MathGroup Archive 2010

[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index]

Search the Archive

Re: How to adjust selection w/ arrow keys?, etc.

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg114108] Re: How to adjust selection w/ arrow keys?, etc.
  • From: John Fultz <jfultz at>
  • Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2010 06:03:27 -0500 (EST)

The selection behavior you'd like is in v8.  The fact that earlier versions 
didn't do this is an embarrassment for which there isn't a very good explanation 
(there are explanations, but not very good ones, so I'd rather not dwell on 

As for the Backspace behavior...concerning non-cell selections, you're just 
wrong.  Backspace *does* delete any selection you have, unless the selection 
contains one or more cell brackets.  And it does delete cell brackets on Mac.  
It doesn't on Windows (and, I think, Linux) for subtle cultural reasons.  In 
some programs, Backspace is not a destructive action, but serves some other 
purpose...for example, navigating to the previous page in web browsers and the 
previous directory in the file explorer.  Delete is always bound to a 
destructive action.  The concern is that this confusion might cause somebody to 
unintentionally wreak havoc on their notebook.


John Fultz
jfultz at
User Interface Group
Wolfram Research, Inc.

On Mon, 22 Nov 2010 07:38:42 -0500 (EST), kj wrote:
> I like to select text directly from the keyboard (rather than using
> the mouse), by pressing the Shift key when the insertion mark is
> at the start of the selection, and, while holding the Shift key
> down, using the arrow keys to move the insertion mark so as to
> extend the selection.  I use a similar technique to select ranges
> of notebook cells, using only the keyboard.
> Sometimes it happens that while extending the selection using the
> arrow keys, I overshoot, and end up with a selection larger than
> what I want.  With every other text-editing interface I know of,
> I can correct this overshoot by pressing the arrow key of opposite
> direction to the one that caused the overshoot.  (E.g., if I
> overshoot by pressing the right arrow key too many times, I can
> adjust the selection to the desired size by pressing the left arrow
> key a few times.)
> This behavior is, by an overwhelming margin, the standard one for
> text editing interfaces, and has been so for as long as such
> interfaces have been around in common use.  In fact, the only
> exception I know of is the Mathematica notebook GUI.  With the
> Mathematica notebook GUI, pressing the opposite arrow key does not
> shrink the selection, but rather it makes it bigger, from the
> opposite end!  Is that perverse, or what?  In the example above,
> pressing the left arrow key won't shrink the right-hand end of the
> selection, but instead it will grow its left-hand end.  Thoughts
> of murder naturally ensue.
> Is there a way to customize Mathematica so that it behaves in the
> standard way? Alternatively, is there any way at all to shrink a
> selection using the keyboard?
> While on the subject of non-standard selection/keyboard interaction,
> Mathematica is also unique in that hitting the backspace key won't
> delete the selected text (or notebook cells).  In fact, when there's
> a non-empty selection, AFAICT the backspace key does nothing.  Is
> there some way to restore the standard behavior?  (I already know
> that the delete key will delete the selection, but I'd prefer to
> use what I've been using for the past few decades.)
> BTW, are these details discussed anywhere in the Mathematica
> documentation? If so, please point me to it.
> TIA!
> ~kj

  • Prev by Date: Re: Mathematica 8
  • Next by Date: Re: Mathematica 8: first impressions
  • Previous by thread: How to adjust selection w/ arrow keys?, etc.
  • Next by thread: Re: How to adjust selection w/ arrow keys?, etc.