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PowerPoint grid layouts

Give your slides balance and symmetry by snapping to a grid

It can be difficult to position items in exactly the right place on Microsoft PowerPoint slides. That's where a layout grid can help. It can give you the same kind of elements in the same position on each slide, resulting in a professional, polished set of slides. Symmetry and balance are the aims here.

PowerPoint's preset grid is selected from the View | Grid and Guides window; you can specify the size of the grid squares, and usefully you can also select the Snap-to option. This aligns objects to the nearest intersection of the grid (or to another object) as you draw or move. The snap-to option is turned on by default and works even when the grid is not visible.

PowerPoint 2000 doesn't have the grid option, but there are a couple of ways around this. For starters, you can set up multiple guide lines to create a grid (see below). Or, if you want a bit more precision, you could draw your very own grid.

Customise and snap

Go the slide master (View | Master | Slide Master) and use the Line tool on the Drawing toolbar. Draw a line, position it, press Ctrl-D to duplicate it, drag the new line to its position, continue until you have your customised grid. The Rectangle tool is also handy, for instance to create a border frame around the edge of the slide so that you don't place anything too close to the edge. Select all the lines and the rectangle and group them.

Now you can leave the slide master and return to your presentation; the custom grid will be visible on all your slides. Use it to do your layouts. And when you're finished, just go back to the slide master and delete the grid.

Avoid using the Snap object to grid option for PowerPoint drawings, though. It's handy when you need to line things up precisely, but occasionally it can be a disadvantage if you need two drawn objects to touch without overlapping. The snap-to feature means you'll probably find it difficult (maybe impossible) to get the lines to merge exactly.

So turn it off temporarily - hold down the Alt key while you move one object near to another. Release the Alt key and you've restored the snap-to.


PowerPoint can also display guides, effectively a user-defined grid which provides a less cluttered design display. Choose View | Guides (in PowerPoint 2000 and 97) or View | Grid and Guides (in PowerPoint 2002 and 2003). Select Display drawing guides on screen to see the guides on your slide. Now you can move the existing guides around the screen by clicking on the dashed line and holding down the left mouse button while you move it to a new position.

To add additional guides, hold down Ctrl while clicking on an existing guide and start dragging a copy of the guide - you'll see the distance between guides being displayed as you drag, so you can set them up evenly. In total you can have up to eight vertical and eight horizontal guides.

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