Selecting text—using either mouse or keyboard—is an essential skill in Microsoft Word. After all, that’s how you begin copying text or applying fonts and paragraph formatting. But click-and-drag isn’t the only way to select a block of text. Here are a few more tricks you should know.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Click once, twice, thrice

Clicking once within a word simply places your cursor within that word. Double-clicking (clicking the left mouse button twice in rapid succession), however, selects the entire word. Triple-clicking selects the entire paragraph.

Selecting by line

To select text by line, place your cursor just to the left of the left margin until you see a cursor that looks like this:

Click once to select the entire line. If you want to select more than one line, hold down the left mouse button at the initial click and drag down (or up) until all the lines you want are selected.

Selecting large blocks

To avoid being stuck with dragging your mouse down a long block, click at the beginning of the selection, hold down your Shift key, then use either the Page Down or Down Arrow keys (depending on how much text you want to select) to move the selection cursor to the end of the section.

Selecting the entire document

If you want to copy (or apply formatting) to an entire document, either place your cursor in the left-hand margin as described above and triple-click, or press CTRL-A on your keyboard.

Copying an isolated column

Let’s say you receive a list of names and other information in column form:

If you want to copy the entire list as-is, that’s fine. But what if you just want to extract the names in the left-most column to drop into another document? Here’s the good news: you’re not stuck re-typing or cutting-and-pasting one name at a time.

To copy a single column, position your mouse cursor at one corner of the section you want to select (the upper left-hand corner is a good choice). Then, hold down your ALT key and, using your mouse, hold down the left mouse button (without letting go of ALT) and drag the mouse cursor until you’ve selected just the block of text you want. (Think of it as using your mouse cursor to draw a box around your selection.)

Once you’ve done that, copy the text with CTRL-C, then go to your new document and paste it in with CTRL-V. Now you have just the list of names, without date of birth or salary.

This trick’s also useful if you want to copy the contents of paragraphs without copying the numbering or indentation settings:

If you find the mouse trick physically awkward (as I do on my touchpad-equipped laptop), place your cursor at the beginning of the desired selection and press CTRL-SHIFT-F8 to start the selection, then use your cursor or mouse to select. When you have finished selecting, press the ESC key to turn the selection mode off.

Context is key

Obviously, given how many different text formats (tables, columns, text boxes, etc.) are possible in Microsoft Word, there are many different ways to select text. Which ones would you find most useful?