More Secrets of PowerPoint for Beautiful Research Reports
Falling in love with PowerPoint is not hard. It just takes some practice, and a wee bit of interest in learning some basic principles of design. You can gain fluency in PowerPoint entirely on your own—no training classes needed. And once fluent, you will understand it gives you abilities to create beautiful research reports even without the help of a fancy graphic designer.
In March, we highlighted three PowerPoint shortcuts that solve real problems, and that we use all the time: Control-Y, Align, and Eye Dropper. They address the design principles of Repetition, Alignment, and Color. Here are three more shortcuts and tricks you definitely need to know.
Right-Click Delete. One of the first things to do when creating a chart is to get rid of all extra cluttering elements that do not add informational value. Do you really need grid lines? Probably not. Put your mouse on one of the grid lines, and then right-click. Scroll down to “delete” in the menu that pops up, and click. All gridlines disappear. We often delete things like legends, chart titles, and axis labels. Remember that you can always add them back in if you discover that clarifying elements are needed.
Merge Shapes. This is a fancy new trick I discovered when searching online for a better way of creating faded background content to highlight data points or sections of a chart as a call-out. First create a big white square that covers your chart. Adjust the transparency to about 25%. Then “punch a hole” in it by doing this: Add another shape on top; select both shapes together by holding the SHIFT key while clicking first on the white square and then on the overlaying shape; choose Merge Shapes in the format menu and then click “subtract.” Amazing.
Nudge with Arrows. PowerPoint’s new Align menus solve many problems so that content can easily line up perfectly. But I hope you’re pickier than that. Sometimes you want an element moved just a hair up, down, to the left, or to the right. Your mouse is too clumsy to do that. So do this instead: Click on the object you want to move. Then hold the Control key while hitting your arrow keys in the direction you want to nudge. This nudges the object (or multiple objects you may have selected) by tiny increments.
When I see one of my employees wanting to learn and embrace these kinds of shorts cuts and secrets, I know I am in good hands. It means they have good design intuition, as each of these secrets helps solve a design problem, like color, alignment, space, and so on. And I hope you know what that means for you, as well: Versta Research can continue to offer beautiful and effective visual displays of quantitative information (to steal Tufte’s phrase), which is an essential piece of turning data into stories.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.
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