Manage objects with the Selection Pane

Use the Selection pane to manage objects in your document: re-order them, show or hide them, and group or ungroup them.

Once you've inserted shapes, text boxes, SmartArt graphics, images, or other objects, you can open the Selection Pane to keep track of them all.

The objects are listed in the pane in visual stacking order—top-to-bottom. The most recently inserted object is at the top of the list.

Change the order of the objects

  1. Select an object in your file.

  2. Select the ... Format tab that appears on the right end of the ribbon, and then, in the Arrange group, choose Selection Pane.

    The Selection Pane button is on the Format tab, in the Arrange group.
  3. Select one or more items in the list. (Use Ctrl+Click to multi-select).

  4. Drag the selection upward or downward, or click the up (Bring Forward) or down (Send Backward) arrow The up and down arrow buttons for changing the order of objects in the Selection pane..

Note: For an object that's in a group, you can only reorder it within the group.

Group objects

  1. Select an object in your file.

  2. Select the ... Format tab that appears on the right end of the ribbon, and then, in the Arrange group, choose Selection Pane.

    The Selection Pane button is on the Format tab, in the Arrange group.
  3. In the pane, use Ctrl+Click to select the items you want to group.

  4. On the ... Format tab at the right end of the ribbon, select Group > Group (or Arrange > Group > Group).

After grouping the objects, you can format them or move or them on the canvas as a single entity. For more information, see Group or ungroup shapes, pictures, or other objects.

You can select multiple objects within a group and the groups within it, but you can't select objects within groups together with objects not in groups.

Hide objects

Hiding an object keeps it in the file, but makes it invisible. This feature should be used with caution, because it can be easy to entirely forget about a hidden object.

  1. Select an object in your file.

  2. Select the ... Format tab that appears on the right end of the ribbon, and then, in the Arrange group, choose Selection Pane.

    The Selection Pane button is on the Format tab, in the Arrange group.
  3. In the pane, select an item in the list.

  4. On the right side of the item, click the "open eye" button. The Open Eye symbol indicates that the selected object is shown.. This action hides the object.

    To make the object visible again, just click the "closed eye" button The Closed Eye symbol indicates that the selected object is hidden..

To see an object that's under another object, you can hide the object on top temporarily, make the changes you want, and then show the object on top again.

Tips

  • In Word, inline objects are listed in the Selection Pane, but you can't reorder them, hide them, or multi-select them.

  • In Word, you can reorder objects above the text among other objects above the text, but you can’t move it behind the text. Similarly, you can reorder objects below the text among other objects below the text, but you can’t move it above the text. To move an object behind the text or above the text, right-click the object on the canvas, choose Send to Back > Send Behind Text, or choose Bring to Front > Bring in Front of Text.

  • After you select an item in the Selection pane, you can click again to change the name of the item. In PowerPoint for Microsoft 365, this ability comes in handy for using the Morph transition. See Morph tips and tricks for details.

  • By default, the most recently inserted object is at the top of the list in the Selection pane, and the first object inserted is at the bottom of the list.

Keyboard shortcuts

You can use these keyboard shortcuts in the Selection pane:

To do this

Press

Open the Selection pane

Alt+F10

Move the keyboard focus through the major regions until it is in the Selection Pane

F6

Navigate by keyboard through the buttons in the pane and then into the list

Tab

Move the focus among the items in the list

Up arrow, down arrow

Select an item in the list

Enter or spacebar

Edit the name of the item in the list that has focus

F2

Add/remove the item from the selection (that is, multi-select)

Shift+Enter or Shift+spacebar

Toggle the visibility of the item that has focus

Ctrl+Shift+S

Send the selected items backward

Ctrl+Shift+B

Bring the selected items forward

Ctrl+Shift+F

Collapse the current group

Left arrow

Expand the current group

Right arrow

Collapse all groups

Alt+Shift+1

Expand all groups

Alt+Shift+9

Reading order

In PowerPoint and Excel, the reading order (for screen readers) of content is closely related to the order shown in the Selection pane.

  • Word     When a screen reader reads through a file, the objects are read in the order or their anchors.

  • Excel    When a screen reader reads through a file, the objects are read in the order listed in the Selection Pane.

  • PowerPoint    When a screen reader reads through a file, it reads the objects in the reverse order listed in the Selection pane.

