PowerPoint is getting a new feature ‘Auto Fix’ that Office users have wanted for many, many years. We hope it’s the start of deployment to Word and Excel across all platforms.
Auto Fix is a way to automatically arrange a collection of shapes and other objects into neat rows and proper alignment. It does the time-consuming ‘last mile’ of positioning and linking.
Start Auto Fix by selecting some objects then choose ‘Auto Fix’ from the right-click menu or Arrange | Position Objects | Auto Fix.
Auto Fix adjusts alignment, spacing, size and connectors between elements.
It’s ideal for tidying up the position and connectors between objects. It’ll save a lot of fiddly fine positioning, especially connecting lines between objects. Just put the connectors in roughly correct positions and Auto Fix will handle the details.
Work in Progress
Auto Fix is very much a work in progress. Kudos to the Microsoft team on this project for their uncommon honesty and candour about the limits in the current Auto Fix. Other Office dev teams, please take note.
At the moment, Auto Fix only supports a limited range of objects. SmartArt, overlapping objects or grouped objects will NOT work with Auto Fix – so far. There’s an error message if you try Auto Fix on unsupported objects, but no harm done.
It works better with small groups of objects (Microsoft doesn’t define ‘small’). For large collections of objects, Redmond suggests selecting a sub-set of the whole, Auto Fix them then add more objects and Auto Fix again … repeat until it’s all done.
Auto Fix isn’t telepathic. Get the objects and especially lines/connectors into reasonably close positions so it’s clear to the machine learning what you’re trying to do.
This is a cloud service with machine learning on Microsoft’s servers doing the hard work. The usual limitations apply, only one of those is mentioned by Microsoft. An Internet connection is necessary … natch. Any data in the slide or objects can be sent to Microsoft and is a potential privacy breach.
Who gets it?
For now, it’s a very limited rollout. Auto Fix is only in PowerPoint online (the browser based version) and even then only 10% of users.
Over time, Auto Fix will become available to all PowerPoint on the web users.
Fine positioning of shapes has been a problem for many, many years. We have high hopes for Auto Fix as a major boon and time saver for Office users. Microsoft hasn’t made any promises, but the future of Auto Fix seems clear.
As a cloud service, we hope Auto Fix is destined for broader application. Excel and especially Word could really do with Auto Fix.
Not just online, Office for Windows and Mac users will happily see Auto Fix available in their apps too.
Talk to Microsoft
When there’s an interested and responsive development team, it’s worth your time to give them feedback. Go to the Help tab and click Feedback (if enabled).
Our usual advice applies. Give as much detail as you can. Please be polite. Real people will read your feedback and don’t deserve abuse, no matter how frustrating their company might be <sigh>.