Tutorial: Managing PowerPoint Objects on Layers

About this lesson

Every object on your PowerPoint Slide is on its own layer. Managing the objects in your slide deck is critical to creating complex designs. This tutorial will end your layer’s frustration as we cover EVERYTHING you need to know from the ARRANGE tool to fine controls via the SELECTION PANE to the mystery of objects behind the “Send to Back” layers.


  • 00:00 Intro
  • 01:29 Applicable PowerPoint Versions
  • 01:45 Understanding Layers
  • 02:15 Identifying Layers
  • 02:33 Placeholders are Objects on Layers
  • 03:08 Controlling Layers
  • 03:19 The Arrange Tool
  • 03:50 Bring Forwards
  • 04:14 Send to Back
  • 04:23 Bring to Front
  • 05:04 Find the Arrange Command
  • 06:38 The Selection Pane
  • 07:32 Renaming Objects
  • 07:53 Moving Object Levels in the Selection Pane
  • 08:06 Hiding Objects
  • 08:28 Grouping Objects on a Single Layer
  • 11:28 Editing Objects in a Group
  • 11:50 REGROUP vs GROUP
  • 12:49 Backgrounds on Layers
  • 13:36 Master Slides and Layers
  • 15:36 Wrap-Up


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility All Versions from 2013 UP


Course Completed

PDF Files There are not any files associated with this lesson.



