Have you ever had a table on your PowerPoint slide and wanted to create a continuous list of numbers across the table cells without each cell starting at the number 1?
If you have, then you know it can be extremely PAINFUL! The last thing you want to do (which you are often forced to do) is type the numbers into each individual cell manually.
What’s the problem?
First off, the reason that each table cell starts at the number 1 (as depicted on the left in the diagram above) is that when using the Number dialog box to create your numbering sequence, PowerPoint considers each cell within your PowerPoint table as its own individual object.
So yes, you could use the Bullets and Numbering dialog box to start the number within each cell at the next number (as outlined in our post on how to create a continuous numbered list across shapes in PowerPoint), but when working with PowerPoint tables with lots of rows, this can be extremely time-consuming, even if you know the shortcuts by heart.
Moving to Microsoft Excel
A much faster and efficient way to achieve the sequential numbering in your PowerPoint tables, is to use Microsoft Excel, which gives you significantly more flexibility.
Below is both a video and written tutorial depending on what you have time for.
Keyboard Shortcuts Covered in this PowerPoint Tutorial:
- CTRL + ENTER (in Excel) – forces your formula into all of the selected cells
- CTRL + C – copy the selected objects or text
- CTRL + V – paste the copied objects or text
- ALT + TAB – navigate to your last active window
Step #1: Copy Your Range of Cells
In your PowerPoint presentation, select the table cells that you want to create numbers for, CTRL + C on your keyboard, and navigate to a blank Excel document.
Step #2: Widen Your Excel Columns Before You Paste Your Text in
To save yourself extra formatting steps later on, BEFORE you paste your cells into Excel, select two columns and widen them so that your text will fit nicely into the columns themselves.
You can see I widened columns C and D in the diagram below.
Step #3: Paste in Your Information and Copy it to the Right
With your columns set, select a cell and hit CTRL + V to paste your text into Excel.
Then to set ourselves up, you want to hold SHIFT, select the next column to the right and then hit CTRL + R for copy right, so that you have two copies of your cells, with all of their formatting, as shown in the diagram below.
Strategy Point: Setting ourselves up like this, with the original formatting in our tables, will help us avoid unnecessary formatting later on.
Step #4: Adding the First Number
Click into the first cell directly to the left of your first column, and type the number 1, and hit ENTER.
Step #5: Write an Increasing Excel Formula
Holding SHIFT, select all of the remaining blank cells below the number you just added and type the equal sign ‘=’, hit the up arrow to move up one cell, and then type in ‘+1’.
In my case, the formula is ‘=B6+1’.
Step #6: Input the Formula into All of the Cells
With the formula written, hold down the CTRL key and the hit ENTER, to force the formula into all of the selected cells.
The result is that we get the correct number sequence we want for our PowerPoint table, in this case the numbers 1 through 10.
Step #7: Write a Concatenation Formula
To combine the numbers in column B with the text in column C, select your second column of information, cells D6 through D15 in my case, and type the following formula. ‘= B6 & “. “ & C6’
The Concatenation Formula Explained:
In Excel, you can use the ‘&’ sign to combine or concatenate strings of text together.So the formula ‘= B6 & C6’ will combine whatever is in cell B6 and cell C6 together, without any spaces in between the content.
To add spaces between the strings of text you are combining in Excel, you can open and close quotes. So to put a period and a space bar return in between our number and text string, you can type: =B6 & “. “ & C6
Note that the spaces I added are not mandatory for Excel, I added those because it makes the formula easier to read.
Step #8: Force the Formula into All of the Cells
With the formula typed in, hold the CTRL key and then hit ENTER to force the formula into all of the cells.
Step #9: Spot Check for Double Digit Numbers
Before we move back to PowerPoint, we want to spot check our new numbered list for any double-digit numbers, as they won’t line up correctly right off the bat.
The reason is we are using space bar returns between our number and the text, not the normal tab stops or indents that you get when using the numbers dialog box. So to fix this space, we need to tweak the formulas of the single digit numbers, to create the illusion of the correct tab stop.
Step #10: Fixing the Other Formulas
Re-select all the single digit cells in your column, 1 through 9 in this case, hit F2 to enter formula editing mode, and add two additional space returns to the center part of the formula so it looks like this: =B6 & “. “ & C6 (there are now three space bar returns following the period within the open quotes.
Step #11: Inputting the Formula Holding the CTRL Key
With the two space returns added to the formula and all the other cells still selected, holding the CTRL key, hit ENTER to force the formula into all of the cells. The result is that the numbers should now all line up correctly.
Step #12: Copy and Paste the New Column of Text Back into PowerPoint
With our spacing now correct, select the column and hit CTRL + C to copy.
Hit CTRL + TAB to flip back to PowerPoint, where all of the cells should still be selected. Hit CTRL + V to paste, and everything should paste in correctly.
Note: Because we used that second column of information in Excel with all of the correct formatting (which we set up in the beginning) we don’t need to waste any time formatting our cells back here in PowerPoint. This is why having a strategy in the beginning really pays off.
The Extra Spaces in the Table:
Now it’s important to note that the extra spaces we added to quickly number this table are not real tab stops. If you click into your table in PowerPoint, you will see that you actually have those space bar returns within the cells.
This creates a bit of formatting hazard if you need to change something in the future within your table, but is still the easiest and fastest way that I know for quickly setting up your sequential numbering like this.
You can easily take the spaces out in Excel, using the TRIM() function.