PowerPoint: No Action Settings for Group Shapes

Here's something I just found out the other day: did you know that you can't assign action settings to grouped shapes? But there is a fairly easy work-around.

I discovered as I was using PowerPoint's drawing tools to create a grouped shape that I intended to use as a custom button to launch a macro. Turns out there is no way, either programmatically or through the user interface, for me to assign an action setting to the finished group shape. This includes actions like jumps to other slides, other presentations, launching programs, running macros, or hyperlinks.

So I talked with a few people here that have been working on PowerPoint far longer (and most likely, far more productively) than I, and it seems this has always been the case, and was by design. But no one could tell me what the thinking behind this design choice. However, one of our wonderful and resourceful support people was able to suggest a work-around (thanks, John!), which I now impart to you. Basically, you create the grouped shape, and then cut and paste it back into the slide as an embedded enhanced metafile:

1. Create the grouped shape as you want it. (To group the shape, select all the shapes, right-click and point to Grouping, and then select Group.)

2. With the grouped shape selected, from the Edit, menu click Cut.

3. From the Edit menu, select Paste Special. In the Paste Special dialog box, make sure the Paste radio button is selected, and then select Picture (Enhanced Metafile) , and click OK.

4. Assign action settings to the metafile shape.

One nice thing about this approach is that the resulting enhanced metafile is a vector graphic. So you can scale it (resize it larger or smaller) without it looking pixilated or jagged.

Here are some other random thoughts about this approach:

If you're working with small shapes (as I was), you might find that the shapes don't move exactly where you want to position them, but instead act like they're snapping to some invisible underlying grid. This is because they are snapping to an invisible underlying grid. If this is the case, zoom in closer to make fine adjustments easier to control, and do one of the following:

· Disable objects snapping to the grid. From the View menu, click Grids and Guides, deselect Snap objects to grid, and then click OK.

· Temporarily disable objects snapping to the grid. Hold down the ALT key as you use the mouse to drag the edge or corner of the shape one display pixel at a time.

One drawback of the metafile work-around is that, once you've turned your grouped shape into a metafile, you can't edit the individual shapes. So if you later decide you wanted one of the shapes to be red and not blue, you have to start all over again. So you might want to copy the shape, instead of cutting it. That way, you still have the original grouped shape to edit if you want to make changes later on. You can always position the grouped shape on the work area around the slide, so it doesn't show up when you put the presentation in slide show mode.

You could also turn the grouped shape into a jpg, gif or bmp, using a program like Paint. Just take a screen shot of the slide, paste it into your image program, and crop it down to just the grouped shape. However, if you do it this way, the resulting image is not a vector image. So it may not be as sharp, and will likely become pixilated if you expand its size.