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Align to Slide vs. Align Objects

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Double Your Productivity with the Alignment Tool

You have two options to choose from when using the Alignment Tool in PowerPoint: ‘Align Selected Objects’ and ‘Align to Slide’.

If you don’t know how these options work (and affect the alignment of your objects) you will either misuse the Alignment Tool or wrongly conclude that it’s useless.

To see me answer this question live, watch the short video explanation below; or you can scroll down the page for a quick summary.

The Alignment Tool is one of the secrets to doubling (maybe even tripling) your productivity at PowerPoint as I show you how to do in my PowerPoint Crash Course.

You will find both the Align to Slide and the Align Selected Objects commands at the bottom of the Alignment Tool dropdown menu (Home tab, Arrange, Align) as pictured below.

If someone tells you that the Alignment Tool doesn’t work, it means they don’t fully understand how to best use and leverage these options a I explain below.

#1. Align Selected Objects

‘Align Selected Objects’ means that your objects will be aligned and positioned based on the objects you currently have selected in PowerPoint.

For example, if you have three objects selected and align them to the top, the two lower ones will move to meet to the other and topmost selected object on the slide (the black object in this example), as pictured blow.

In this case, your topmost selected object is deemed the anchor object that the other two objects align themselves to.

The same is true if you select three objects and distribute horizontally. In this case, your leftmost and rightmost objects will be considered to be the anchors that your third (middle object) positions itself between.

In this way, you can quickly build your slides using the concept of relative alignment positioning that I discuss in depth in my PowerPoint Crash Course.

NOTE: If you only select one object (or one set of grouped objects) on your slide and use any of the alignment options, your slide’s edges will be used as the anchor shape that your object aligns itself to. This is similar to using the Align to Slide option we’ll discuss next.

As 90% of the alignments and distributions you perform in PowerPoint will be based on your selected objects, I recommend always keeping the ‘Align Selected Objects’ selected as your default option.


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#2. Align to Slide

The second option for the Alignment Tool is Align to Slide.

When this option is selected, the top, bottom, left and right sides of your slide are used as the anchors that all your selected objects align themselves to.

For example, if you select three objects on your slide and Distribute Horizontally, your objects will be evenly spaced out between the right and left sides of your slide.

It works the same for all the other alignments and distributions and is a fast and easy way to perfectly distribute your objects across your slide.


Now that you know the two options for aligning objects in PowerPoint, if you ever find the Alignment Tool doesn’t work the way you expected, you can double check that you have right option selected.

It is quite common for people to give up on the Alignment Tool without knowing that it’s just an easy fix away… but now you’re not those people!

To see me demonstrate how this works live, watch the video at the top of this page. Then in the next article, I’ll show you how you can improve the way you navigate your PowerPoint Ribbon with your arrow keys.

Up Next …

In the next lesson we’ll look at Navigating the Ribbon with your Arrow Keys

Taylor Croonquist
I’ve had millions of dollars of funding riding on PowerPoint pitch books and proposals that needed to be perfect, and I was sick of working on them until 3AM in the morning only to have a boss or client decide to change 90% of it when they reviewed it the next morning. So I geeked out on PowerPoint: I joined groups, bought books, went to conferences and worked backwards through everything I thought I knew. I took the most time intensive tasks that waste your time and figured out how to get PowerPoint to do them for you. After more than a decade of pursuing PowerPoint proficiency, I’m excited to teach it to you!
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