Excel 2004: Not ‘Select All’ command when you need it

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 22nd, 2004 • 5:05 am

Sometimes using Microsoft products really feels like you are on another computing planet… OK, that’s the way it feels almost all the time. But there are some issues that are really just beyond human comprehension.

Why is it, for example, that, when editing the contents of a cell in Excel, you cannot use command-A to select the entire contents of this particular cell?

Excel does have a “Select All” command, but it only works for selecting all the cells in the spreadsheet, and it’s only active in some situations.

But if you double-click on a cell to edit its contents, for example, Excel places the cursor inside the cell and you can edit it and select words one by one using option-shift-Left or option-shift-Right. But you cannot use command-A to select the entire contents of the cell. And yet the “Select All” command that selects all the cells in the spreadsheet is not available in such a context, so why can’t it be used to select all the contents of the cell instead?

In most other Mac OS X applications that I know, when you are editing the contents of fields or cells in database-like layouts, and when your cursor is somewhere inside a specific field/cell, command-A can be used to select the entire contents of that particular field/cell.

Not so in Excel 2004. I looked quickly in the “Customize Keyboard…” dialog, under “All Commands“, but couldn’t find any command that might achieve this. In fact, interestingly enough, even the “Select All” command that selects all cells in a spreadsheet is not listed in there. Yet, when you try to assign the command-A shortcut to another command, Excel does indicate that the shortcut is already assigned to “Select All“, even though, according to this dialog box, the “Select All” command doesn’t exist. Go figure.

The bottom-line is that there doesn’t appear to be an easy way of selecting the entire contents of a single cell in a spreadsheet with the keyboard. You can, of course, press Tab to move to the next cell and then shift-Tab to come back to the current cell, which will select its entire contents by default (even though the fact that the text is selected is not visible). But that doesn’t qualify as an “easy” way of selecting the text to me. It’s more like a lousy work-around. I simply do not see why command-A cannot be made to work in such a context. And you’d think it’s something that Microsoft would have addressed years ago.

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