Tuesday, May 30, 2006

PowerPoint Tip: Aligning at a decimal

Many presentations involve slides containing numbers, whether they are financial figures or measurements of other key indicators. If these figures include decimal places, the clearest way to show the numbers is by aligning them at the decimal point. This way, the audience can easily compare numbers by looking at the figures to the left and right of the decimal point. Unfortunately, the default alignment when you use the Tab key to try to align numbers is left alignment of the starting number. Some people try to use leading spaces to attempt to create decimal alignment, but it never works properly and looks strange to your audience when the numbers are almost aligned but not exactly. Here's how you can have perfectly aligned numbers on your slides.
1. Click in the text box or placeholder that you want to align the text in.
2. Turn on the Ruler (if it is not displayed at the top of the screen already) so that you know where to set the tabs by clicking on View -> Ruler
3. On the left of the ruler you will see a small tab button that looks like a small "L". Click on the tab button and it will switch to the different types of tabs. Click on the tab button until it turns into the decimal tab, which looks like an upside down "T" with a decimal point beside it.
4. Click in the white part of the ruler where you want the decimal tab to be and you will see the decimal tab symbol appear.
5. To move the tab after you have placed it on the ruler, just click on it and drag it along the ruler to the spot you want it to be.
6. If you want to remove the tab, just click on it and drag it off the ruler.
7. To align your numbers, use the Tab key to move over to the decimal tab spot you set above (if you are at the start of a bullet point, you will have to use Ctrl+Tab because Tab will only indent the bullet level). As you enter the number, you will see the figures entered to the left of the decimal tab until you enter the decimal, at which point it switches to entering the numbers on the right of the decimal tab.
Next time you need to present figures that have decimals, use this technique to make sure your numbers can be quickly understood by your audience.


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