Once you've inserted shapes, text boxes, SmartArt graphics, images, or other objects, you can open the Selection Pane to manage them all.

(This feature is available in newer versions of Office for Mac. It isn't available in Office for Mac 2011.)

  1. Select one of the objects you want to manage.

  2. Select the ... Format tab that appears on at the right end of the ribbon when you select the object, and then choose Selection Pane (or Arrange > Selection Pane).

    Shows the Shape Format tab in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

  3. The Selection Pane opens with all your objects listed, and you can do any of the following:

    • Drag an item up or down in the list to change the order. In the example below from PowerPoint, moving the curved connector to the top of the list also brought it forward in front of the two oval shapes (and everything else on the slide).

      Shows the connector behind two circles Shows the connector at the bottom of the list in the selection pane

      In the example pictured, the connector is at the bottom of the list, and is behind the two oval shapes.

      Shows two circles with a curved connector Shows the Selection Pane in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

      After the connector is moved to the top of the list, it appears in front of the two oval shapes.

    • Choose to show or hide objects from the Selection Pane. To hide an object, click the eye icon in the Selection Pane indicating that the object is Showing The Show icon in the Selection Pane. The icon will change to a simple icon indicating that the object is Hidden Shows the icon indicating that an object is hidden from view. To show the object once again, simply click the Hidden icon Shows the icon indicating that an object is hidden, and the object will reappear.

      Shows the hide functionality in Office 2016 for Mac's Selection Pane

      The connector in the example above is hidden, and does not appear on the slide.

    • Group or ungroup objects listed in the Selection Pane. If you select multiple objects by using ⌘ + Click, you can then group them or ungroup them by selecting Group Objects on the ribbon in the Format tab.

      Shows the Group icon on the ribbon in PowerPoint 2016 for Mac

In PowerPoint for the web you can use the Selection Pane to show or hide items on the slide or to reorder them. To open the Selection Pane select the Arrange button on the Home tab of the ribbon and then Selection Pane.

The objects are listed in the pane in visual stacking order—top-to-bottom. The most recently inserted object is at the top of the list.

The selection pane lets you reorder, or show/hide, objects on your slide.

Change the order of the objects

  1. Select one or more items in the list (use Ctrl+Click to select multiple items).

  2. Drag the selected item up or down, or click the up (Bring Forward) or down (Send Backward) arrows.

    Use the Selection Pane to reorder stacking for the items.

Note: If an object is in a group, you can only reorder it within the group.

Show or hide Objects

To hide or show an individual object on your slide, open the Selection Pane and select the show/hide button next to the object you want to hide, or show.

Item in list hidden.

To edit an object that's under another object, hide the object on top temporarily, make the changes you want, and then show the object on top again.

Group objects

  1. Use Ctrl+Click to select the items you want to group.

  2. On the Home tab, select Arrange > Group.

After grouping the objects, you can format them or move or them on the canvas as a single entity. For more information, see Group or ungroup shapes, pictures, or other objects.

Note: You can select multiple objects within a group, but you can't select objects within groups together with objects not in groups.

Tips

  • Double-click an item to rename it. In PowerPoint for Microsoft 365, this ability comes in handy for using the Morph transition. See Morph transition: Tips and tricks for details.

  • By default, the most recently inserted object is at the top of the list in the Selection Pane, and the first object inserted is at the bottom of the list.

Keyboard shortcuts

You can use these keyboard shortcuts in the Selection pane:

To do this

Press

Move the keyboard focus through the major regions until it's in the Selection Pane

Ctrl+F6

Navigate by keyboard through the buttons in the pane and then into the list

Tab

Move the focus among the items in the list

Up arrow, down arrow

Select an item in the list

Enter or spacebar

Edit the name of the item in the list that has focus

F2

Add or remove its from the selection (multi-select)

Ctrl+Enter
or
Ctrl+spacebar

Toggle the visibility of the item that has focus

Ctrl+Shift+S

Send the selected items backward

Ctrl+Shift+B

Bring the selected items forward

Ctrl+Shift+F

Collapse the current group

Left arrow

Expand the current group

Right arrow

Collapse all groups

Alt+Shift+1

Reading order

When a screen reader reads through a file, it reads the objects in the reverse order listed in the Selection Pane.

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