How to Select Multiple Files (With Methods and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are many ways to save time and maximize efficiency when working with a computer. Selecting multiple files to move, attach, or delete at once can be one way to do this. If you work with or use a computer in any capacity, learning to select multiple files is an essential and worthwhile skill to learn to help you be more productive and effective in your role.

In this article, we discuss why it's important to know how to select multiple files, provide step-by-step instructions for selecting multiple files on various operating systems, review how to select all files on different devices, explore frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the topic, and review some helpful tips.

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Why is it important to know how to select multiple files?

Learning how to select multiple files can help you save significant time when performing a variety of operations on a computer. Selecting multiple files allows you to perform one action that affects several files at once. Common examples of situations when you might want to select multiple files include when you're attaching documents to an email, uploading or downloading files, and deleting programs.

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Four methods for selecting multiple files

The method of selecting multiple files can differ depending on which operating system you're using. Here are four sets of step-by-step instructions for selecting multiple files on various operating systems:

1. Selecting multiple files in Windows

When using Windows, you can select multiple files at once by following these steps:

  1. Position the cursor over the file or folder you want and click to select it.

  2. Press and hold the control (Ctrl) key.

  3. Click each of the additional files or folders you want to select.

  4. Release the control key to complete the action.

2. Selecting multiple files using a Mac

When using a Mac, you can follow these steps to select multiple files or folders at once:

  1. Click on a file that you want to select.

  2. Press and hold the command or shift key.

  3. Click the remaining files you want to select.

  4. Release the command or shift key when complete.

3. Selecting multiple files in a list using Windows or Mac

If you want to select all the files or folders in a list, or a portion of a list, there's an alternative method that can help you save some time. This method only works for files listed in an uninterrupted sequence. You can follow these steps to select multiple files in a list:

  1. Click on the first file you want to select and don't release the mouse button.

  2. Drag your mouse over all the files or folders you want to select.

  3. Release the mouse button.

4. Selecting multiple files using the Linux or Unix operating system

To select multiple files or folders when using the Linux or Unix operating system, you can follow these steps:

  1. Click on the first file or folder you want to select.

  2. Press and hold the Ctrl key.

  3. Click on each of the remaining files or folders you want to select.

  4. Release the Ctrl key.

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How to select all files

Sometimes, you may want to select all files within a location, such as within a folder. Here are three methods for selecting all files using the Windows and Mac operating systems:

1. Selecting all files in Windows

Follow these steps to select all the items within a folder or drive in Windows:

  1. Open the folder or drive.

  2. Press and hold the Ctrl key.

  3. While holding the Ctrl key, press the "A" key at the same time.

2. Selecting all files on a Mac, method one

When working with a Mac, here's one method to select all the files in a folder or drive:

  1. Open the folder or drive.

  2. Press and hold the command key.

  3. While holding the command key, press the "A" key.

3. Selecting all files on a Mac, method two

Another method you can use to select all the files on a folder or drive on a Mac computer:

  1. Open the folder or drive.

  2. Select "Edit" in the toolbar at the top of the screen to reveal a drop-down menu.

  3. Click "Select all" from the drop-down menu.

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FAQs for selecting multiple files

Once you understand the methods for the operating system you're working with, selecting multiple files is a relatively simple operation, but sometimes you may encounter challenges. Here are some answers to common questions about selecting multiple files:

How do you select multiple files when using a laptop that has only a touchpad?

When using a laptop that doesn't have a mouse connected, you can still select multiple files. It's usually best to use the method of holding the control or command key while clicking each file you want to select. The dragging method may not work well with a touchpad because it can be difficult to hold down the button while scrolling. You can use the " control or command + A" method if you want to select all the files in a location.

If you work with a laptop often and find using the touchpad difficult, it may be helpful to obtain a mouse. There are a variety of wireless and USB mice that are compatible with laptops available for purchase. Although you can typically work effectively with only the touchpad, if you're more comfortable with a mouse, it may save you time.

What if you select too many files or folders accidentally?

If you're selecting files and accidentally select a file or folder and don't want, you can avoid restarting the operation. If you're using the method that involves holding the control or command button while clicking each item, you can simply click an item again while continuing to hold the control or command key to remove it from the selection.

When using the dragging method, if you haven't released the mouse button, you can deselect items by dragging backwords. If you've already released the mouse button, you can click anywhere on the page outside of the selected area to unselect all items, and then restart the process.

Tips for selecting multiple files

Here are some tips that you may find helpful when working with multiple files:

Organize your files

Keeping your files organized on your device can help make it easier for you to work with them. To do this, you can group files by subject, type, or date using folders and file names. It may also be helpful to try creating folders for various projects or date ranges. Within folders, you can keep files organized using naming systems. If you want to organize files by date, you can begin the name of each file with the date in numerical format, starting with the year, then the month, then the day.

If you prefer to organize the files within a folder by their type, you might begin the name of the file with the name of the document type, followed by a more detailed description or date. For example, for a resume created on March 15, 2022, you might name it resume-20220315. The default sorting on most devices typically causes the files to appear in numerical or alphabetical order. By focusing on the first word or number of your filenames, you can group documents together easier. This can make it easier to use the dragging method of selecting multiple files.

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Be patient

If you're new to using a computer, it may take some practise to become efficient at using the mouse and keypad. This can cause some minor frustration when performing actions like selecting multiple files. It may be helpful to slow down and have patience when selecting the files. If you continue holding onto the control or command key or the mouse button, you can take as long as you want to click each file or drag the mouse. With practice, you can become faster at performing this operation.

Use keyboard commands

When working with multiple files, it can be helpful to learn keyboard commands. Once you've selected a group of files, you can perform many operations using the keyboard. For example, if you want to move a group of files, holding the control key while pressing the "C" key copies the selected files. You can then navigate to the location you want to move them and hold the control key while pressing "V" to place them there.

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