Guess what. You’re most likely moving a little mouse cursor around, selecting this link or that link (clicking anything to escape this post?), perhaps not realizing that soon, instead of a mouse cursor you’ll be using your digits or some other multi-point device.

We’ll get into that tech in future posts. For now, we’ll take a look at just how many selection options you and your little cursor friends currently have in SolidWorks. Some you probably use. Some you may yell sensibilities at.

However you use SolidWorks, you are selectin’ things with blazing speed, or would like to. Here’s all the types you can use and some tips to make your finger burn right through those mouse buttons.

Training on Selection
It may seem odd, but selecting things takes a bit of training in these big ol’ 3D CAD programs, even SolidWorks. It’s not always intuitive, but even more, people may just not know all the ways of selecting items, even basic selection. Fortunately, that’s becoming less common as, ya know, they die off and 2 year old’s that can reprogram 3D mice take over. Just sayin’.

Basic Selection Tools
Let’s start real basic and then just go insane with selection options. You should have these down or start slapping your self lightly, slowly building to a good hard punch… as I have done in the past.

Pick items, Hold Ctrl down to keep them selected. Good for selecting lines for measuring or parts to delete.

Hold Shift down to select a series of components. Good for selecting a series of items in the FeatureManager

Pick and hold down that left button while you drag a rectangle across items. Good for selecting groups of objects.

You have even more selections with the right-click menu. You need to know about them. We’ll get into them below.

Intermediate Selection Tools
Ok, that takes care of the ones everyone should know about. Here’s the next stage, a few others that are less common, but will make people wonder what the heck you are doing to select components.

Right-clickin’ Select Other
Used to select through faces behind other faces. Tip: Cycle through the selection by continuing to right-click.

Selection filters

Allows you to limit what’s selected. Tip: Take a few that you use regularly and put them on your main toolbar or use the Selection Filter Flyout.

The Real-View Glow
Show up when Real-View is on and you select something. Tip: Use in design reviews to make selection more clear.

Select through Transparency
Select behind transparent objects. Tip: Turn the option off in Options, System Options, Display/Selections. Use the Shift key to toggle this selection on when needed. Saves on memory usage.

Advanced Selection Tools
You may not now it, but there’s quit a variety of selection tools at your disposal in the Select Tool pulldown. There a bit more uncommon, but once you know about what they do, they can be really powerful. Here they are with some tips.

Volume select
Selects components inside a volume. Tip: Go normal to a plane, draw a selection box and adjust the arrow that appear. Click on the volume to select what’s inside.

Select Suppressed
Selects all the suppressed items in your model, even if you can see them. Tip: Set up a shortcut key to Unsuppress items. Use this selection and hit that key. Fast.

Select Hidden
Works the same as Select Supressed. Tip: Set up a shrtcut key to Unhide items. Use this selection and hit that key. Yes, Fast.

Select Mated To…
Select this, then a part. It selects everything mated to it. Tip: Use it to find items that would be considered interfering parts. Use a shortcut key to suppress them.

Select Internal Components
Selects all the items inside a your external part. Tip: Use to create sub-assemblies of internals or add items quickly to folders.

Select Toolbox
Selects Toolbox parts Tip: Good for finding and deleting toolbox parts… or you can use this to find toolbox parts, create hardware stack assemblies and pattern them.

Advanced Select
Allow you to set your own selection criteria. Nearly endless possibilities. Tip: Use to find items with a certain weight or display setting. Save the search and share with others.

Part Selection Tools
Here’s where it gets really interesting. As if all those selection tools were not enough, you have a load of’em when your working inside parts and assemblies. Let’s take quick look.

Select Chain
Selects a group of sketch entities. Tip: Use to quickly select and convert sketches used in top-down, sketch-driven assemblies.

Select Midpoint
Selects a midpoint on a line, curve or edge. Tip: Use to create relations or even mate to.

Select Tangent
Like Select Chain, but for model geometry. Tip: Use to quickly select and convert groups of edges.

Select Loop
Allows you the option of selecting between closed contours. Tip: Use to quickly select and convert groups of edges for faces.

Contour Select Tool
Selects closed sketch profiles. Tip: Use to select profiles when working with imported sketches.

Select Connected Faces
New in SolidWorks 2009, SP2.0 – This gives you a ton of selection options. You’ll have different options depending on your selection. Tip: Use to find Co-planer surfaces or select a group of surfaces for an offset surface.

That pretty much wraps up many of the selection options you have in SolidWorks. I hope it helps you explore the amazing world of selecting things with a cursor before we move to grabbing items with our fingertips. Beyond this, I’m sure you have some selection tips of your own. How do you use these tools? Are there any tricks you can add?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.