How to highlight or select text

Updated: 11/13/2018 by Computer Hope

The following sections contain information on how to highlight text on any computer, device or program. We've also included keyboard shortcuts, tips, and areas where you can practice highlighting text on this page.

How to highlight text on a desktop or laptop computer

Below are all of the different methods of highlighting text, icons, and other objects on your computer using a desktop mouse, touchpad, and keyboard.

How to highlight text using your mouse

To highlight text using your mouse, position your cursor at the beginning of the text you want to highlight. Press and hold your primary mouse button (commonly the left-button). While holding the mouse button, drag the cursor to the end of the text and let go of the mouse button. Once completed, all text from the beginning to the end should be highlighted. Below is an example of how text can be highlighted.

Highlight text

There is no limit to how much text can be highlighted. You can move to the end of a paragraph to highlight the full paragraph or keep holding the mouse button down and select multiple paragraphs or pages of text.

Tip

You'll know that text can be highlighted when your mouse pointer changes to an I-beam cursor.

How to highlight using a touchpad on a laptop

To highlight text using a touchpad on a laptop, move the cursor to the beginning of the text you want to highlight. Press and hold down the primary mouse button below the touchpad. While continuing to hold down the button, move another finger (or one from your other hand) along the touchpad in the direction you want to highlight.

Tip

If your touchpad acts as a button, you can press down on the touchpad until you feel a "click," and then drag your finger in either direction to highlight text.

Select text with the mouse button

Double-clicking a word highlights the word and triple-clicking a word highlights the full line or paragraph of text.

How to highlight text using your keyboard

To highlight with your keyboard, move to the starting location with the arrow keys, hold down the Shift key, and press the arrow key in the direction you want to highlight. Once everything you want is highlighted, let go of the Shift key.

Tip

If you want to highlight one word at a time, press Ctrl key while holding down Shift, and then press the left or right arrow key.

Tip

If you want to highlight a whole line of text, move your cursor to the start of the line, hold the Shift key, and then press the down arrow. You may also use the shortcut key combination Shift+End.

Tip:

If you want to highlight all text, press the shortcut key Ctrl+A.

Note

If you are not working with text that can be edited (e.g., this paragraph), you cannot highlight text using these methods. However, they will work in word processor documents, text documents, and any text field.

Practice highlighting text

Below is a text field that can be used to practice highlighting text using the keyboard.

How to highlight text using your keyboard and mouse

Use the keyboard and mouse in combination by moving the cursor to where you want to begin highlighting, hold down the Shift key and then click where you want to finish highlighting.

Tip

You can also practice this technique in the above text box.

How to highlight an icon or another object

To highlight an object such as an icon in Windows, single-click the item. Once clicked, the icon or text should change to a different color indicating it is highlighted.

To highlight multiple icons or other objects, drag a box around all files you want to highlight.

Tip

If you want to individually highlight files, hold down the Ctrl key on the keyboard and while still holding the Ctrl key, single-click each file you want to highlight.

How to highlight multiple e-mails, files, icons, or other objects

Drag and select

Users may highlight multiple objects at once by using the mouse or mouse and keyboard. In many programs, you can draw a marquee around the items you want to highlight. To draw a marquee, first click and hold the mouse button outside the area of the items, in a blank area of the window and then drag the mouse cursor around the items to create a box. Once you release the mouse button, the items contained in the box are highlighted. In the animated picture to the right, we are selecting nine picture files.

If a program does not support a marquee, highlight the first object in the series, hold down the Shift, click the last item you want to selected, and then let go of the Shift key. For example, clicking "Example" in the select field below, and then holding down Shift and clicking "Items" highlights all four available options.



Tip

To select only certain items from the list, hold down Ctrl, and click each item you want to highlight. Repeat this action to deselect an item.

How to highlight text on an Android smartphone and tablet

Android copy

Press and hold down on any text with your finger, drag your finger over the text you'd like to highlight, and then let go. Upon letting go, a menu should appear in the top-right corner of the screen (shown to the right) that allows you to cut or copy.

Tip

You may also press and hold on one word, the use the side bars to adjust the amount of highlighted text.

How to highlight text on an Apple iPhone and iPad

iPhone copy

Press and hold down on any text with your finger, drag your finger over the text you'd like to highlight, and then let go. Upon letting go, you should be presented with a menu. Press your finger on the Select option.

Tip

You may also press and hold on one word, the use the side bars to adjust the amount of highlighted text.

How to highlight text on a Chromebook

For Chromebooks that have no mouse buttons, you can copy and paste text by following the steps below.

Pressing down on the touchpad and, while continuing to hold down on the touchpad, drag your finger in the direction you want to highlight text. When you're finished highlighting, lift your finger.

Tip

You can also use many of the mouse and keyboard tips mentioned in our desktop and laptop section on a Chromebook.

How to highlight text on a Kindle

Press and hold down on the starting word with your finger. Once that word is highlighted, drag your finger over any additional text to select it as well. When you're finished highlighting, lift your finger.

Additional information