Fan of creative technology, elearning, instructional design and a little geeky

Temporary Access to Selection Tools

Digitip 068 – Adobe InDesign CS3

Ok, not really an extensive tip… more an observation and question – at the end – with some tip elements in it that I thought I’d share.

Pressing the Command (Mac) or Ctrl (Win) key whilst you are working with another tool in InDesign will give you temporary access to either the Selection or Direct Selection tool.

As far as I can tell all tools except the Pen tool, Pencil tool and Scissors tool default to temporary access of whichever selection tool was last used.  The Pen, Pencil and Scissors tools default to temporary Direct Selection tool access when pressing the Command/Ctrl key.

The Note tool, seems to have a mind of its own… Visually it appears to become the Type tool, yet it is a Type tool that behaves like either the Direct Selection tool or the Selection tool.  Ive been trying to figure out whether there would be a reason for this, but have come up with nothing… Maybe it’s a reminder that Notes can only be inserted inside Text frames and viewed in the Story Editor?

Getting to the right selection tool on Mac OS

So what happens if the temporary selection tool that becomes active when pressing Command or Ctrl is not the one you were after? Hmmm… well if you’re working on a Mac, press Command+Ctrl, then whilst holding down these keys click the Tab-key once.  This toggles between the two selection tools whilst your current tool remains the active tool in the Tools panel.

Getting to the right selection tool on Win

So how can we get this temporary access to either selection tool working on Win?  Ctrl+Tab should toggle between Selection and Direct Selection tool when the tool is selected according to Help Viewer. On my Dell laptop, running Vista Ultimate I can’t even get that working, even after resetting my InDesign preferences.. So I’m a bit at a loss on this one…

Naturally we can still press V or A to select our “pointy”-tools in the Tools panel, but that’s not temporary access. And to enable use of such shortcuts in all situations, we could add a Contextual Text shortcut, or set these two shortcuts to another Default shortcut that enables usage when our cursor is flashing inside a text frame

Also if the temporary selection tool that appears is the Direct Selection tool, then you could still select and move the entire path by pressing Command+Option or Ctrl+Alt. This will give temporary access to the Group Selection tool (white pointer with +). Click on the path to select, then start dragging to move the selected path. Release the Option/Alt key if you don’t want to make a copy though 🙂

The question

I’m really hoping that someone out there has figured this one out and I’ll gladly update this post with the solution. The question is “How can I toggle between Selection and Direct Selection tool when I have temporary access to either, when holding down my Ctrl key on the keyboard whilst in another active tool on Windows XP or Vista?”

How about Illustrator?

Out of curiosity, I thought I’d see how Illustrator compared…

On the Mac things are different for temporary toggling: Press Command+Alt, then Tab. Release the Alt-key if you need temporary access to Direct Selection Tool not Group Selection Tool. Or if you are moving an object and don’t want to copy things.

On Win?  Once again, I have no idea 🙁

Pressing the Command or Ctrl keys when you have either selection tool selected is a temporary toggle to the other selection tool, this doesn’t work in InDesign b.t.w.

Dear Adobe,

It would be super cool, if the behaviour of the selection tools across Adobe applications could be similar.

Yours Truly,


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