Multi-cursor editing in Xcode

⋅ 2 min read ⋅ Xcode Workflow

Table of Contents

What is a cursor?

A cursor is a position indicator of where we are editing our code. Typically, one cursor is all we need.

A cursor indicates that we are on line 15
A cursor indicates that we are on line 15

What is multi-cursor editing?

Multi-cursor editing is a feature that allows you to place multiple cursors in your code and edit them simultaneously.

You can edit multiple places simultaneously with multi-cursor editing
You can edit multiple places simultaneously with multi-cursor editing

How to use it?

There are a few ways to enable multi-cursor editing.

Add a cursor with a click

To add a new cursor, hold Control and SHIFT then click.

⌃ – Control + ⇧ - SHIFT + Click

Hold Shift, Control, then click to add a cursor for multi-cursor editing
Hold Shift, Control, then click to add a cursor for multi-cursor editing

Add a cursor with an arrow key

If you want to add multiple cursors at the same column, instead of wasting time aiming and clicking, you can use the arrow key to navigate. Hold ⌃ – Control and ⇧ - SHIFT then or to add cursors to the line above and below your current position. You can deselect a cursor by hit the arrow in the opposite direction.

⌃ – Control + ⇧ - SHIFT +
⌃ – Control + ⇧ - SHIFT +

Hold Shift, Control, then Up/Down arrow to add/remove a cursor for multi-cursor editing
Hold Shift, Control, then Up/Down arrow to add/remove a cursor for multi-cursor editing

Add a cursor with a drag

If you don't want to hold multiple keys at the same time, this is the method with the least keys holding. To add multiple cursor, hold Option then drag your cursor around.

⌥ – Option + Drag

Hold Option then drag to add/remove a cursor for multi-cursor editing
Hold Option then drag to add/remove a cursor for multi-cursor editing

Remove a cursor with a click

To remove a cursor, hold Control and SHIFT then click on the existing cursor. You can use this regardless of whatever method you add a cursor.

⌃ – Control + ⇧ - SHIFT + Click

Hold Shift, Control, then click on the exiting cursor to remove a cursor
Hold Shift, Control, then click on the exiting cursor to remove a cursor

Exit multi-cursor editing mode

To go back to single-cursor editing, just hit esc.

esc

Why do we need this?

If you never see this trick before, you might wonder what the benefit of editing in multiple places at the same time is. There are countless ways to use this multi-cursor editing, which you might pick up along the way. I will show some of them to get you started. After you see these examples, you might come up with the one that suits your workflow.

Initialize custom CodingKey

Let's say you have a struct that you want to have a custom coding key. Define all the key for all property in the struct is a tiring process. Multi-cursor editing can help make the process easier.

<1> First, I copy all the property in the struct. <2> Then, we paste them into the `CodingKeys` enum. <3> We use a multi-cursor to replace `let` with `case` and remove each property type. <4> After that, we exit multi-cursor mode and add a necessary change.

Change method parameter indentation style

We add cursors before each parameter with Control + SHIFT + click then add a new line to expand our parameter into multiple lines.

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Conclusion

Multi-cursor is one of my favorite features. I hope you find this trick useful and got it under your belt.


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