Create true squares and circles in PowerPoint

Use this simple keyboard trick to produce perfect squares, circles and other shapes in Microsoft PowerPoint.

PowerPoint doesn't offer a square or circle AutoShape. You can create one, but there isn't a built-in option that automatically produces one. Instead, you must start with the rectangle and oval AutoShape objects. All that really means is that producing a perfect square or circle can be difficult. Try it out. With a blank slide, do the following to add a circle or square:

PowerPoint 2003

PowerPoint 2007 and 2010

Click the AutoShapes dropdown on the Drawing toolbar. Click the Insert tab.
Choose Basic Shapes | Oval. In the Illustrations group, click Shapes | Basic Shapes | Oval.
Click the slide and drag to create a reasonable circle. Click the slide and drag to create a reasonable circle.

Sometimes it helps if you display gridlines as follows:

  1. Right-click the slide (not the circle).
  2. Choose Grid and Guides.
  3. In the resulting dialog box, uncheck Snap Objects to Grid in the Snap To section.
  4. Check Display Grid On Screen in the Grid Settings section.
  5. Click OK.

It's not as easy as it looks! You can get close, but with closer inspection, you'll usually find the shape is just a little off. The proportions are hard to perfect freehand. Now, it might not matter. If close enough is fine—great! For those times when close enough isn't enough, there's an easy keyboard trick.

The next time you need a proportionally correct circle or square, repeat the steps provided earlier, with one difference: Hold down the [Shift] key and then draw the shape. Be sure to release the mouse before you release the [Shift] key. Adding [Shift] to the process forces PowerPoint to perfect your best effort. If you try to force an oval by dragging straight down or across, PowerPoint will still produce a perfect circle. In this side-by-side comparison, it's easy to see that the first circle really is not a true circle.

You can use the [Shift] key to draw other perfect shapes, such as stars, octagons, triangles, and so on.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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