How to unselect items within a rectangular or freehand area? Shift doesn't do it.

Using the shift key seems to toggle selection rather than unselect. I want everything within the specified area to be unselected.

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  • Correct.
    If you enclose a selected object with the marquee while holding Shift it will be unselected, and vice versa, so doing what you are trying to do can sometimes be a bit tricky.

    There are a couple of things you can try when selecting:
    1. Do you know that there is a Freehand Pick mode hidden under the arrow at the Pick tool icon?
    2. If you press Alt while dragging with the Pick tool or Freehand Pick tool, every object that you touch (no need to fully enclose with the marquee) will be selected, or unselected.