Here is an awkward scenario.

Imagine a form field for setting who can receive an email.

The primary need is that anyone in particular job type groups can receive (Job 1, Job 2, Job 3).

However, there must be an option to select "Anyone" also. This means people NOT in groups could receive email.

The main challenge here is that we need to be able to select multiple groups, such as Job 2 & Job 3. But ALSO to allow for anyone else that is not in a group. (so excluding Job 1)

How could we possibly do this in a menu?

We tried adding an option for "unassigned" and we think this is really our only solution.

Attached are two images of the menu that we created. In the first image, we would show tags as selected...but we cannot logically allow for "anyone" AND "Job 3." This would require crazy logic to show/hide tags and would confuse the user.

So is there any other way?

enter image description here

  • So, the question is: how to check all items except the selected one?
    – Danielillo
    Mar 1, 2022 at 14:48

3 Answers 3


I would avoid using drop-down menu when you need that complicated selection. The best option imho would be a list with all possible selection and "select all" option (this would toggle all the other boxes on/off). That way you can select all items with 1st click and then deselect one item by 2nd click.

There can be also separate state for the "select all" to highlight that there was a change. This can be especially useful with longer lists where you don't see all items at once.

checkbox list


  • It is not a matter of "select all." Yes, that would be easy IF it were limited to the items in the list. "Anyone" includes, well...anyone. So those outside of the named groups too. In my images, your answer would be the second illustratio, with the indeterminate checkboxes. I think that is the way we are going to go. This morning I thought of an alternative where a checkbox "Anyone" outside the menu enables the menu to choose. That may be cleaner yet. Mocking that up soon.
    – Kenn
    Mar 1, 2022 at 14:39

In the end I took the selections out of the box and displayed as tags. Using the "Anyone" checkbox to enable/disable the select menu.

This nicely helped our developers not have to write additional queries or server-side work. Also affords me a nice type-ahead select menu. We like the solution about 85%. Some edge cases that I don't like, but I'll take it.

enter image description here


Probably too late, but I had to solve something similar a while back, maybe it can be helpful.

In my case there's a list of institutions, that have different grouping properties (level, region, territory) and there needed to be a way to select:

  • either all institutions by level;
  • OR all institutions by region;
  • OR all institutions by territory;
  • OR some of the institutions by name;
  • OR all of them

I think we did a pretty good job, by making it a modal selection with essentially 5 selection groups, one of which is a list of checkboxes.

The user essentially selects one of the radio buttons or, if they select one of the checkboxes the radio buttons clear out (see a pic below, it's not in English, but hopefully the idea is comprehensive).

Three screenshots that show three selections: option "All" selected, one of the territories selected and some of the institutions selected

In your case it could be similar:

  • Radio button "Anyone";
  • Radio button "These jobs:";
  • List of checkboxes that appear if "These jobs" is selected;

In my case I decided to make "These institutions" radio button hidden, to make it lighter, but the idea is essentially the same.

See more on Radio Buttons vs Checkboxes in this NNGroup article.

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