PowerPoint Secrets: My Tools

tools bannerAs a result of years working with PowerPoint, I have some favorite tools and methods that may be useful to you, too.

In versions of PowerPoint that implement the “ribbon,” a “quick access toolbar” is also provided; this remains on the screen regardless of which “tab” is active. The value of this is that you can select a set of commands that is always available, always in the same position, regardless of PowerPoint’s muddling around switching tabs trying to guess what you want to do next.

You can select commands using the pull-down at the right side of the toolbar and clicking on More Commands.

What you select for your toolbar depends on your habits and what you do with PowerPoint. In this post, I’ll tell you what’s on my toolbar and why; you can go from there.

(By the way, my choices are partly determined by the fact that I don’t have the memory or the coordination to make keyboard shortcuts work. Besides, with PowerPoint, my hand is almost always on the mouse.)

So, here’s the list:

  • Undo, Redo. Obvious unless you never make mistakes. Undo is probably already on the toolbar.
  • Copy, Paste. Again, obvious. These tools are on a couple of the tabs but not in the same location on each tab. I don’t seem to use Cut that much but you may want it on the toolbar.

By the way, why doesn’t PowerPoint have a delete tool?? I think there used to be an “Erase” but I can’t find it now.

  • Group, Ungroup, Regroup. These seem to be essential for the kind of work I do which involves a lot of drawing. Leaving the components that make up an object ungrouped is asking for trouble. Also, I tend to use groups of groups and, given the way PowerPoint grouping works, I often have to ungroup to edit a component.
  • Bring to Front, Send to Back. I use these to manage the layering of objects on the slide. If the layering is the least bit complicated, I use the Select Pane (see below).
  • Duplicate. For consistency and appearance, I create a lot of similar objects. Duplicating an object to help create a similar object seems natural. Also, using duplicate several times can create a series of objects with equal spacing (see this post for more).
  • Duplicate Slide.  When I working on a complicated slide, I often duplicate a version of the slide as a backup; that is, if I screw up the next step I can always go back.
  • Format Painter. Again, this useful in creating similar objects.

There appears to be space for about 14 icons in the “quick access toolbar.” I have suggested 12 above so you can add a couple more. Or you can just ignore my suggestions.

PowerPoint also provides a number of persistent “panes;” these are toolsets that, once evoked, stay available on the desk top.

I usually use two monitors: the Normal view is on one and the other is used for the “panes” below. This is not quite as convenient on a single monitor.

  • Format… pane.  This pane collects in one place all the tools used for fills/outlines, object and text effects, size/rotation, etc. Having the pane open avoids some of the clicks and scans it takes to find these functions in the ribbon tabs. You can evoke this pane by right-clicking on an object and selecting Format… or by clicking on the Drawing Tools tab. The pane will change based on the type of object selected. When a object includes text, be careful that you pick the appropriate toolset (Shape Options or Text Options).
  • Selection and Visibility pane. I lauded the virtues of this pane in a previous post. Briefly, it lets you control the layering and grouping of objects on a slide directly. You can also name objects (!) and make them disappear temporarily so you can work efficiently on complex slides.
  • Animation pane. Set effect parameters, sequence, timing, overlaps, etc. using this pane. Indispensable except for all but the simplest animations.

I usually have an Explorer window open on the second monitor, too. Did you know you can drag images directly from the Explorer window onto your slide? Fascinating.


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