Size Matters: Scaling Points and Inches

Some PowerPoint measurements are in “points;” examples are text/font sizes, line widths and shadow offsets. Other measurements are in inches (shape dimensions, for example). You can’t change this (surprised?) – you can’t decide to specify line width in inches, no matter how convenient this might be.

Different Strokes

These two kinds of measurements behave differently when scaled (when you change the size of an object); basically, point measurements do not change when scaled.  I have no idea why this is the case; I reluctantly refrain from Microsoft bashing.

You can see what this means in this example:Notice that the text, line width and shadow offset do not change when the original object (a group) is resized. The effect may not bother you for small changes (unless you really want one object to look like a smaller or larger version of the original). The 50% and 25% examples show what can happen for larger changes.

To scale precisely, launch the dialog box under Size in the Format/Tools tab and set the size or percentages.


To fix the text scaling, the Text Box Autofit option to Shrink text on overflow looks promising; this is what happens for our example:

This helps the text (except when enlarging) but, of course, the other elements are not scaled.

Another approach is to convert the object to a bitmap/raster format before scaling. Use Copy and Paste Special to convert the object. This will scale all aspects of the object properly.

Here’s the result after conversion to PNG:

Obviously, the scaled version cannot be edited but it is not difficult to edit the original and convert it.

What about JPG or GIF?  Here are those conversions (a red line is shown behind each converted object):

comparison of png, jpg, gif

First, JPG doesn’t support transparency so there is always a white (or other) box around the object – this creates layout problems because a JPG will obscure other objects (see the red line above).

Although GIFs support transparency, the PowerPoint conversion is flaky – note that the red line is not visible through the semitransparent shadow and there is a white “halo” around the object.

What’s wrong with editing the scaled object to change the line width, etc.? Nothing except time.  I just finished a presentation that had about 25 icons (PowerPoint objects) that had to appear in two sizes. Converting to PNG saved a lot of time, even with some re-edits.

Zoom, zoom

Both inch-measured and point-measured attributes scale properly when the object changes size when animated.  However, there are other problems.  This will be the subject of another post.


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