 on Aug 17, '06 09:42:53AM

I thought I tried it in other Cocoa apps but with no luck. In fact this functionality predates cocoa in so much it has been in Word as long as I can remember.



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: mustang_dvs on Aug 17, '06 11:59:45AM
You do realize that you can turn off word-by-word selection in the preferences, don't you?

Preferences > • Edit > Editing Options > [] When selecting, automatically select entire word

This has been an option since Microsoft instituted default "word-by-word" selection, in Word 98 IIRC.



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: fredrikw on Aug 17, '06 12:44:31PM

As far as I can tell, noone of the persons who have made a comment here actually understood the hint. If you try to do what the OP suggested you will see that it's something completely different than selecting several pieces of text using the command key. Instead, you will be able to mark a rectangular area and all the text in it will be selected. It doesn't care about lines or anything.

My only problem is that it allways start selecting at the beginning of the sentence I click on. If I just press the option-key it behaves as I believed it would.

And, it seems like it may be standard Cocoa behaviour, at least it works in Safari and Xcode...

/Fredrik



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: fredrikw on Aug 17, '06 12:46:11PM

Rereding the comment by dogboy, I realised that he was speeking about the same thing.
/Fredrik



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: Johan Edstrom on Aug 17, '06 01:19:32PM

Great hint! Thanks! Now I'm going select-crazy...

---
Johan Edstrom



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: scphysics on Aug 17, '06 01:34:56PM

This is one of the coolest hints I've seen in a while.
I got this to work in Stickies, Text Edit, etc., but it won't work in Safari for me. Anyone know why this might be?



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: fredrikw on Aug 17, '06 03:12:31PM

A small clarification. For me it worked in a text-field in Safari, not in the normal HTML-parts...

/Fredrik



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: wuf810 on Aug 17, '06 03:18:19PM

I am the original poster.

To reiterate, holding down alt and apple in MS Word allows you to select text regardless of line, word or position....

It does seem that similar functionality has been implemented in some Cocoa apps (Safari is one exception) by holding down the alt key. The difference is that cocoa apps provide a marquee and select all text within the marquee...remember though MS Word is not a cocoa application.

M.



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: starwxrwx on Aug 17, '06 08:44:11PM

This has been in Word/other windows apps for a gazzillion years (via alt-clicking).

It doesn't surprise me that it is in Office for Mac.

The fact it is in Cocoa apps is great - though I swear I have tried it before and it didn't work. Now it does so I am happy (great in text edit for columns of data)



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: RussellK on Aug 18, '06 06:26:46AM

Okay...now I understand what the "free text selection" is all about (being able to select a block of text as described).

But, I still don't follow the key combo. I can do the free text selection block using just the option (alt) key. What does also holding down the command (apple) key add?



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: cynikal on Aug 18, '06 06:55:53AM

i thought everyone knew about this, it worked the exact same way in windows version of word too (but which i guess some never had to use).

oh the more helpful note is that this also works in apple's textedit ;)



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: prescor on Aug 18, '06 08:01:37AM

"Marquis Select" (opt-click-drag) has been in MS Word at least as long as version 4. Maybe earlier. I remember someone showing it to me on a Mac SE. :-)

INCREDIBLY useful!



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Free text selection in Microsoft Word
Authored by: Unsoluble on Aug 18, '06 02:58:24PM

I think some clarification is in order here, surprisingly...

The Option key modifier is used to make a free "marquee" style selection.

The Command key modifier is used to select discontiguous pieces of text.

The Option and Command keys held down together makes a marquee selection that is anchored to the left margin.



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