Microsoft

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.

About

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.

13 comments
EarlMelton
EarlMelton

Or use OpenOffice Impress and get a perfect circle, square, or other shape without having to jump through any keyboard hoops. Make your choice from Basic Shapes, drag mouse diagonally to desired size and you're done!

pptcrafter
pptcrafter

Dragging the corner handles while holding down "shift" will preserve the proportions of any shape. "Control" will resize the object around its center.

Rick_from_BC
Rick_from_BC

Sorry, Mark K. I meant my post to appear as a reply to the main article, but inadvertently added it as a reply to you posting.

myhreengineering
myhreengineering

I have used the hold shift key down trick to make circles and squares in PowerPoint for years. It also works in Word, Excel and Publisher.

stephanisat_z
stephanisat_z

Once you select the Auto Shape option, click once on the slide then PowerPoint will give you a perfect circle or square that will fit within one square of the grid. You also can draw an equilateral triangle the same way. From there, you can use the Auto Shape format sizing tools as Mark K suggested, or you can use the Shift + drag option.

manddkostka
manddkostka

draw the oval/rectangle, right click on the shape, select "Size and Position",select the "Size" tab, then in the Hight & Width boxes enter your desired size, (the same figure in both boxes).

camainc
camainc

Press and hold the shift key while dragging one of the corners handles of the ellipse shape, and you will get a perfect circle. No need to add guides or grids.

RU7
RU7

When the grid is shown it is in 1" squares, no matter the grid spacing. The grid spacing value controls how far apart the dots are in the displayed 1" squares.

sandra.scrivens
sandra.scrivens

With all these methods take care to release the mouse button before releasing the keys

Rick_from_BC
Rick_from_BC

If you also need to align the centre of the shape with a precise spot on your slide, holding down the Alt key as well as the Shift key will draw the circle (square, diamond, etc.) outward from the cursor position. Helpful if you want to align the shapes with a specific item on the slide. Works in Word, too, and on the Mac (Alt = Option, there).

camainc
camainc

1. Click the ellipse shape in the ribbon 2. Shift-click on the slide and drag the mouse down and to the right. 3. Voila - perfect circle.

RU7
RU7

You can press the Shift, Ctrl, and Alt keys in various combinations to see what they will do. When you release the mouse button, the keys you have pressed take effect.

RU7
RU7

During click and drag insertion of an autoshape on my machine in PPT 2007: Holding Shift makes height = width Holding Ctrl makes center of object = initial click point Holding Alt makes the dimensions continuously variable. They are all combinable. Without the Ctrl, click sets one corner of the shape's square footprint and release sets the opposite corner. Without the Alt, size varies in steps set by the value of the grid size.