Introducing Object Selection

3ds Max is an object-oriented program. This means that each object in the 3D scene carries instructions that tell 3ds Max what you can do with it. These instructions vary with the type of object. Because each object can respond to a different set of commands, you apply commands by first selecting the object and then selecting the command. This is known as a noun-verb interface, because you first select the object (the noun) and then select the command (the verb).

Identifying the Selection Interface

In the user interface, selection commands or functions appear in the following areas:

The buttons on the main toolbar provide a direct means of selection. The Select From Scene dialog is easy to use, while the Edit menu provides more general selection commands, plus methods of selecting objects by property. Perhaps the most powerful selection tool is Scene Explorer, which lets you select objects by various methods, and also edit object hierarchies and properties. Track View and Schematic View let you select objects from a hierarchical list.

Selecting From the Quad Menu

The quickest way to select an object is from the Transform quadrant of the quad menu, where you can easily switch among the Move, Rotate, Scale, and Select modes. Choose any of these and click the object you want to select in the viewport.

Selecting by Name

Another quick way to select an object is to use the keyboard shortcut for the Select By Name command. Press H on the keyboard to open the Select From Scene dialog and then select the object by name from the list. This is a foolproof way to ensure you select the correct object when the scene contains many overlapping objects.

Selection Buttons

Another way to select an object is to click one of these buttons, and then click the object.

Select Object

Select by Name

Select And Move

Select And Rotate

Select And Scale

Select And Manipulate

The main toolbar has several selection-mode buttons. When any of the selection buttons is active, 3ds Max is in a state where you can select objects by clicking them.

Of the selection buttons, you use Select Object when you want selection only. The remaining buttons let you both select and transform or manipulate your selection. Use transforms to move, rotate, and scale your selection. See Moving, Rotating, and Scaling Objects and Select and Manipulate.

Crossing Versus Window Selection

One way to select multiple objects simultaneously is to drag a region, such as a rectangle, around them. The main toolbar Window/Crossing toggle switches between Window and Crossing modes when you select by region. In Window mode, you select only the objects within the selection. In Crossing mode, you select all objects within the region, plus any objects crossing the boundaries of the region.

Above: Window selection selects the trash can and bench, but not the streetlight.

Below: Crossing selection selects all three: trash can, bench, and streetlight.

Edit Menu Commands

The Edit menu contains selection commands that operate globally on your objects.

Edit menu selection commands include:

Select All

Select None

Select Invert

Select Similar

Select By > Color

Select By > Name (also a toolbar button)

Select By > Layer

Selection Region > Rectangular Region

Selection Region > Circular Region

Selection Region > Fence Region

Selection Region > Lasso Region

Selection Region > Paint Selection Region

Selection Region > Window (also a toolbar button)

Selection Region > Crossing (also a toolbar button)

Edit Named Selection Sets

Tools Menu Commands

The Tools menu provides the Scene Explorer commands as well as access to modeless selection dialogs or "floaters." You can place them anywhere on the screen, or minimize them by right-clicking the title bar and choosing Minimize:

Scene Explorer

Scene Explorer gives you a modeless dialog for selecting and linking objects as well as changing object properties such as the name and display characteristics. You can manipulate hierarchical relationships via drag-and-drop techniques, and use various search methods including a powerful Boolean editor to fine-tune your selection. You can also edit properties for multiple objects at once simply by selecting them and then changing one of them.

Track/Schematic View Selection

Track View is primarily designed as an animation tool, but you can also use its Hierarchy List window as an alternative method of selecting objects by name and hierarchy. This works in both the Curve Editor and Dope Sheet modes of Track View.

Schematic View is specifically designed to let you navigate your scene efficiently, presenting a hierarchical view and letting you select objects and their properties by name.

Display Panel Selection

The Display panel provides options for hiding and freezing objects. These techniques exclude objects from other selection methods, and are useful in simplifying complex scenes. Frozen objects are still visible, but hidden objects are not.