PowerPoint Secrets: 5 Power Tips


Here, for your edification and delight, are five tips that may (or may not) make it easier to create genius-level PowerPoint.


To create a number of similar objects with the same properties (fill, text, animation, etc.), duplicate the first one and then edit the duplicate as needed. Of course, you can use Copy and Paste but Duplicate is a single click. You can also create a duplicate by clicking and dragging the object while holding down the Ctrl key.

I also use Duplicate Slide when creating a series of similar slides. I often do this when developing a story one step at a time (“chunking” – a good practice).

I find these both so useful that I put them in my Quick Access Toolbar.

Incidentally, I am not a fan of keyboard shortcuts; my brain, such as it is, doesn’t work that way.

Duplicate has a bonus feature; it can be used to create a series of equally spaced, aligned objects:

  • Duplicate the original object.
  • Without deselecting, adjust the duplicate to a desired spacing or position.
  • Again, without deselecting, duplicate the duplicate – it will appear in the same relative position.
  • Without deselecting, continue duplicating. Here’s a sketch:



Using the Shift and Ctrl keys makes it easier to draw and resize shapes.

To create a circle, rather than an oval, hold down Shift while drawing an Oval. For a square, hold down Shift while drawing a Rectangle.  Using Shift while drawing most shapes will create a shape with equal height and width.

Holding down Shift while dragging a corner handle will preserve the proportions (aspect ratio) of the shape as you change its size. So, you can create and resize a circle (square, etc.) by using Shift.

If you hold down Ctrl while creating a shape, the shape will grow around its center.  Dragging a corner handle while holding down Ctrl will cause the shape to grow or shrink around its center.

So, holding down Shift and Ctrl will allow you to re-size a shape in place while maintaining its aspect ratio so you don’t have to reposition the object after changing its size. This is handier than it sounds; here’s the difference:

ctrl shft

Shift is useful when drawing lines; holding down Shift restrains the line to horizontal, vertical or diagonal (45 degrees).

Drawing Guides

Drawing guides allow you to easily align, position or center objects on a slide.  If you check Display drawing guides in the Grid and Guides pane, the drawing guides show up on the slide as dotted horizontal and vertical lines (check the usual sources for your version of PowerPoint to find this pane).  The centers or edges of objects will “snap to” the guides.

To override the snapping behavior, hold down Alt while moving objects.

You can move the guides by clicking and dragging; holding down Ctrl will create another guide.  You will probably use several guides in laying out your slides.

There is a more complete discussion of drawing guides in my brilliant post on alignment.

Size Pane

I use the Size and Position pane when I want to precisely control size, rotation and/or aspect ratio; for example, to make one object twice as big as another. Here’s what it looks like:


As you can see, you can set height, width and rotation directly, or you can resize by locking the aspect ratio and using percentages.

(The grayed out stuff is for pictures. I haven’t found a use for the Position or Alt Text tabs.)

To find this pane, check the usual sources for your version of PowerPoint.

Selection Pane

For slides with a lot of overlapping objects or complex animations, the Selection and Visibility Pane is invaluable; here’s what it looks like:


The selection pane lists all the objects on the slide and shows group relationships by indentation. Here are some of the things you can do in the selection pane:

  • Select objects by clicking on the object in the list.
  • Assign meaningful names (!!!) to objects (e.g. “gadget box – blue” rather than “Rectangle 91.” Highlight the name in the list and start typing.  Since these names will also show up on the Custom Animation pane, they are a great help in designing complex animations.
  • Temporarily hide objects – this makes it easy to select objects on a slide that may be “behind” other objects.
  • Change the front to back order of objects directly; that is, determine what objects are in front or behind other objects.

Unfortunately, the automatically assigned object names (e.g., “Oval 1”) are not always unique; take care that you are operating on the intended object.

My post on stacking/unstacking objects demonstrates how the selection pane can help with a complex animation with a large number of objects.

If you have questions or ideas for additional topics, please use the form below:

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