Extend text selection in any application

In some programming applications there are keyboard shortcuts to extend or retract text selections by character, word, or line.

Is there a way I can make a macro for this to work in any application, such as Chrome?

I have found the standard macOS keyboard shortcuts to work fine in most apps.
Most, if not all, are variations of the SHIFT key plus other modifiers plus one of the arrow keys.

Are these not working for you?

Hey Matt,

Every macOS application and system text field has keyboard shortcuts for basic editing (except some really rare oddball cruft).

There is also some hidden Emacs-style compatibility that works in many places (if you want to work that hard).


I didn’t know this was a standard shortcut, but I think I understand now why I was having trouble: I was reading a PDF. After reading your responses I did a quick test and the global shortcuts for altering text selections do not work in PDFs, whether viewed in Chrome or Preview.

Before I dive into figuring this out, do you think there’s even a chance it could work in PDFs?

Yep, PDFs are a major exception to the macOS UI. :frowning:
This is even true when viewing in Adobe Acrobat Pro XI.

I have found that with PDFs, in Acrobat, most of the standard shortcuts don’t work, or don’t work as expected.

However, the shortcut do sometimes work, but in a different way.
For example:

  • SHIFT-CMD-RightArrow extends the selection only one word, NOT to the end of the line (as is normal).

So you may have to just play around with the shortcuts in a PDF until you find something that works for you. One note: starting a selection with your mouse, and then doing a SHIFT-CLICK at a lower location usually will extend the selection as expected.

Good luck, and let us know if you discover any shortcuts that work well.

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Hey Matt,

Ah. PDFs are generally not editable, so some genius decided that keyboard shortcuts for “editing” were completely unnecessary.

Forget about keyboard-selection

Apple has always been a little too mouse-centric.