A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about holding down the Alt key while selecting text in Word to draw a box around it.

I received a lot of mail thanking me for the tip, which was nice. But three of the mails had something in common—they asked me to pass along to the Word team a specific related feature request: discontiguous text selection (the ability to select multiple independent ranges of text at once.)

Well, good news, faithful readers. Not only do I think that it's a good suggestion for a feature in Word, it's actually so good that it's already in the product! Today, it's all about the Control key.

Start by selecting some text in Word. Now, hold down the Control key while you select other ranges of text. Voila, discontiguous text selection at your disposal. Any formatting you apply will work on the entire selected range. This can be really helpful for a situation like formatting the first sentence of a number of paragraphs the same way.


You can select multiple ranges of text at the same time

Another less-known use of the Control key is to make a quick copy of the selected text.

Try this: make a document in Word and select some text. If you drag the selection and drop it somewhere else in the document, it will move the text to where you dropped it. So far so good.

Now, hold down Control and drag/drop the text to different location in the document. Notice that this time, Word makes a copy of the selected text and puts it in the target destination. You can use this trick to quickly make a lot of copies of selected text. I don't use this feature often, but a couple of times it has come in very handy.

For the most amazing trick of all: once again, select a range of text. This time, hold down both Shift and Control and drag the text to a new location. Notice that it inserts what looks like a copy of your text. Now, make a change to the original text you selected—the copied text mirrors the changes you made!

In fact, by holding down Shift and Control, you've created a link. Any change you make to the original text is automagically updated in the linked text. (You can even use this trick to link automatically updating text between two documents!)

Congratulations, you're now an official expert in the ins and outs of Word text selection.