I’d like to take just a few minutes to introduce you to a really useful little set of commands in PowerPoint that you may have overlooked in the past: the alignment commands. These are located on the Home tab, in the Drawing section, under the Arrange button.
The image to the left displays the list of commands you’ll see when you click the Arrange button. The first four commands, under the Order Objects heading, control the stack order of the elements on the slide. My guess is that if you’ve spent any time at all with PowerPoint, you’re already familiar with these four commands. Bring Forward and Send Backward increase or decrease respectively an element’s position in the stack by one, while Bring to Front or Send to Back move the object all the way to the top or bottom of the stack. But you knew that already.
Sidebar: Did you further know you can use the Selection Pane… command to open a pane that will let you edit the stack order manually? Give it a try sometime.
The next three commands, under the Group Objects heading, I assume you know as well. Group, Ungroup, and Regroup allow you to create collections of objects that will behave as one object until released.
It’s the next command I’d like to tell you about today. Under the Position Objects heading is a command called Align which has a fly out menu with several options in it, which you can see to the right.
These commands allow you to fine tune the positioning of anything on the slide. The first three commands control horizontal (left and right) alignment, and the following three control the vertical (up and down). This positioning is dynamic, meaning that it changes based on how many objects are selected. If only one object is selected, the object will be aligned to the slide. If two or more objects are selected the objects will be positioned relative to each other.
For example, if only one object is selected when you choose the Align Left command, the left-hand side of the selected object will be moved into alignment with the left-hand side of the slide. If two or more objects are selected when you choose Align Left, then the left-hand side of all the objects will be aligned with the left-hand side of the left-most object. If you want to override this default change in behavior at any time, you can do so by toggling the check box on the menu from Align to Slide to Align Selected Objects, or vice versa.
Align Left, Align Center, and Align Right will only change objects’ horizontal positions. It will not move them up or down at all. Similarly Align Top, Align Middle, and Align Bottom, will only change vertical positons. So if your goal was to have two objects line up right on top of each other, you’d have to choose two commands, Align Center followed by Align Middle or vice-versa.
The next two commands, Distribute Horizontally and Distribute Vertically, allow you to space objects evenly between to points. For instance, when you choose Distribute Horizontally, the left-most and right-most objects will not be effected, and the rest of the selected objects will be spaced evenly between the two. These commands only work when three or more objects are selected.
Aligning or Distributing Groups
The alignment commands also work on groups. Suppose you have your objects just the way you want them, but they’re slightly off center. Rather than trying to move them each over a few nudges at a time, you could create a group out of all the objects, align the whole group to the center, then release the group with the Ungroup command.
Alignment is one of the easiest ways to sharpen up the look of your slides. Take some time to experiment with the Align menu and learn how it’s commands behave in various situations. Of course you could always align objects by hand, nudging and positioning things until you have it just right, but learning to use the align tools can be a real time saving trick.