5 PowerPoint Shortcuts Every Designer Should Know

This may come to you as a surprise, but good design doesn’t just come from having a good eye. Nowadays, to be a good designer, you need to have an absolute mastery of the digital tools you use.

That means that if you create presentations for clients - you NEED to understand PowerPoint.

And I don’t mean on a basic level (“oh yeah, I used PowerPoint in college…” or “I’m better than my clients are”).

I mean on the real deal mastery level!

PowerPoint seems like an intuitive program - and it is - but there’s a lot of features packed under the hood that can not only throw you for a loop (think broken templates) but can also waste a huge amount of your time (think days).

To make sure that you’re not designing presentations by wasting your time in PowerPoint, here are the 5 PowerPoint shortcuts* every designer needs to know.

*I’m omitting the truly basic ones that work across all of your applications, like copy/paste and save.

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Key PowerPoint Shortcut #1 - The Alignment Tool

This is the very most important shortcut because making sure shapes, text and pictures are in perfect alignment on your slides is of utmost importance.

Nothing screams amateur and sloppy like uneven and misaligned objects.

Now the problem with the Alignment Tool is that there isn’t a good natural shortcut to it. However, you can leverage the Quick Access Toolbar (or QAT for short) QAT to access it quickly and efficiently.

All you need to do is add the Alignment Tool to your QAT* as the video below demonstrates, so that you can use your Alt keys to easily get to it.

Using the QAT to your advantage like this is one of the easiest PowerPoint tips you can put into action to start building a solid PowerPoint strategy to save you time.

The QAT is one of the most underutilized and under-appreciated PowerPoint tools, but can quickly be turned into your most reliable PowerPoint shortcut by putting your frequently used, hard to reach PowerPoint commands directly beneath your fingertips.

* This feature is PC-only.

To learn how to align objects from one slide to another (rather than just on one slide), check out this article on aligning between PowerPoint slides.

Here are the shortcuts you need to know:

  • Alt, 1 (assuming you put the Alignment Tool in the first position of your QAT)

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Key PowerPoint Shortcut #2 - Align & Copy

This is a geeky but critical PowerPoint shortcut - the Drag and Jump shortcut - as it allows you to instantly copy and perfectly align objects on your slide.

It’s a lifesaver for any designer who needs to make multiple copies of objects on a slide… which is just about all the time!

This is a clever PowerPoint shortcut combination, combining one of the best hybrid keyboard shortcuts in PowerPoint with the repeat commands.

What’s a Hybrid Keyboard Shortcut?

It’s a combination of your mouse + keyboard to achieve the desired result. For example, holding CTRL and dragging an object in PowerPoint creates a copy of that object.

So here’s how the Drag and Jump shortcut combination works:

First, you select the object that you want to copy and paste, and begin to drag it on your slide.

Second, before you unclick with your mouse to drop the object, hold the CTRL and the SHIFT keys at the same time

That creates a perfectly aligned copy of you your object where ever you want it on your slide.

Third, hit one of the repeat command keyboard shortcuts. Either F4 on your keyboard or CTRL + Y on your keyboard to repeat the action.

When you repeat the action, PowerPoint automatically adds another copy of your objects, moved in the same direction and same distance as you did when you used the hybrid shortcut CTRL + SHIFT + Drag.

That’s how this geeky PowerPoint shortcut combination works, creating the same exact hidden feature that the CTRL + D keyboard shortcut for Duplicate creates.

Here are the shortcuts you need to know:

  • Ctrl + Shift + Drag
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Key PowerPoint Shortcut #3 - Copy/Paste Formatting

This combination of shortcuts is useful for quickly reusing PowerPoint formatting and PowerPoint animations that you have already built, which is often 10x faster than rebuilding the formatting or animations manually.

Many people ask what's the difference between the copy and paste formatting shortcuts and the Format Painter.

The difference is that once you have copied an object's formatting (CTRL + SHIFT + C), you can carry that formatting with you through your presentation, performing other actions, without losing the copied formatting.

You can’t do this with the Format Painter.

Here are the shortcuts you need to know:

  • Pick Up Style Shortcut (Copy Formatting) - CTRL + SHIFT + C

  • Paste Style Shortcut (Paste Formatting) - CTRL + SHIFT + V

  • Copy Animations - ALT + SHIFT + C

Key PowerPoint Shortcut #4 - Paste Special

Did you know that you can copy and then paste objects in PowerPoint into different formats?

That’s right, simply copy or cut an object, and then hit ALT + SHIFT + V to open the paste special options for that given object.

Here are some handy use-cases for pasting an object into a different format in PowerPoint:

  • Paste a chart as an image in order to lock in its data (no one can edit it now)

  • Paste a vector graphic as a metafile in order to break it into smaller pieces that you can edit

  • Paste a table as a metafile so that you can break it and turn your rectangular bars into other shapes (great for making cool data viz)

After pasting into the metafile format, simply ungroup (CTRL + SHIFT + G) twice, and the objects break apart, allowing you to manipulate the object differently.

Another good reason to use the Paste Special options is to ensure that you paste as a PNG (and not JPEG) any image that will be used across many slides of your presentation - such as a logo - in order to avoid pixelation over time.

Here are the shortcuts you need to know:

  • Paste Special Shortcut – ALT + SHIFT + V

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Key PowerPoint Shortcut #5 - The Clipboard

The Clipboard shortcut extends the functionality of the normal Cut, Copy and Paste shortcuts.

First off, to turn the Clipboard copy shortcut on, you need to:

  1.  Navigate to the Home Tab
  2. Open up the Clipboard window using the downward diagonal facing arrow in the Clipboard group on the ribbon
  3. Open up the options at the bottom of the Clipboard window and make sure that “Show Office Clipboard When Ctrl + C Pressed Twice” is turned on.

Once that option is on, you can open the clipboard by holding the CTRL key and hitting the ”C” key on your keyboard twice…so it’s a little bit different than the option dialog tells you.

What the Clipboard allows you to do is collect up to 24 different objects from ANYWHERE using the CTRL + C to copy or CTRL + X to cut keyboard shortcuts.

And by ANYWHERE, that includes the entire Microsoft suite, webpages, other programs...everywhere that you can copy things from.

So you can grab things in other PowerPoint presentations, Word Files, from webpages, etc. 

Here are the shortcuts you need to know:

  • Clipboard Shortcut – CTRL + C + C

Having Trouble?

If you’d rather see these shortcuts demonstrated for you in PowerPoint, check out this video on the top  25 keyboard shortcuts that save time in Microsoft PowerPoint.

And if you’re finding that some of these shortcuts aren’t working for you, here are 5 common reasons why your keyboard shortcuts might not be working:

  1. Inversed media keys

  2. Your language bar

  3. International keyboard layouts

  4. Mac keyboard

  5. Program trolls - the worst!

See here how to fix it if your keyboard shortcuts are not working.

Also, don’t worry if you don’t memorize these all instantly. Learning new shortcuts can take some time in the beginning, and they require building your shortcuts memory and muscle memory.

Camille Holden

Camille Holden

Camille is the Co-Founder and CEO of Nuts & Bolts Speed Training, where she helps busy professionals save PowerPoint hours and gain peace of mind. As an expert trainer and coach, she is passionate about empowering people who are short on time but big on ideas, with the tools to truly master PowerPoint and create presentations that work.
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