Selecting Text: Doing the Finger Dance
You know how sometimes you get used to doing something weird and then are surprised when someone points out how weird it is? That happened today when someone commented on how strange InDesign’s text-selection system is… you know, how you can use keyboard shortcuts, along with the Shift key, to select text in a story.
If you’ve never quite grokked how to do this with InDesign, it’s worth reading over this excerpt from Real World InDesign, by Olav Martin Kvern and me:
The Keyboard Dance. Selecting text in InDesign, whether you’re in a story window or a document window, is in most ways the same as any other program. There is one difference, however, which drives us crazy. When you select text using keyboard shortcuts, InDesign remembers where the cursor was when you started, but it only remembers as long as you hold the modifier keys down. This is a subtle thing, and much more difficult to explain than to show.
Here’s an example. You place the text cursor at the beginning of this paragraph and then Command-Shift-Down Arrow/Ctrl-Shift-Down Arrow to select the whole paragraph. Suddenly, you realize that you don’t want to select the last character (the paragraph return character), so you press Shift-Left Arrow to deselect it.
What happens next depends on whether or not you raised your hand from the keyboard. If you keep the Shift key down between the two shortcuts, InDesign will deselect the last character (which is what you want). If you let go of the keyboard before pressing Shift-Left Arrow, then InDesign sees this as a whole new selection and adds one character to the left of the paragraph (the last character in the previous paragraph) to your selection (which is never what you want).
At that point, getting the selection you want requires you to extend the selection to the right (perhaps by pressing Shift-Right Arrow) and then deselect the characters (Shift-Left Arrow, twice). This what we call doing they keyboard dance. It’s so bad that we sometimes take our fingers off the keyboard and use the mouse.
While InDesign’s finger-dance method gives you a bit more control over exactly what is going to be selected next, there is no doubt that it will drive you bonkers if you don’t pay attention.