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Beginner: 5 Mouse Tricks in Windows that You Might Not Know

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We have already shown you 5 Windows Command Prompt Tricks You Probably Don’t Know, and we received some great feedback in the comments, so we decided to share 5 Mouse Tricks we use fairly regularly here at How-To Geek, read on to find out what they are.

Note: some of these tips work in Microsoft Office or other applications, not necessarily directly in Windows.

Dragging with the Right Mouse Button

Drag and drop operations in Windows can seem to result in random behavior, however, its not random at all:

  • Dragging a file from a volume (Drive Letter) to another location on the same volume will result in a move operation.
  • Dragging a file from a drive to another drive will result in a copy operation.

But what if you want to make a copy of a file on the same drive? Sure, you could use the context menu but that’s just extra clicks–instead drag your file or folder with the right mouse button, when you release the button a hidden context menu will appear, allowing you to choose what operation you want to carry out.

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Selecting Text in Columns

This might be our favorite trick of all, and to my surprise hardly anyone knows about it. All you have to do is hold the alt key while selecting some text and drag your mouse either up and down.

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Note: This tip works with most applications like Microsoft Office, however if you use a very simple editor like Notepad it probably wont work. It also works in the Command Prompt.

Selecting Multiple Pieces of Text

Similar to the alt tip, you can hold ctrl and select multiple pieces of text, if you choose to copy them they will be concatenated on the clipboard. This works in Microsoft Office, and can be very helpful when editing.

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You can also use this tip to select multiple files in Explorer.

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Accessing Hidden Windows Explorer Options

If you hold the Shift key while right-clicking on a file or folder, you’ll get access to a ton of new items, like opening a command prompt there, or new items in the Send To menu.

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Open and Close Tabs with the Middle Mouse Button

Lastly but not least is the ability to open tabs quickly by clicking on links with the middle mouse button.

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You can also quickly close a tab by middle clicking on it.

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If you find yourself using any other tips or tricks, let us know in the comments.

Taylor Gibb is a Microsoft MVP and all round geek, he loves everything from Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012 and even C# and PowerShell. You can also follow him on Google+

  • Published 08/21/12

Comments (26)

  1. kelltic

    I didn’t know about selecting multiple pieces of text. How could I NOT have known that?!! All these years of wishing it was possible and all the time it was that simple. Thanks! I’ve never used the Alt key when selecting text in an Excel column. It isn’t necessary. All I do is drag the mouse down, but I’ve never tried it in a word processor. I’ll try it today though.

  2. Citrus Rain

    Vertical… text selection?

    TuT It’s so beautiful!

    That’s going to save me so much time! I think I’m in love with a feature.

  3. matt

    i love the tricks

  4. alexter

    a shame vertical text selection doesn’t work with notepad, thats why I use UltraEdit and column mode.. best notepad replacement ever.. other than that the multiple text selection will come in handy.. thank you..

  5. Elby

    I love that vertical text selection trick, but be forwarned it doesn’t work in Word tables. If you try it you will get the maddening “research” window – because it is so slow to come up, at first you will not understand what’s happeneing. I’m not sure why MS made this choice – does anyone use Alt+Right Click in a table to research things?

  6. lesle

    Search using only mouse-

    Highlight a word or phrase. Right click, a window will open; left click on Copy. Move insertion bar to anywhere in browser search box. Right click, a window will open; left on Paste & Search.

    Your search engine will search using the copied word or phrase.

  7. M Henri Day

    Splendid, Taylor – many thanks ! The most useful of these tricks, like those for selecting text in columns and selecting multiple pieces of text seem also to work well in, e g, Ubuntu and LibreOffice, and can save users tonnes of time. More tips of this type, please !…

    Henri

  8. Rose

    I love it, been trying to grab vertical text, now I have a solution.

  9. bd1235

    I didn’t know about middle click to close an IE tab. It will make that operation just a little faster. In Win 7 a middle click on a task bar icon will open another window of an active program.

    If you guys want a free Notepad replacement that will do column select then EditPad Lite will do it. It is not set on by default. See the Help.

  10. Morgan

    I work for a law firm and I have been using the vertical selection for a long time and I always pass it on to others– it especially comes in handy when those, who will remain nameless, decide it is better to tab over 10 times for a signature line — that drives me crazy — so I use the vertical selection to get rid of the tabs! There are so many uses for this!

  11. Danny

    Nice to know about the ‘alt+drag’ tip to get the selection rectangle.
    ‘Shift+right click’ is really useful too.

    You could add ‘Ctrl+left click’ to open links in a new tab, should anyone be middle-mouse-button-less.

  12. Kei

    Similar: Use Ctrl – left click to select multiple destinations for paste in Excel. Select the copy-from first, then first destination, then Ctrl-click for the rest. Then paste.

  13. Jon

    Ctrl-scrollwheel zooms in and out to make objects and text on screen bigger or smaller.

  14. john3347

    The middle button tricks will not work for me because I am arthritic and have considerable trouble with double clicks (they are quite stupid anyway) I use a Logitech trackball (also due to my arthritis) and program the middle button to perform a double click with a single finger stroke. This should be default action for middle button.

  15. Ravi

    Amazing tricks Two Thumbs up to u “HOW TO GEEK”

  16. Dic

    To block-highlight a vertical number of items, or section of text of any length, even of many pages > place insertion point at one end, and leave it there > hold Shift before placing the insertion point at the other end of same. Start/finish at whichever end suits.

    This works even in Notepad.

  17. Dic

    To clone a text or other frame, any number of times, in Word, Publisher, and some others > produce the desired frame (box) > hold Ctrl + left click and hold > drag to a new location. Dead easy in Publisher, in Word not quite so, sometimes.

  18. mayasl

    Thank you very much for the useful tips.

    All the tips work fine on Windows XP except Accessing Hidden Windows Explorer Options tip.

  19. julian

    To duplicate a tab in Firefox:

    Put the cursor on the tab
    Crtrl + Left click
    Drag to the right
    Let go

    New duplicate tab is opened

  20. WILL

    im to lazy to read the comments… hopefully this wasn’t said :

    if you double click on a word fast enough it will highlight the whole sentence or line the text is on.. i’m still experimenting lol .. helpful if you need to copy and paste some but not all of the text.

  21. WILL

    I’m going to school studying computer networking right now and for the first time I learned how to select text without needing to use your mouse. I knew you could do it… just never had the guts to actually ask someone.. felt like I should have known or something . well anyway:

    Simply hold down shift and use your arrow keys. It will highlight your txt letter by letter. I found that one very convenient.

  22. jackblue

    I’m a bit dim today …waiting for these tips to click with me.

  23. Priyadarshi Singh

    Hi! nice tricks but I know all of them please give some good tricks

  24. Tom

    If you hold down the Alt key and hit PrtScn key, you can copy just the highlighted window. Press PrtScn only and you copy the entire screen.

  25. Lee

    So wonderful,I have learned more from your article.I also translate it into Chinese.

  26. Elcan

    Wait, we can do multiple text selection? My whole life is a lie.

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