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A common problem in Inkscape is that you want to select an object but another object always gets in the way because it completely obstructs the background object or because the two are too close together.

Well Inkscape has the alt+click for this case. Unfortunately it about only works on Windows.

There are solutions for Linux and Mac OS but at least for me nothing works. I decided to share my workaround here in a Q&A format, mainly because the Inkscape people broke their wiki (yeah, mail to the list to get an account for just one change, as if anybody would) but also because then others can share their maybe better solutions, too.

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

Indeed Alt-click in often used by the Window Manager.

So as a workaround, I often use one of these method :

1) The method described by Christian (move, select, undo)

2) Depending on the objects size, selecting with a zone, like :

select by zone

3) Or the one I use the most, it's "Tab" to go through the objects. This may seem long & difficult, but as

  • Objects are often created in order, so selecting the object in front then "Tab" often works
  • I use Groups a lot, so, for the figure above, 1) select both objects 2) Press Ctrl-G to group them 3) Double click on the group 4) Press Tab once or twice 5) Press Ctrl-Backspace to get out of the group.

Groups are so useful, than I don't struggle anymore to select objects - I'm tabbing.

4) New: since Inkscape 0.91, it seems there is a new method to select objects with Alt+Mouse, as stated in the changelog :

It is now easier to select items which are not at the top of the Z-order: use Alt+mouse wheel scroll to cycle through all items that are stacked on top of each other at the location of the mouse pointer (use Shift+Alt+mouse wheel scroll to add to the existing selection). At present, groups are not honoured, i.e., only individual items within groups are considered.

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Good point, I also use the region selection of course but I didn't think of mentioning it. It's impractical with complex arrangements though. I didn't even know the Tab thing, thanks a lot! It doesn't help with selecting more than one object though, to group them in the first place, or does it? – Christian Dec 12 '12 at 12:43
No it doesn't - although for complex arrangements, you ought to use groups and layers ! – Drasill Dec 13 '12 at 14:00

There's a great workaround that is actually quite nice to use and might even be useful with a working alt+click: you move an object out of the way, select the object underneath, then hit ctrl+z for undo and the object moves back in place but the selection is not affected at all.

So to select the red circle under the blue rectangle

initial situation

move the rectangle somewhere where it can't bother anyone

move the rectangle

select the circle

select the circle

and hit undo to get your selected circle.

move the rectangle back with undo

Tada! This of course also works with much more complicated constellations where alt+click is not a good option.

Probably this workflow was intended by the Inkscape developers but I never found it anywhere and I found out really late so I used some of the time I saved to share this insight. If it's not news for you, well good for you. In any other case, I hope it helps :)

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The XML editor is a good way to select any object, because it shows the full object hierarchy of the document.

  1. Show the XML editor ("Edit → XML Editor…" in the menu).
  2. Open one of the layer nodes (<svg:g id="layer…" …>).
  3. Open zero or more of the group nodes below it, as required (<svg:g id="g…">).
  4. Select an object or group inside this layer / group node.
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I'm using Ubuntu and I select beneath using Shift + Alt + click.

The shift adds the object you're targeting to the current selection so another click on the item you don't want deselects and leaves you with your intended item.

So using Christian's shapes I'd select the rectangle, Shift + Alt select the circle and then Shift select the rectangle. Result would be a selected circle.

Ok, its too many clicks for something that should just work but I think this is the quickest and simplest solution.

I may have discovered this intuitively but I've also got this bookmarked -

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