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Select Text Vertically in Microsoft Word

If you often need to use Microsoft Word for writing documents, you’ve probably come across the situation where you needed to delete the beginning of each line in a list, especially if you are reformatting a document or dealing with text pasted from another source.

Did you realize you can select text vertically? All you have to do is hold down the Alt key, and you can make a vertical selection.

For example, I want to delete the first two words from each item in this list, so I hold down the Alt key and make a selection around the area:

image

Now I can cut, copy, or just delete the selection.

image

You can make a vertical selection anywhere in the document, not just with lists. It’s probably more useful when dealing with a similar scenario.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/4/08

Comments (27)

  1. cyn

    Nice ! .. Thanks for the tip .

  2. MadScientist

    I am using Office 2007 and this does not appear to work. Holding down the Alt key opens a Reference dialog box. Is there some setting that needs to be changed?

  3. MrDolomite

    Oh, that rocks! I’ve been copying stuff to Textpad forever to do that kind of block selection.

  4. Robert

    Don’t you mean Shift + Alt? Just holding Alt does not work for me with Word 07.

  5. w0zzy

    “I am using Office 2007 and this does not appear to work. Holding down the Alt key opens a Reference dialog box. Is there some setting that needs to be changed?

    MadScientist Identicon Icon MadScientist on January 4, 2008 10:26 am”

    i just tried it on Office 2007 and it works fine…even the tutorial was made on Office 2007! just keep holding down the Alt key and drag. ignore everything else.

  6. MadScientist

    “I am using Office 2007 and this does not appear to work. Holding down the Alt key opens a Reference dialog box. Is there some setting that needs to be changed?

    MadScientist Identicon Icon MadScientist on January 4, 2008 10:26 am”

    “i just tried it on Office 2007 and it works fineā€¦even the tutorial was made on Office 2007! just keep holding down the Alt key and drag. ignore everything else. ”

    w0zzy on January 4, 2008 11:41 am

    I just tried again using a different document and it worked fine. I tried the other document and got the same reference box so the issue is with the one particular document.

    Thanks, this is a great tip!!

  7. Donn

    Can you do this in OpenOffice as well?

  8. Vilhelm

    It does not work because I and many others use Alt + left click in activation of 1-click-Answers from Answers.com. But it did work i MS Word 2007, as soon as I changed that to Control + left click (or something else). However, not in Open Office.

  9. redgrl

    omg! i cannot tell you how many times i wished i could do this! thank you thank you thank you!

  10. Planet Lowyat

    This is definitely a good idea. Thanks for the tips.

  11. Denman

    “I just tried again using a different document and it worked fine. I tried the other document and got the same reference box so the issue is with the one particular document.”

    MadScientist on January 4, 2008 1:10 pm

    Experienced that too. I wonder why though.

  12. Jeremy Ezell

    man if there was a way to do this in notepad though, i program hardware in notepad because less overhead than word.

  13. Syahid A.

    Works even in MS Word 2002. (now you know that i am using the old version). :D

  14. Ander

    This doesn’t work in a table, though. Oddly, it makes a “Research” window open instead. Anybody know how to do it?

  15. ananda

    excellent ..i was searching this tip from long ago

  16. Hemant Kumar

    I have been researching this tip from many website. Everyone gives Alt+mouse selection which selects the text, but what is the use as, when you release the mouse button, selection is gone and it opens a research window in word2003.
    Why don’t anyone gives a full tip that how to keep selection and then apply formatting or doing copy, cut etc.
    Or may be we are just being fooled by an incomplete tip. I hate it :(.

  17. J L

    Hemant, this tip is as complete as it can be. Alt+mouse selection selects an area, and releasing the mouse and/or Alt key leaves the selection. If it is not working for you, it may be that you are clicking again after selecting the text, while still holding down Alt, or something else may be impacting your document. Note that this does not work within a table, and I would guess there are probably other special objects within Word that would cause it to not work, as well, but without testing, I couldn’t say what those are. Alt+Click is the shortcut for the Research function (you can see the shortcut to the right of the Research option on the Tools menu). There might be some way to change this, or as someone else suggested, it may be that you have another program that is interpreting the Alt+mouse selection. One shortcoming of this feature is that the selection does get lost after you do anything with the text (like change the formatting), which can be a problem if you need to make multiple format changes.

  18. ^PaPaSmUrF^

    This is brilliant!!!! I have a degree level qualification for use of word and didn’t even know that you could do that – love it!!!!
    PS: w0zzy EMAIL ME PLZ :)))))

  19. hsrstud

    If you’re having trouble with the Research Pane popping up when you press the Alt key, this can be easily resolved. Just do the following and you will still be able to access the Research Pane manually (e.g. clicking on its icon).

    Add/Remove Programs —> Microsoft Office —> Add or Remove Features —> expand Office Tools —> disable Research Explorer Bar

  20. Shad Vick

    This does not work in a table in word – only outside a table.=(

  21. Squid

    This trick works like a charm. I’m using Word2003 (but it may be an upated version, I’m not sure). I think there’s a similar trick in wordpad. Does anyone know?

    Thanks a ton for posting this trick!

  22. Ad

    Legend, thanks! Saved me alot of time

  23. Laura

    The Word 2007 fix!!! (without having to mess with removing features of course, thanks hsrstud):
    When the research window opens on your first attempt with alt+select, leave the window open. From then on, all alt+select use will function as described above.

    xo,
    Laura

  24. Mike

    The instructions shown here don’t work for my copy of Word 2007 Enterprise.

    Try using Ctrl_Shift+F8 to turn on the vertical select mode. Use the cursor keys by themselves. Vertical select mode is turned off if you cut, copy, or delete. You can also press the Esc key to cancel the vertical select mode.

  25. hadiqa

    bakwas ha yar

  26. stivat

    If you are having trouble with the Research pane opening when you try to select vertically, just allow a slight pause between pressing (and holding down) the Alt key and then clicking and dragging with the mouse. The pause means it does not register as Alt + click. :-)

  27. Peter

    I cannot find this answer anywhere. I want to remove the first few letters of every line in a document within WORD 2010, but I want to do this within a macro. Since highlighting text is not supported within a macro, ALT drag will not work. Is there any other method or shortcut key that will work? I have hundreds of documents that I have to do this for.

    Thanks!

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