A Fix: How to Select Objects without Frustration

About this lesson

Building complex slides with multiple objects can result in the frustration of accidentally choosing the wrong object and moving it around. And if you don’t catch the mistake, it can ripple through to making a mess of PowerPoint.

In this tutorial, we will sharpen your PowerPoint IQ skills by adding seven different techniques to precisely select and manipulate objects on the slide page.


In this presentation, Les provides seven solutions to common problems encountered while using Microsoft PowerPoint to select specific objects on a slide page.

The first solution is to pay close attention to visual cursor cues, which help in selecting thecorrectt object. Les demonstrates how the normal arrow cursor changes to a four-way arrow cursor when hovering over a selectable object. Additionally, he explains how text objects have a different cursor cue, the I-Beam indicator.

The second solution involves tips for selecting with the keyboard and mouse, as well as the unselect trick. Les explains how to lasso select a collection of objects using the mouse, and how to use the Shift key to deselect unwanted objects. He also explains that every object in a PowerPoint slide exists on its own layer, and that it is possible to control layers using the Selection Pane.

The fourth solution is the lock tool, which allows users to select an item and lock it in place so that it can never be moved. This is particularly useful when working with complex slides with many objects. Les notes that the lock tool is only available in the latest version of PowerPoint on Windows, and is not available for Mac users.

The fifth solution is a quick and dirty trick for selecting objects in a slide with a picture filling up the full background. Les demonstrates how to cut out the background image to make it easier to select other objects in the slide.

The sixth solution is the hide trick, which involves hiding the background image in a slide. This is useful when users want to make changes to other objects in the slide without accidentally selecting the background image.

Finally, the seventh solution involves using the Slide Master tool to create a new layout type with an untouchable background that can be used over and over again. Les demonstrates how to select a background image and replace the plain white background in the slide master mode, creating a new layout type that can be used repeatedly in a presentation.


  • 01:00 The Visual Mouse Cursor Cue
  • 02:47 The Text I-Beam Selector Cue
  • 04:44 Advanced Mouse and Keyboard Selection
  • 06:04 Introduction to Layers
  • 06:41 The Mac 3-D Layer Explosion View
  • 07:53 The Selection Pane
  • 09:35 The New Lock Object Tool
  • 11:00 The Cut & Paste Trick
  • 12:17 The Hide Trick
  • 13:18 The Slide Master Technique
  • 15:59 Bonus Tip: The Background Trick


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility All versions of PowerPoint


Course Completed

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



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Hold on, I just need to move this one. Oh to finish his project man’s Oh, no Darn, not the background can do. Let me try again. There. And now to move the x hotel Darn. These accidental selections and wrong moves and PowerPoint are killing me. And I dread tackling this 20 object animation slide. So many clicks and layers and potential problems. No, no, there has to be answers to this blasted click and wrong move problem in PowerPoint. And there is not one or two fixes for the inadvertent wrong click and move. But I have seven different solutions for various scenarios. Hi, this is Les. And along the way, I’ll be talking about both Windows and Mac and include versions going back to PowerPoint 2013. So let’s power up and fix this pain in the mouse problem. Solution. Number one, pay close attention to the visual cursor cues, you will help in selecting the right object. If you always look. Before you click, see the normal arrow cursor and look here. And if I click nothing selected, but as soon as I hover over a selectable object, the cursor cue changes from the single pointer arrow to our four way arrow, click and I select the object below. Go outside and a single arrow with a click and nothing selected back over the object and the four way cursor cue appears to show that I can select this object. And how do we know that it’s selected. Watch for the selector rectangle with eight selector indicators around the edge. Let’s get more complex. But with the same rules, watch for the visual cursor Q over the blue triangle and the four arrow selection Q, click and select it. Move off the top of the object in the arrow Q and back on the four arrow Q. for that later versions of PowerPoint, the queue was very, very smart. See how it’s not just a four arrow selector wouldn’t be tween the ends of the star, but move it onto the top and presto, the arrow for way Q shows up. layers do not matter. As long as a part of the object is visible. Hover, watch for the four way arrow Q and then click to select.

Introducing a new cursor Q is the text eye being Q for text objects. Watch as they move over the text and their cursor clewd changes from the arrow to the IBM indicator. We’re about to select a text placeholder for the latest version of the Mac and the windows PowerPoint. This cursor hue is on top of the text. But for some of the older versions such as PowerPoint 2013. The Eyebeam cursor cues shows up whenever I’ve written over anywhere in the full text placeholder box. So it’s just a bit more confusing. Okay, let’s make this more complex and frustrating. Same slide. But now we have a photo object in the background. And while this the same rules apply, hover, confirm four way arrow click and move. The clues become less obvious. Look, my four way arrow seems to be everywhere. And when I click and move, I’m moving the background. Why? Because the background photo is also an object. And while precise clicking still works, we no longer have our visual selection cues to pay close attention that when the photo is selected, it does have the same eight point selector indicators around the edge. To unselect the background image, just click off the edge of the canvas. So for a better control, let’s learn in advanced selection tools and gain a better insight to how PowerPoint works. Fix number two tips for selecting with the keyboard and mouse plus the unselect trick. If you’re fortunate enough not to have a background image, you can use your mouse to lasso select a bunch of objects all at once. This is not a single click and select but a click and hold down the mouse button to drag over the collection of objects to select. Then you can move or resize whatever you want to do with the collection. The key is to select the whole set. The starting point has to be outside the full area. See what happens if I only partially Select, specifically, the circle is not fully highlighted. And so when I am let go of my mouse is left out of the selection. Here’s another scenario. What if I want to select all the heroes, but not the circle, then here’s the keyboard trick. First, lasso, select all the objects, and then hold down the Shift key on your keyboard, and click the unwanted object. And you see now I have a collection of multiple objects that I can move, but leaving the circle untouched layers every object, and I too mean every single object on a single slide exists on its own layer 15 objects on one slide, and there are 15 layers. Here. The number one is on a layer above number two, which in itself is above the photo object number three, but the number four item arrow is on top of them all. And even the text placeholders are on their own layers. But it’s not obvious here. This is best illustrated on the Mac version of PowerPoint, where under the Arrange action icon, I can select reorder objects, and the objects are on individual layers that will pop out in glorious 3d. Now, I can click and move them so as to put a specific object on a higher layer, which will then cover up all the layers below. Sorry, Windows users, this visualization tool does not exist for

