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How to Create a Continuous Numbered List across Multiple Shapes in PowerPoint


Have you ever had a PowerPoint slide with a list on it that you wanted to make start in one shape and end in another, without the number starting over again at 1?

For example, you are building a marketing presentation in PowerPoint, and you have 8 different objectives that you want to split between two separate pentagons (as demonstrated below), and you want them to be numbered 1 through 8 across both pentagons.

Sample PowerPoint Graphic

The same would be true if you wanted the list of objectives to continue onto multiple slides within your presentation.

The goal is the same, you want to prevent the new numbering sequence from starting over back at 1.

What's the problem with continuous numbering in shapes?

The problem is that when using the Number dialog box to create your number sequence, PowerPoint always defaults the numbering sequence within each new shape, text box or table cell (see our post on creating sequential numbering in tables) at the number 1.

Yes, you can manually type the numbers into the objects yourself, but not only is it a colossal waste of your time, it actually messes up the formatting in your slide layout.

So the question is, “how to automatically start a list of numbers within a PowerPoint shape or text box, at a number other than 1”?

Below is both a video and written PowerPoint tutorial depending on what you have time for.

[Watch] Create a continuous numbered list

Keyboard shortcuts covered in this tutorial:

To open the Bullets and Numbering dialog box

ALT, H, N, N

To jump to the “start at” input box


Step #1: Open the bullets and numbering dialog box

From the Home tab in your ribbon, select the numbers drop down, and select the Bullets and Numbering option at the very bottom, to launch the dialog box.

Step #1 - Opening the Bullets and numbering dialog box

Step #2: Change the starting number for that shape's list

In the lower right-hand corner of the Bullets and Numbering dialog box, you can specify which number you would like your numbering sequence to start at.

Note: If this happens to you a lot, I highly recommend learning the keyboard shortcuts into the Ribbon (ALT, H, N, N) to open the dialog box and (ALT + T) to jump to the ‘Start at’ input box.  You can see a demonstration of this in the video tutorial above.

To learn other cool PowerPoint shortcuts, check out our 80 favorite PowerPoint shortcuts.

Number Dialog Box Version 1

Formatting options:

If you want to customize your numbering, you can use the left side of the dialog box to change the size and/or color of your numbers.

Number Dialog Box Version 2

Step #3: Repeat for each shape

Close out of the dialog box, select your next shape, and repeat steps #1 and #2, and so on.

Warning: Be careful of manual adjustments

This is a manual adjustment in PowerPoint, and like all manual adjustments, you will need to update it again if anything changes. So I recommend only changing your numbering once your slide is finished. If you don’t, you’ll be flipping back and forth having to re-number the different objects over and over again.

And if you frequently need to re-number the lists within your shapes and text boxes (see our post on dealing with tables), I highly recommend memorizing the ALT, H, N, N shortcuts, to fast track through the process.

What's next?

Updated on March 28, 2019

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