Do you notice that any object you move, resize, or align in PowerPoint 2016 actually helps make your task easy! Move it a little closer, resize a wee bit, or even try spacing slide objects and the screen shows all sorts of helpful indicators in the form of dotted lines, as shown in Figure 1, below.
Figure 1: Smart guides appear while repositioning
The red, dotted lines that show up and then disappear are Smart Guides. These made their debut in PowerPoint 2010 and allowed you to position objects easily. More improvements were added in PowerPoint 2013 that enabled you to see how much further you need to drag, so that one object on the slide is as wide as another adjacent object. In fact, you can also evenly space out objects without accessing any Ribbon tabs or typing a number within a dialog box!
By default, these Smart Guides are turned on, but just in case you don't find these working for you (you may have turned them off inadvertently), follow these steps to turn them on again. Incidentally, you follow the same steps to turn them off. Just deselect the options that enabled them.
- Launch PowerPoint 2016, access the View tab of the Ribbon. Then, within the Show group, click the Dialog Launcher button (highlighted in red within Figure 2).
Figure 2: Dialog launcher
- This brings up the Grid and Guides dialog box, as shown in Figure 3. Within this dialog box, make sure that you select the Display smart guides when shapes are aligned check-box, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 3. When done, click the OK button.
Figure 3: Grid and Guides dialog box
- Alternatively, right-click on an empty area of the blank slide to bring up a contextual menu, as shown in Figure 4. Within the contextual menu select the Grid and Guides option to bring up another sub-menu as shown in Figure 4. Within this sub-menu, the Smart Guides option may or may not be selected. This selection is indicated by a check mark in front of the option (highlighted in red within Figure 4). If there's no check mark visible, click once to turn on this option.
Figure 4: Select the Grid and Guides | Smart Guides option
Once you turn on these options, your Smart Guides start helping you reposition, resize, and align/distribute. Let's start with the shapes you see in Figure 5. We will manipulate these shapes to show you how various options influenced by Smart Guides work.
Figure 5: Two shapes on the slide
See the example shown in Figure 5 above, what if you have to reposition so that the top of both the squares match?
To do that, drag the small square upwards until you see the Smart guides (red, dashed lines). In Figure 6 you can see that the Smart Guides have appeared once the top positions match.
Figure 6: Repositioning the shapes
Resize with Smart Guides
Smart Guides can help you resize your shapes as well, let us continue with the example shown in Figure 6, above.
- Select the smaller square so that you can see the selection handles, as shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7: Square with several handles
- Now select the bottom left white handle (highlighted in red within Figure 7, above). Hold down the Shift key, and drag it downwards. As soon as the smaller shape is resized to match the size of the adjoining shape, you’ll see that the Smart Guides make an appearance (see Figure 8, below)! Since both our shapes were already top-aligned, dragging downwards was all we needed to do to attain the same size for both shapes. If your shapes are not top-aligned, you may have to drag and resize from upwards as well.
Figure 8: Resizing shapes is a snap
In our example shown in Figure 8 both shapes ended up with a similar width as well when we matched the height by resizing. That happened because our original shapes were squares with the same height:width ratios. If you work with adjacent shapes that are different, such as a rectangle and a square, or even a rectangle and an oval, then you will end up with similar heights only at the end of such resizing.
Align / Distribute
In the preceding sections, you learned how to reposition and resize shapes. Such resizing even aligns the top and bottom (or even the left and right) edges of your shapes. Other than direct alignment, you can also use Smart Guides to influence consistent distribution (spacing) between shapes. However, for distribution to work, you need at least three or more shapes.
When you try to space 3 or more shapes to be equally apart, small arrows will appear to indicate when the spacing is identical, as shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9: Shapes distributed accurately
Using Smart Guides is a matter or practice. The more you use them, the more intuitive you will feel working with them. Remember that you will feel the "snap" when shapes resize, position, or align identically to adjacent shapes.