A Beginner’s Guide to Selecting Items On Your Mac

While most Mac users know how to select a single item simply by clicking it, it is a little harder to select multiple items. You can use the Command and Shift keys to select multiple items in places like the Finder, Photos and many other apps. You can also drag a rectangle around several items to select them in some cases. The keyboard shortcut Command+A is used often by experience Mac users to select all items.

Video Transcript
So even if you're new to Mac you may already know how to select a single item. For instance, here in the Finder I have a bunch of files icons. If I want to select one of them I simply click it and it is selected. Now, of course, if I double click it, it's going to open up that document. But just a single click will select the item and I can do various things with it then. Move it around or rename it, etc.

Inside of Applications you can find the same kind of thing. A single click selects something in there. But how about selecting multiple items. Well, there are several different ways to do it. Using the Finder here as an example I'll show you a bunch of them.

So say I click once to select this first item here and I want to select another item. So I want to have two items selected. I'm going to hold down the Command key on my keyboard. Not the Control key but the Command key. Click a second item and you can see now I have two items selected. I can Command click a third and a fourth. As long as I hold the Command key down I can select another item and add it to the selection. You can even see at the bottom here in the Finder it shows that I've got four of eighteen selected.

Now if I want to deselect something I can Command click that a second time and you can see now I've deselected that but the other three items are still selected. So using this method I can select exactly the items I want before I perform whatever task it is. For instance, I could drag these all away by clicking and dragging just one of them and it drags all five at the same time.

Now very often you want to select multiple items but you want to select them in kind of a group. You can do that in the Finder and in many other places by clicking outside of all the items and dragging a rectangle over those items. So I'm going to drag this rectangle over four items. Release. I wasn't holding any key down on the keyboard. Now I've selected those four items. I can do that again and again. I can combine that with holding Control down to select items there. So I held Control down and select those four items while keeping these five items selected.

Now if you simply want to select all of the items here you just use Command A. That's the shortcut for Edit, Select All. So I'm going to do Command A and I select all of them. I use Command A a lot and most Mac users do as well. So get used to using Command A as a pretty common keyboard shortcut.

Now let's switch to List view. In List view you can do the same kinds of things. So I can click to Select. If I hold the Command key down and select I can select multiple items. Now you can deselect everything by clicking somewhere where there's nothing to select. So I'll click on the bottom here.

Now I'm going to show you how to select a range. You click to select the first item. Then you use the Shift key to select the last item and it selects everything in-between. Now this doesn't work everywhere. For instance, if I were to go back to Icon view I can click to select the first item and Shift click is going to select the second item just like I'm holding the Command key down. So in Icon view that doesn't work. But in List view Shift click will select all the items in-between the two. It works if you select one at the bottom and Shift click one at the top as well.

Now you can also use the keyboard to extend the range. So, for instance, if I click to select a single item and I use the down arrow I'll select the item below that and up arrow will select above that. I'm only selecting one item at a time. But if I hold the Shift key down I'll extend the range of the selection. If I go up it will undo that and I can select above that. Now this works in Icon view as well. Click to select that item there. I'll use the right arrow to go to the right, up arrow to go up, and you can see I can select a range like that. It's less likely that you'll use this technique but it is something that comes in useful every once in awhile.

Now every app is a little different but if you use the Shift and Command keys you can usually figure out pretty quickly how to select multiple items. Here I am in Photos. I can click to select a single item. If I Command click I can select multiple ones. If I click and then Shift click I can select the range. I can also click in a blank space and drag a rectangle over a selection of items. So it's very similar selecting items in Photos as it is in the Finder.

Different apps you use are going to use similar techniques for doing multiple selections. But it's not always exactly the same. So it pays to experiment a little bit to see how you can do multiple selections in the apps you use most.