you. No matter if you’re on the Mac or Windows, you can select lower layer objects, as long as you can see just a sliver of the shape. If you’re careful in your mouse pointer selecting back here on Windows, we do see that if we can see it, then we can click it. Moving layered objects around gives us hints on their relationship to other object layers, but only if the visible parts of the object is selected. If an object is hiding below, multiple clicks will not select the hidden part. So let’s open up tip number three and uncover the selector pane. For both Mac and Windows, you can take complete control of the layers by clicking on the home brew menu. In finding the selector pane choice under the drop down arrange action icon or the Select Action icon. Both will open up the Selection Pane on the right side of the screen. And look, as you click on the object on the canvas. It becomes highlighted in the Selection Pane, click and select. But you can also select objects from inside this lecture pane. Click the name and the canvas object is selected. Even more cool is that the order of the listed objects in the pain show that top layers at the top of the list. So when I select that triangle number two, I can click and drag it up to change the order of the layer, just like we did on the Mac. Now we can find even the hidden items that are covered completely click and select them. As a side note, there’s an incremental moving of objects under the Arrange action icon, moving objects forward and backward. But I prefer to use the Selection Pane to more precisely see the full picture of what is on which layer. Working from the Selection Pane, I can click bring the object to the front, make changes and then sent back down to the original layer. And this is a fix for the wrong object selection problem. Tip number four is both the best tool and the sad is tip the lock tool, why is the best, we can finally select an item and lock it in place so it never moves. And why the worst. Because this feature has only slowly showed up over the past year. And only for the latest Windows version of PowerPoint. As of fall 2022 has not come to the max version of Office 365. But in Office 365. Watch. Here, we see our familiar problem of a wrong flushing and moving to the image objects below when we wanted to move just the old object. Now if I select Picture eight, the tic tac toe board, we can see closely looking that we have an unlocked symbol in the Selection Pane. Once I click the lock, the icon changes in the picture will no longer be selected, nor will it be accidentally moved. problem fixed. As long as you’re with a modern version of PowerPoint on Windows to make Go for that limited exclusive tool. Here’s a simple trick for everyone. Tip number five is quick and dirty. Gray first lies with a picture that’s filling up the full background. In this specific slide, I’m trying to select all the little specks of objects, I can try to use the previous last little trick. But it’s hard to know if I got them all because of the color image interference. So here’s the trick, like the background image, see the eight selectors on the edges, I can then do a home Ribbon Menu and cut proof the image has gone. Now I can select all the spec objects, I can change the color from red to blue, and then go back and paste the image back in.

The one problem is that the paste put the picture on the top layer, so I need to move it from the top back to the bottom. Simple cut and paste trick. But don’t accidentally cut another object along the way, because you’ll go into the clipboard and replace your holding background. Maybe tip six is a better solution. The Hide trick, this tip falls under the category of if you can’t see it, he can’t accidentally select it. Like before, we want to select the background image. But this time, we just want to hide it. The height function is in the Selection Pane. So take a look for the little icon. This capability can be found on Windows and Mac and older versions of PowerPoint. Going back to 2013. Click and the optic is now hidden. Make all your changes like modifying the red specks to green, and then go back and unhide the object. I love this capability to be able to detail the word and then when done unhiding the object without the external overriding clipboard, or having to remember what layer was on before I got rid of it. Now, on to the last tip number seven, the most sophisticated of the group that works on all versions of PowerPoint Slide Master trick. PowerPoint has the powerful tool to completely modify how Slides interact, we’ll just leverage the tool for one trick, but there is much more. At the high level. We’re going to alter the design template to create a new layout type with an untouchable background that can be used over and over again. Let’s do it. First, we need to select the background that we want repeated. So I’m going to select it and then copy the purple stage photo into our clipboard I could have also cut the image both ways it gives us stored for future use into the clipboard. Then I need to move to the Slide Master mode by clicking View and Slide Master. On the left are all the architectural base plans for all the design template slide layouts. If you need to better understand what’s going on here, go to this tutorial of ours. Otherwise, one of these recipes depths oh, let’s duplicate the layout is being used by right clicking the layout and clicking duplicate layout. Let’s right click the duplicate and rename it to stage photo so that we can find a later. Now we want to replace the plain white background with our photo. So right click on the canvas area and choose Format Background. There, we can select Picture or fill in fine picture source, where we’ll click clipboard to pull in our previously copied purple stage photo. And we now have created a brand new purple photo layer based on the standard title and content layout. Let’s exit out of the Slide Master by clicking Close Master View. And back to our presentation. We can now change the underlying layout from the previous title and content to our new stage photo layout by right clicking and choosing the layout. And since the image is locked and layout is not selectable, and it will not be accidentally clicked when editing the slide. Lots of work. You can reuse this layout over and over again in the presentation. Or you can also create many more custom layouts with different backgrounds and no issues going forward.