Do you notice that any object you move, resize, or align in PowerPoint 2013 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 are essentially Smart Guides -- these made their debut in PowerPoint 2010 and allowed you to position objects easily -- now in PowerPoint 2013, they are a whole lot smarter and even let you see how much further you need to drag so that one object on the slide is as wide as another. 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 reverse the same steps to turn them off:
- Launch PowerPoint 2013, access the View tab of the Ribbon, and 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, note that the Grid and Guides | Smart Guides option may or may not be selected -- this 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 the 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
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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
Align / Distribute
In the preceding section you learnt how to reposition and resize the shapes -- this actually 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 they will feel. Remember that you will feel the "snap" when shapes resize, position, or align identically to adjacent shapes.