Word: Select a column of text

June 26, 2008

In later versions of Word (2007, 2003, 2000?), you can select a ‘column’ of text that isn’t in a table. Very handy if you have lots of manually entered numbers or bullets that you want to remove!

Here’s how: Hold down the ALT key as you click and drag over the area you want to select. Once the area is selected, you can use Word’s usual commands to change the format or delete the selection.

[This article was first published in the September 2004 CyberText newsletter; steps checked in Word 2007, 21 August 2008]


  1. If one uses Courier New for font one can cut and past these “columns”. Handy because the bank reverses the order of info in statements when it comes to the checks – just select the dates and move them to the front of the line where they belong.

  2. […] you can use to convert the first letter of each item in a bulleted list to lower case. I first wrote about it in 2004, but it’s worth repeating as it’s a clever thing you can […]

  3. I am a teacher. This would be very useful in reformatting old tests to make new ones. It does not work for me, however.

  4. Hi John

    I’ve found it doesn’t work quite as well in Word 2007 and later, especially for bullet points. It worked well in Word 2003.

    It might also be to do with your settings for selecting text — go to Word Options > Advanced settings under ‘Editing options’ and try it with ‘When selecting, automatically select entire word’ turned OFF.

  5. Hi,
    I had some trouble with this after Word 2003 but found the solution for Word 2010.
    First, it is independent of selecting the “entire word” or not.

    What you have to do is to first press and then select the area by moving the mouse over the text column.
    Before (in 2003) all you had to do was to click at the corners of the text field. Now that does no longer work and you have to move the mouse while holding .

  6. But how do you select a column in a table, to change the properties for example, without having to manually highlight the cells.
    Word used to have a command to do it but I can’t find it now.

  7. Hi Claudia

    I’m not sure about a command, but there are several ways to do it in Word 2010 (Word 2007 and likely 2003 will be the same or similar).

    From the ribbon:
    1. Click in any cell in the column you want to select.
    2. Go to the Layout tab.
    3. Click Select (far left), then select Select Column.

    From the document:
    1. Hover above the top line of the table column you want to select until the black downward-pointing arrow appears.
    2. Click to select the column.


  8. Thanks alot!

  9. This no longer works – I used to use it all the time but now when you let go of the mouse button a stupid “research” window takes over!!

  10. Hi Adrian

    I just tried it again in Word 2010, and it worked fine (it was very flaky in Word 2007). However, when I had the text size at 100% I also got the Research pane displayed quite often. But when I zoomed to 150%, I was able to select the text using the ALT key and rarely got the Research pane displayed. Try zooming in.


  11. Thanks Rhonda,
    I’ve discovered that if you do the “alt” highlight once you get the research pane but if you then do it again you can highlight the column you were after in the first place

  12. Holding down the Alt key and dragging the mouse worked great for me. I did not have a “research pane” pop up. I am using Word 2010.

  13. position cursor at the point where you want to select the vertical block of text. press control+alt+F8. select text and then press escape to go back to normal mode.
    alt does not work always – at least in 2010

  14. Just as a side note : None of these methods word on Text inside a table

  15. In 2007 there is a keyboard shortcut for highlighting a block of text. Position the cursor at the beginning of the block and press Ctrl+Sh+F8. Then use the arrow keys (without control or shift) to the right to highlight the first line, then down to extend the block.

  16. Hi Lawrence

    That’s just BRILLIANT!! Thank you for sharing.


  17. Ctrl Sh and F8 has been with /MS Word for Years. If you have a laptop and it does not work Try using ctrl Sh Fn and F8 where Fn is a function key. only if you have a laptop though.

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