In Fireworks, I can hold shift to show the distance between two guides, is it possible to do so in Inkscape?
If not, what is the option left to position everything symmetrically?
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You can double-click on a guide to see its properties. There you can specify the absolute position, or a relative displacement.
Enabling guide-snapping, you may for example drop a new guide onto an existing one, double click and then move it by a precise amount.
You also have Path to guides (shift-G), which converts an object into the boundary guides.
Extensions -> custom -> custom guides may also help.