Do you ever feel like you spend your life in PowerPoint – animating, drawing, arranging, typing. Do you wish you could do it faster, that you could increase your productivity with a useful list of PowerPoint shortcuts and time hacks? Readers. Look no further.

We’ve all spent our lunch breaks wiling away the time looking at lists of things like ‘16 horses that look like Miley Cyrus’, or, a personal favourite of mine ‘72 Truths Friends Taught You About Life in Your Twenties’. These are thoroughly entertaining but rarely useful. This, however, I hope will be both.

To see this post as a cool SlideShare, take yourself on over here.

Ctrl Key PowerPoint shortcuts

The ‘control’ key is one that does indeed give you the power. Most of us know shortcuts like ctrl+c to copy and ctrl+v to paste, or ctrl+s to save and ctrl+o to open. But this humble key has a far more useful purpose when you combine ctrl with a click.

Select All

Holding down ctrl and then clicking on multiple objects lets you select more than one object at once – very useful for moving multiple objects together, and for grouping objects. (Once your objects are all highlighted right click and click Group).


When I learned this PowerPoint shortcut, I confess my life changed a little bit. So if you select an object and then hold down ctrl whilst clicking and dragging, you create a duplicate object. This works even if you have more than one object selected and is a really quick way of duplicating a whole series of elements on your slide.

Shift PowerPoint Shortcuts

The less important younger brother of ctrl is shift. Though modest, shift has some really useful functions.

Straight lines and equilateral triangles

With shift you can bring order out of chaos. By holding down shift when you create a shape or a line in PowerPoint, you will ensure it stays perfectly regular. Circles obey pi, squares are square, and lines are perfectly straight (or diagonal).

This also works when you resize an object. Holding down shift when resizing an object will ensure it keeps its proportions so your figures don’t become overly lean, or obese…

Fearsome Combination

Shift may be small, but it is quite mighty. When it’s combined with the more powerful ctrl you get an awesome combination. Holding down ctrl+shift when you click and drag (to duplicate an object) will enable you to duplicate an object in perfect alignment.

Clicking on an object and holding down the shortcut ctrl+shift+c will copy the formatting and then ctrl+shift+v will paste the formatting elsewhere. So if you suddenly decide that all the boxes in your presentations should look like inflatable cushions, you can change them quickly, without having to change the settings manually on each element.


In the past I spent hours re-aligning objects manually. The up and down arrows are not always your friend. Nudges up. Nudges up. Nudges up. JUMPS LIKE IT’S BEEN SCALDED! I didn’t find this entertaining.

Now though we are in the alignment section, here is another use of that wonderful ctrl key: mini-moves. Holding down ctrl whilst moving an object with the up and down arrows will allow you to move it in tiny (and regular) steps. Huzzah!

However, even that can be boring, and it’s far too easy to make yourself cross-eyed trying to work out if they’re all in a line, or a pixel out. PowerPoint has a solution. There are a whole series of alignment tools to organise your objects in alignment with each other and with the slide itself

Gone are the days of fevered adjusting and squinting. Give your eyes a break. Use the alignment tools.

Selection Pane

When you’ve got a particularly complicated slide with lots of elements on it, selecting the object you want can be a real pain. All that means is that you probably need a different kind of pain – the Selection pane. See what I did there!? It’s a wonder I don’t work in advertising…

The Selection pane (found at the right hand side of the Home bar) is a map of the different elements on your slide showing you the different layers. This arrangement allows you to move things forwards and backwards as well as hiding those that you don’t want to work on. This is particularly useful if you’re working on a slider where lot of objects are stacked on top of each other.

One piece of advice I would give is to get to grips with the Selection pane at the beginning of every slide otherwise it still becomes like wading through the proverbial trying to find what you’re looking for. So at the start of a complex slide open up the Selection pane and re-label the elements as you put them in, re-ordering them as necessary as  you build the slide up.

Quick Access Toolbar

Everyone loves a shortcut, though more often than not, a shortcut will end up leading you into a field, populated by angry bulls, knee-deep in mud, with no choice but to sacrifice your wellies so you don’t end up being gored. Just me?

The Quick Access Toolbar is not one of these tricksy, deceptive shortcuts. Did you know that you can build in your most prolifically-used elements into the bar just above your slide? Gone are the days of searching for the place to find the buttons to create text boxes or add motion paths. They’re right there: 24/7, 365. (Sorry, I’ve got my ads head on again…)

To add an element to your Quick Access Toolbar you can right click and, unsurprisingly, choose the option that says ‘Add to Quick Access Toolbar’. If that’s too much, or you don’t need the practice, BrightCarbon has its own that you can download.


So there you have it. 5 PowerPoint life hacks. Your slide creation will never be the same again. Here’s a handy visual guide to our favourite PowerPoint shortcuts, plus some cheeky extras you can access via our free PowerPoint design and productivity add-in BrightSlide.

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Written by

Hannah Harper

Principal consultant

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