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[Music] welcome to managing objects on layers in powerpoint with the arrange tool this is less from power up training where i provide my decades of experience to you for free every object on your slide exists on its own layer and sometimes you get frustrated as the shapes start hiding other shapes and makes it difficult to create your presentations in this tutorial we’re going to go deep into managing all your objects and layers and there are lots to cover from tools and techniques and concepts and much much more as always if you look down below you can use your youtube scroll bar to be able to find chapters to jump to the topics that might be of interest to you this tutorial is a pair of two tutorials all about the arrange tool specifically we’re going to take a look here of how we can arrange topics in three dimensions through our layers and in the other tutorial we’re going to talk about distributing and aligning objects in two dimensions look up here for the link for that particular training or down below in the notes to jump to that second of the pair but for now let’s go ahead and dive in to managing objects on layers in powerpoint let’s start in the latest version of office 365. this video is appropriate for all older versions of powerpoint since at least office 2013 and i suspect there will not be changes in functionality for years to come i’m currently in normal view and let me zoom into the workspace in powerpoint every object and i mean every object exists on its own layer from bottom to top as you insert objects they get put on the top layer and that continues with more layers stacked on top on top and on top here i have four boxes with layer numbers and you can see how layer four is on the top layer that is more forward let’s demonstrate this with our four boxes i’m gonna select layer two you can see it’s selected with the grab handles now when i drag it you can see that is still on the same layer when i cover up layer one and it hides behind layer three i’ll put it back to where we started and we’re about to see that there are more than just the four rectangle boxes that are in layers when i click on layer 3 i’m going to drag it in front of our text and sure enough the text placeholder where the bullets are become covered because the object itself the placeholder is behind the title itself is another object and i can cover that up and since we now know there are two text placeholders i can select the title text placeholder drag it in front of the bullet placeholder and you see that they too are on separate layers so let’s take control of the layers by changing their position in relation to all the object layers on a slide so let me introduce the action icon called arrange and all the related actions underneath you must be on the object to change and in your home ribbon menu tab to see the icon call to range click the downward arrow to reveal all the choices to begin we’re going to focus only on the order of object choices which are bring to front send to back bring forward send backwards i’m going to choose send forward let’s do that again by taking layer two and moving it forward a second time however when i do bring forward it looks like nothing changed and the reason why is that we were already in front of layer one and three when i move it down in front of layer four you see sure enough it is in front of layer four when i drag it up you see we are actually have layer two in front of one two three and four now let me go ahead and send it backwards one step at a time so i’ll send backwards it goes again layer four send backwards again it goes behind layer three and i send it back one more time and it goes behind layer four that took four steps to go back let’s see if we can just do a short version and use the new tool called bring to front when i do that presto layer two is now in front of all three objects and it is now our top layer and of course there’s the opposite command called send to back when i choose that for layer 4 it goes behind our other three layers but it also went behind everything including our text placeholders of the bullet items so you can see it truly is on the back layer as i stated earlier you must be on the home ribbon menu to see the arrange action icon if you’re on other menus it does not show up i’m selecting the object and now you’ll see that sure enough there’s the arrange but if i go to insert or any other item it then is no longer visible but there’s a second method and that is to use the context aware menu called shape format but that menu only shows up when you have a shape object selected and when you do select shape format menu you see that we uncovered the bring forward and send backward action icons plus the matching bring to front and send it back with layer 1 selected let me click the bring to front command and sure enough that object comes to the top and there’s even a third way to access these commands and that’s by using your mouse to right click and halfway down the pop-up menu you’ll see the related bring to front and send to back with the layer 3 object selected i will bring it to the front with the right mouse button click and i’ll do it again for layer 2 object with the right mouse button click and bring to front command is that simple obviously in this tutorial the layer names are no longer accurate as i move my objects forward and backwards it is hard to know at what layer each object is placed unless you know the trick to turn on the selection pane i am in my home menu on the ribbon menu and when i click the arrange action icon i can then choose selection pane at the bottom of the menu list on the right side a new selection pane appears with all my objects listed using some generic names but there are clues with the object in the workspace selected the name and the pane is also highlighted and the opposite happens when i click the name in the selection pane the object in the work area then becomes highlighted gives us a clue of what name matches which object the names are pretty generic but if you plan to do some heavy duty work on a specific slide you can elect to name each object to better identify each one just click the name once and then click the name a second time to get into edit mode and rename the object so the top of the list is the object that is on the top layer and within the selection pane list we can click and drag each object up or down to move to the front or to the back this is much more effective control to position the multiple object layers and one more slick trick inside the selection pane the ability to make objects visible and invisible the small eye icon on the right is clickable and it can make an object not visible on the canvas work area when it is invisible it is not clickable or visible earlier i said each object exists on its own layer and always one object per layer well that’s not totally true because you can combine objects together and they will jointly exist on one layer this is called grouping to demonstrate grouping i need to show you multiple ways to select groups of objects starting with the lasso method of clicking outside all the objects dragging the mouse around all the objects while holding your mouse button down and when you let go of the mouse button all the objects should be selected as indicated by the grab handles let me repeat that again and point out a common mistake and that is not clicking outside the range before starting to make it easier to visualize i’ve highlighted the area you must click outside of to capture all objects and not just outside but beyond the four corners so that when you drag your lasso it captures the outside of each object look at how all four objects grab handles are inside my tutorial highlighted area you must click outside top bottom left or right to be able to capture them all back to grouping with all four objects now selected you can visually confirm because the grab handles are on the canvas workspace around the four objects but also in the selection pane we then go to the range action icon drop down list and select group and the four individual items are now one which is a single set of grab handles and the four objects are indented in the selection pane under a group named two so now when i click on the object either in the canvas area or the selection pane the whole group is selected and controllable and movable and as you can see the selection pane grouping can be collapsed or expanded with a double click for easy management on a very busy slide page once grouped you can also ungroup simple enough just click the object in either the canvas workspace or the selection pane and then return to arrange action icon remember you must be on the home ribbon menu and on the list select ungroup now here’s an alternative way to select objects not by using the lasso method but the mouse and keyboard select the first object and then hold down the shift or the control key while clicking all the additional objects you want to collectively select then perform the group command and now for a quick tip shortcut to use your keyboard only have the object selected and the control key plus the letter g will group them together or control plus shift plus g to ungroup powerpoint has greatly improved on the editing of individual items in a group now you can just double click on the item of focus and edit without having to ungroup them and regroup them look how i click on the title layer 3 double clicking and change it to the word double click but sometimes you have lots more work that needs to be done on a group as opposed to just a single edit so you can ungroup them make your changes in this case i’m going to move the blue box to a new location and then i’m going to add some text formatting with some underline and also bold now for the magic with one of the objects selected i can then select regroup from the action drop down menu and powerpoint remembers the other items and puts them all back into the same group do note that if you don’t have an object selected regroup is not available it is dimmed out select the object and then go to arrange and regroup for the magic to happen working on slide canvas area you should be close to mastering managing objects on layers but there are two more bottom layers that are not obvious the first is the background layer it can be changed but not touched as in it can’t be selected or edited or moved let’s change the background i could select a pattern but that’s pretty ugly so let’s try picture or texture fill note how it feels in the background behind the whiteboard it can be seen but not touch clicked or edited we can only go back and select a different choice and all of our canvas objects will float above this background so the last item that exists in the layers of your slide is something called slide masters the masters light exists at the very bottom and it controls themes and other objects such as this whiteboard which is not clickable unless we go into the master slides and tied to the master slides is the concept of layouts layouts implement the master slides and will include objects and backgrounds that can be managed but not touched in the normal canvas area see how layer 4 can be moved but we can’t click the logo the reason is that the logo is on the layout managed by the master slide the third element of master slides are design templates which can impact the background and design elements that can’t be touched unless you edit them in the slide master view please look for our set of youtube videos on learning about master slides see the link above with this selected design template see how i cannot click the rectangle because it is locked in the master slide layout background i’m going to undo many of these changes to show behind the scenes in slide master know that we have a complete training video on the undo and redo commands see our working whiteboard image that cannot be clicked or edited on the normal canvas but let’s go into the slide master by clicking view on the ribbon menu and clicking slide master now that i’m in slide master mode when i select the matching layout i can now grab the white board to move or resize and when i exit slide master view we now see the smaller white board image in our working normal canvas area to learn more about slide masters do find our pair of youtube training videos there you go now you know about arranging the various layers within powerpoint please subscribe to our channel subscriptions encourages me to make more free training for you and if you liked it give us a thumbs up share it with your friends got comments or questions leave them below including ideas for a future training series on powerpoint and if you want to see all of our free training either for beginners or advanced users do visit our website of power dash up dot training so next time go power up