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Shift Into Control

Here’s a weird thing that almost cost one of my clients a lot of work.

She had just started typing Chapter 5 of her latest novel and looked up from her keyboard to find that the only thing on her screen was the last sentence she had typed. Chapters 1 through 4 had disappeared.

If my assessment of what happened is what actually happened, this could easily happen to any of us.

I believe that the last sentence she typed started with a capital “A.” Instead of pressing the “Shift” key and then the letter “A,” she inadvertently pressed the “Control” (Ctrl) key — which is right below the Shift” key on Windows keyboards  — and the letter “A.” Rather than getting a capital A, she selected all the text in the document; “Control” plus the letter “A” is the keyboard shortcut for “Select All.”

If she did select all the text, whatever she typed next replaced everything that was selected. In this case, her whole document!

Fortunately, this is reversible if you recognize what happened right away. Click  “Undo” to undo the last action and keep clicking “Undo” until you walk back your steps to the step before you selected all of your text. Then re-type the sentence you meant to type, starting with a real capital “A.”

Unfortunately, my client didn’t know to do this. She panicked at the thought of having lost her work and thought if she closed the document and re-opened it, the previous version would re-appear. And it would have, if she had clicked “No” when asked if she wanted to save the changes. But she clicked “Yes” — telling the computer to save the most recent actions — and the first four chapters were gone.

Fortunately, she had dutifully backed up her file and was able to find the latest backed-up version and add back the newest changes. Phew!

I never realized how the proximity of the “Shift” and “Control” keys could so easily cause such a drastic consequence. I guess you need to keep one eye on the keyboard and one eye on the screen at all times. Good luck with that!