InDesign Won’t Let me Select Anything – Try This!

InDesign is a fantastic program. Sometimes, however, certain things stop working. The good news is there’s always a reason. In this article, we’ll look at why this happens.

Selection will be unavailable if an object is locked, the selection tool is corrupt or a key is sticking on your keyboard.

There’s never a good time to have an InDesign issue. Always when you’re about to send or show it to a client or trying to meet a deadline. Don’t stress, we’ll have it back working in no time.

Master Page Items

The most common reason for not having selection access is because we are trying to select an item that is on your master page. How you can tell is, the page on your Pages Panel has a small letter in the top corner.

Open the Pages Panel and Click on the master page in question.

If everything that was on your document page can now be seen on your master page then this is the reason why nothing can be selected.

It can easily happen, we’re working away and get distracted by a call or a person and don’t realize when we continue back working that we are still on the master page.

You can just copy everything (except actual master page items – page numbers, headers, and footers) and paste the items onto the document page.

Be sure to delete the unwanted master page items or you will end up with a shadow.

If objects are locked it could be the ‘Prevent Selection of Locked Items’ is checked in Preferences. 

Go to Preferences – General – and Uncheck this.

Then go to Objects and ‘Unlock all On Spread’. Hopefully, now all are unlocked.

Corrupt Selection Tool

Sporadically tools decide they no longer want to behave. This usually happens if an update has occurred or something out of the ordinary has happened, such as a power failure (mid update) or a power surge.

Even after 25+ years as a graphic designer, I still get nervous doing an update, that will definitely complete to 100% without a glitch.

If this is the case then you will have to reset the preferences for InDesign.

This is a Reset to Defaults solution so if you have any presets they will be lost in the process.

If needs be, save your Presets in a separate folder so you can reload them after. However, if you do reload the presets and the same error occurs it could be that your presets are corrupting your InDesign.

Restoring the preferences is done by holding down

Shift + Ctrl + ALt (Windows)

Shift + Opt + Cmd + Alt (Mac OS)

While opening InDesign.

Click Yes when prompted to delete the preferences.

Restart InDesign and hopefully your Selection Tool is back behaving itself.

Something Stuck!

This is not a common problem but certainly worth considering if you have tried all other suggestions and still have no joy.

Have you recently spilled coffee on or near your keyboard? DO you eat and work at the same time? I know I do!

This may be your problem. You may have a key stuck on your keyboard. You may not even notice as it may not be a letter key. This may be the reason you can’t select anything on the screen.

First things first, turn your keyboard off (Wireless) or plug out, if there’s a USB cable. Turn it upside down and give it a good shake. You won’t believe the trash that will fall from it. (Eww!)

Turn it back on or plug it back in and see if that has worked. If it has, I suggest you repeat the process and give it a really good clean.

If it hasn’t worked, try plugging in an alternative keyboard. If this works then your original keyboard is unfortunately Kaput! Time for a new one. It usually means dirt or liquid is somewhere you can’t reach and has damaged a chip. New keyboards are not too expensive.

Quit Everything Else

The last thing I would suggest if you think it’s not hardware-related is to quit everything. Make a note as to what you had running, with Task Manager.

Reopen InDesign and check for your glitch. If everything is working then InDesign is clashing with another program.

Try opening each previous program one by one. If one in particular causes an issue then uninstall that program and unless you really need it don’t reinstall it.

Bear in mind that it could be more than one program. So continue testing all that was open initially.

In conclusion

When something stops working there’s always an explanation. Hopefully, we got to the bottom of your problem.

Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Too much white space in InDesign file

Can InDesign run on an iPad?

InDesign hyperlinks not working

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

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