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Create a Numbered List With Shapes

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I recently saw an interesting slide that had a unique numbered list and I thought I’d show you how to create a numbered list with shapes. It’s hard to get numbered lists that have a graphic look to them because SmartArt doesn’t do numbers. Of course, it isn’t nearly as automated as SmartArt, so it requires some fiddling even after you create it, but I think you’ll like it.

You can create a shape like this in more than one way, but here’s one way:

powerpoint-tips-unique-list-shapes-3Insert a short rectangle that will contain the numbered circle. The height should be enough to fit 2 rows of text if you think you’ll need them. The reason for using a short rectangle is that if you create a wide rectangle across the slide, when you add the circle and then decide that you want to resize it (perhaps to add an image on the right), resizing the rectangle distorts the circle, as you see here. Not pretty! So by dividing the shape up, you can create a nice slide like this.



Insert a wider rectangle to the right of the short one. For now, you just want to make sure that it is exactly the same height as the original. Line it up using the alignment guides.

powerpoint-tips-unique-list-shapes-4On top of the first shorter rectangle, insert a perfect circle (hold down the Shift key as you drag it on the slide) whose diameter is a little larger than the height of the rectangle. Use the alignment guides to center the circle vertically and horizontally on the rectangle, like this. The reason for this is so that you’ll be able to enter a centered number on the shape and have it appear in the center of the circle.

Select both the rectangle and the circle. On the Format tab, choose Merge Shapes, Union. (I cover this feature in detail “How to create your very own cool shapes with the Custom Shapes tools: Part I-Union.” Your access is slightly differently in PowerPoint 2010. This feature is not available in PowerPoint 2007.)

powerpoint-tips-unique-list-shapes-5Insert another smaller circle and center it vertically and horizontally over the larger circle. Select your first shape, then press Shift and select the second shape and on the Format tab, choose Merge Shapes, Subtract. (I cover this feature in “How to create your very own cool shapes with the Custom Shapes tools: Part II-Subtract.”) Your shape will look something like this one.

Select the shape and type a number. If it isn’t centered, select it and on the Home tab, click the Center icon in the Paragraph group. You might have to recolor the number and will probably have to change the font size. My number was white so it was invisible until I recolored it!

On the Format tab, click Shape Outline, No Outline. You do this so that you can attach a wider rectangle for your text that will look like it’s part of the first shape.

Move the wider rectangle to attach it to your numbered shape. You can use the Format Painter to match the formatting, but you’ll probably only need to remove the outline as you did before.

3 orange large asterisks

Do you need to create nice numbered lists? Do you have another solution? Leave a comment and please use the Share buttons below to let your friends and colleagues know about this idea!



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Related posts:

  1. How to create your very own cool shapes with the Custom Shapes tools: Part II-Subtract
  2. How to create your very own cool shapes with the Custom Shapes tools: Part I-Union
  3. How to create your very own cool shapes with the Custom Shapes tools: Part III-Intersect
  4. How to create your very own cool shapes with the Custom Shapes tools: Part IV-Combine

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Ellen Finkelstein – View the original post .


About the author


Guest Blog by

Ellen is a PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional, a Microsoft award), one of only 11 in the United States and 40 in the world. Her well-known website at offers many PowerPoint tips, a blog, and the free PowerPoint Tips Newsletter. She specializes in training speakers and presenters to convert Death by PowerPoint to Life by PowerPoint; communicate clearly and powerfully; and design high-impact, persuasive and professional-looking slides.

She is an Amazon bestselling author. Some of her books and e-books are PowerPoint for Teachers: Dynamic Presentations and Interactive Classroom Projects, How to Do Everything with PowerPoint 2007 (and three earlier editions), Slide Design for Non-Designers, 101 Tips Every PowerPoint User Should Know, The Lost Art of Persuasion, and others. She has written numerous articles on presenting and PowerPoint for Microsoft’s website and blog, Inside PowerPoint,, PresentationXpert, Presentations magazine, and more.

Ellen Finkelstein has done training for Citrix, Brainshark, Disney, Microsoft, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Maharishi University of Management, State University of New York at Buffalo, State University of Illinois, Vastu Homes, and others. She does on-site training, 1-on-1 virtual coaching/training, and live workshops. Read other posts by

Published On: 20th Aug 2015

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