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Columns Within Text Boxes in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows

Learn how you can insert columnar text within a text box or other text containers in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows. Multiple columns can make the text more readable.

Columned text layouts are often seen in documents created within word processing programs such as Microsoft Word. Nevertheless, PowerPoint gives you some basic column capabilities, although you should not expect anything close to the controls provided by Word. In PowerPoint, you can set up a text container to possess multiple linked columns, as shown in Figure 1, below.


  • Figure 1: Columnar text within a text box
  • All these columns are limited to be within a single text container. You can add or delete text and the new or remaining text automatically adjusts itself to flow within the container. You cannot have text flow from one container to other though. We told you PowerPoint's column options for text are limited! The good thing is that when you do have too much text on a slide (and trust us, too much text is not a good thing on a slide), then you can easily convert a single-column layout into a multicolumn one, giving your text more reading space and also breathability.

    If you need to set up columns for text boxes (and shapes), then go ahead and follow the procedure explained on this page. However if you need to make all text within individual text placeholders columnar, then don’t make these changes for every individual text placeholder. Not only will working with individual text placeholders be monotonous, but also you will lose the consistent look of successive slides. Therefore, make these changes for text placeholders within the Slide Master.

    Tip: Don't know the difference between a text box and a text placeholder? Look at our Text Boxes vs. Text Placeholders tutorial.

    Follow these steps to set columns within text containers in PowerPoint 2013:

    1. Open any slide which has a text box. Click on the edge of the text box so that it shows a solid line with selection handles on its perimeter (see Figure 2).

    2. Figure 2: Text box selected
    3. Right-click to get the context menu you see in Figure 3. Select the Format Shape option (refer to Figure 3 again).

    4. Figure 3: Format Shape option


    5. This will open the Format Shape Task Pane, as shown in Figure 4. Make sure you choose Text Options tab (highlighted in red within Figure 4), then select the Textbox button (highlighted in blue within Figure 4).

    6. Figure 4: Format Shape task pane
    7. Within the Format Shape task pane, click the Columns button (highlighted in green within Figure 4 above) to open the Columns dialog box, as shown in Figure 5.

    8. Figure 5: Columns dialog box
    9. Within this dialog box you can enter a Number to specify the number of columns, and set an amount of Spacing in inches. We chose 2 columns, and a spacing of 0.5 inches.
    10. In the example on the left in Figure 6, you can see a text box with simple paragraphed text, and towards the right, you can see the same text box with text laid out in two columns.

    11. Figure 6: Compare the same text container with and without columns
    Tip: Restrict yourself to 2 columns as far as possible. If you must, even then never go beyond 3 columns. Slides don't take as kindly to columns as normal paragraphs in a document program like Microsoft Word do.

    See Also:

    Columns Within Text Boxes in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac
    Columns Within Text Boxes in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows