Handy Hotkeys: Shift Select and Ctrl Select

Some time ago in a Windows Weekly videocast it was mentioned that research commissioned by Microsoft found that over a third  of 14,000 Windows users surveyed did not know how to use Shift Select and Ctrl Select in Windows (among a pile of other things that I can’t remember). These were all users who were first asked if they considered themselves regular users of the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Over a third of people surveyed, who considered themselves regular Windows users, did not know how to use Shift Select and Ctrl Select!

I think that Microsoft were a little staggered by this finding considering that Shift Select and Ctrl Select have been in Windows since at least Windows 386 back around 1990—and probably before that.

What do Shift Select and Ctrl Select do?

In any ‘well behaved’ Windows program, which these days would be close to 100 percent of all programs that run on Windows, Shift Select is used to quickly select a serial or contiguous range of items and Ctrl Select is used to select any number of non-contiguous items.

Shift Select

There are a few ways that Shift Select can be used. Remember that this works with (almost) every Windows program (where it makes sense).

Shift+Down Arrow: One way is to use Shift+Down Arrow. If you have some kind of list in a Windows program and you want to select a series of items from the list you can put the cursor at the start of the list (by clicking there with the mouse), and then hold down the Shift key and use the Down Arrow to go down the list. As you go down the list each item will be selected. These selected items can then be moved, copied, deleted, or drag’n’dropped somewhere, or whatever it was you wanted to do with or to them.

Shift+End: Another way of using Shift Select is with the End key. Again you can select the starting item using the mouse, then by holding down the Shift key and then pressing End you will select from the starting point to the end of the list. As before you can now move or copy or open or whatever all the selected items.

Alternatively you could select the ‘bottom’ item and do Shift+Home to select all the items above it.

These both work even when you can’t see the end of the list (or the top of the list if you are using Shift+Home).

Shift+Click: A third way of using Shift Select is by clicking on the starting item in the list, and then clicking on the last item in the list while holding down the Shift key. This will cause all items between the first item clicked and the ‘bottom’ item Shift+Clicked to be selected.

In the following example, using Adobe Photoshop Elements, I have clicked on the second picture in the second row to start the select, then used Shift+Click on the third last picture in the second last row to end the select. This has caused all pictures between the start and end to be selected so I can than save them out to a thumb drive.


In the following example, using Microsoft Excel 2010, I clicked on row 2701 and used Shift+Click on row 2710. This caused all rows from 2701 to 2710 to be selected so I could then delete them.


Ctrl Select

Unlike Shift Select, which selects contiguous items, Ctrl Select allows you to select (or deselect) non-contiguous items.

You do this my holding down the Ctrl key and then clicking on each of the items you want to select (or deselect). You can select non-contiguous items in any order, above or below the starting point.

In the following example I have used Ctrl+Click to select some non-contiguous folders in Windows Explorer.


In this last example I have used Ctrl+Click to select a number of non-contiguous pictures that I want to print from a collection of pictures of Kate Beckinsale.


As I mentioned Ctrl Select can also be used to deselect an item that is already selected. Hence if you used Shift+End to select a contiguous list but then needed to deselect some items from the full selection, then you can us Ctrl Select (Ctrl+Click) to perform these de-selections.

I have a fairly regular 55 unique visitors each day. Based on the survey findings about 20 of you did not know about using Shift Select and Ctrl Select in Windows before now. But now you do Smile. Although it is highly likely that people reading my site are a cut above the norm. You probably all already knew how to do this.