Smart Guides in PowerPoint 2010

(This post was previously published just after we first offered PowerPoint 2010. Since many, many people look up this post, we’re publishing it again so others can easily learn how to use Smart Guides to make presentations look professional.)

In PowerPoint 2010 there is a new way to align shapes we call Smart Guides.  First, a bit of background…

Aligning shapes is a very common task.  We’ve always had an array of tools to ease this process, such as those found under the Arrange button on the Home Tab:image 

These commands do the job, but they are all three clicks away.  There is also a grid on your PowerPoint slides which is spaced at 1/12 of an inch by default.  To shift a shape by one pixel with the grid enabled, you must use the nudge command (arrow keys) or hold down the Alt key to toggle the grid off while dragging the shape. 

The grid can be disabled altogether in the “Grid Settings…” dialog which is found under the “Align” menu shown above.  Just click on the “Snap objects to grid” checkbox:


You probably also noticed the “Snap to other objects” checkbox.  This functionality has been around in previous versions, and it is the basis of Smart Guides.  The main difference is that for Smart Guides we draw indicator lines when objects snap to each other.  Now that we have them, it is less likely that you’ll need the “Snap to other objects” option.

Just below the grid spacing and visibility settings, there are two checkboxes related to Guides…

The Drawing Guides are stationary, and they can be strategically placed to achieve a specific design goal (hold the Ctrl key while dragging to create a new guide).  When they are off, they will have no effect on your drawing or alignment experience.  When they are on, objects will snap to these lines when dragged within a threshold of a few pixels:

  image            image

Drawing Guides


The Grid

Smart Guides, in contrast, appear only when two or more shapes are in alignment with each other.  Best of all, there are no clicks necessary, they just show up to indicate that your shapes are in spatial agreement:


Smart Guides

They will show up when aligning shapes of various sizes and rotations, and even on custom shapes:


Now you can perform alignment on the fly. 

I first encountered this concept a few years ago while building research applications at Brown University using Microsoft Visual Studio interface editor to create .NET applications.  It’s a great feeling to know for sure that objects are on the right axis. 

We found the feeling so great in PowerPoint that we also enabled it for inserted pictures, textboxes, and media in the upcoming PowerPoint 2010 RTM release:


This is one of those features that you won’t really ever have to think about; it will just come in handy when you need it most.

-Christopher Maloney