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.

9 Answers 9


Indeed Alt-click is 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 object's size, selecting with a zone, like :

    select by zone

  1. 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 that I don't struggle anymore to select objects – I'm tabbing.

  2. 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.

  • 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
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 12:43
  • 1
    No it doesn't - although for complex arrangements, you ought to use groups and layers !
    – Drasill
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 14:00
  • I would suggest fixing your window manager configuration if it's eating Alt+mouse click because surprisingly many apps have something binded to that combination. I prefer moving all window manager mouse actions to Super key. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 14:26

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. :)

  • And a more generic version of this is Shift-Arrow. E.g., select obscuring rectangle, hit Shift-RightArrow until it's out of the way, so whatever (more than just selecting OK, since not relying on undo), then Shift-LeftArrow to move it back. The stepping of the movement is so large, it's pretty obvious when it's back exactly where it started.
    – Ron Burk
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 8:03

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.

I'm using Ubuntu and I select beneath using Shift + Alt + click.

Or instead of clicking, you can scroll mouse-wheel to cycle select. That is, Shift + Alt + scroll wheel. Which is faster and practical, as it can be done in both senses: forward and backward.

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 - http://www.inkscapeforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11886


I use Ubuntu and my solution is hitting Ctrl+Alt+Click to select the object beneath. You may need to click a couple of times to select the exact item you'd like.

  • 3
    Welcome to Graphic Design SE and thanks for your answer. Are you sure that you need Ctrl for this? For me, just Alt + Click works fine.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Oct 8, 2016 at 18:07
  • I checked that and it did not work.
    – user212714
    Commented Oct 23, 2016 at 5:30
  • I too need to use both ctrl and alt together with l.mouse (or shift+alt+l.mouse) to select anything underneath. alt alone doesn't do it for me. Ubuntu 16.04, Inkspace 0.91 Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 15:54
  • This works perfectly on Windows too
    – Ajay
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 2:15

Alternate answer to an old question: use layers !

Whenever I end up to be bothered with stacked objects that I cannot select easily, it implies that my drawing is too complex to be done on a single layer. Thus the solution is to create multiple layers. Selecting underneath object is just a matter of hiding the above layers.

Actually this solution is far superior to other ones, because this solves all further selection problems that are doomed to appear. You can simply work on objects on one layer, without being bothered with objects from all other layers.

And an additional benefit is that you are sure that all your objects stay at the level they are supposed to be. You do not have to fiddle too much whith the individual level of each object: just set in which order you layers are meant to be stacked, and move your objects to the appropriate layer.


Use the object window and select it. Object->objects. It's the most underrated and unseen feature in inkscape. This should be visible per default.

  • As @"El Hocko" says it's more ease use the object windows and rename the object to you to know which object you need to select to transform o wherever you need, in deed it's the best alternative !
    – denn0n
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 21:40

I had the same problem and in Mac. I could find a solution:

Go to XQuartz (general menu up left) > Preferences > Input > "Option keys send Alt_L and Alt_R"

With that, Alt + click will select the top object. The second click will select the object behind and so on.

If you have a Mac Mouse (Magic Mouse) it also works: alt + finger up and down to the surface (that's the equivalent of the scroll wheel in other mouses)


Alt + Click works for me in Linux Ubuntu. You need to keep the Alt key down if to drag the object.

  • 1
    I suspect it depends very much on your window manager on Linux. Traditionally, the default behavior for alt+drag is to move the window itself. Maybe Ubuntu changed that default behavior now to accommodate Windows users more?
    – Christian
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 11:30

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