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This is a matter of curiosity more than anything else. In Microsoft Word's Options (Advanced group) there is a setting named "When selecting, automatically select entire word". In the olden days I used to make sure that it was one of the first thing that I turned off, since the behaviour irritated the heck out of me and if I wanted to select a whole word all I needed to do was double click it.

I was writing up some notes about using Word 2016 for some colleagues and went to take a screenshot of the Options page and noted... the setting was still on. I wondered how that could be possible since I hadn't recently felt an impulse to throw a brick through the screen (the usual result of Microsoft's "smart" features), so I went to try to select a few characters. With the keyboard, with the mouse, selecting from the right, from the left, from the beginning, from the end, from the middle... no selection method caused the whole word to be selected despite the option being turned on.

I looked up what passes for "Help" in Office 2016 to see whether there was some change in the behaviour of this option. However that yielded no joy since the "help" is a page with an unreadable screenshot of the options and the oh so useful information that this set is the "Editing options. Set up the way you select, replace, and format words and paragraphs."

Thinking that it may be specific to that machine (Office 2016, Windows 10) I tried on another machine (Office 2010, Windows 7) which I found also had the option turned on... and yet again, the whole word was not being automatically selected when some of its characters were.

Make no mistake, I consider this a good thing since I regard the feature as not merely useless but counter-productive; but it's a bad thing if an option does not perform "as advertised".

I can't find any relevant information about this through a conventional web search, and this thread from two years ago isn't the answer since that's describing what I know the setting used to do; the much loathed "smart" (which Microsoft uses as a euphemism for "idiotic") selection which did select the entire word.

Does anyone know whether Microsoft disabled the functionality of this option - either accidentally or by design - in the last couple of years? If it was just on one of my machines I'd think it was just my install, but two different versions on two different operating systems set me to wondering.

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Using Word 2013, this works for me as expected, but only when using the mouse:

Automatically selecting entire word

Granted, this is neither Word 2010 nor Word 2016, but I don't think they would have removed the feature only for those two versions.

You need to start selecting in the middle of a word and then drag into one direction until you reach the next word. At that point, all of the first word will automatically be selected. Maybe you confused this feature with something else?

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  • Thanks Chris; no, I haven't confused it with something else but I did miss one essential point; it only selects the whole word when you go into the following word, as your rather clever .gif illustrates. (And its "usefulness" is further illustrated by the fact that it does not select that next word until you go into the one following. So really, all it does is adjust the start point of the selection.) For some reason I had remembered it as selecting the whole word as soon as you start extending the selection, which it doesn't in 2016 at least. So yes, IMHO it is still worth turning off.
    – Alan K
    Jun 17, 2017 at 1:32

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