Aligning and sizing a group of fields

Friday 13 September 2013 @ 8:59 am

Customers watching me work on their reports will sometimes see me use a shortcut that is new to them. Usually these are shortcuts that have become second nature to me so they happen in a blink and the customer has to ask me how I did what I did.  Two of the most common are the “Align” and “Size” options in the “format” menu.  If you have a row of objects that are not even or a column that is out of alignment you can use these options to get everything back in place.  Just select a group of objects, then go to either Format>Align or Format >Make Same Size.  Each will give you a list of choices that you can apply to that group of objects.

I often do both together, and in that case it is best to do the size first. This is because changing the size will often change the alignment points.  So if I have a row of objects to align vertically I will first make sure to set them all to the same height.  Then I will align them using ‘Tops” or “Baseline”, depending on what is needed.  If I am aligning a column I will first make sure that they are all the same width before  aligning them to their left or right edges.  Also note that if you are going to change the font or apply a bold property you should do that before you do alignment because these can also change the width of a column.

You also have to pay attention to which field has visible sizing handles, once your group is selected. This object is the one that has the ‘focus’ and therefore is the one that controls the alignment or size.  If you select the group by using Shift-Click then it will be the last one you select.  You can select another field in the group by clicking on it without holding the Shift key.  It will then have the focus and will be the object that sets the alignment point or size for the group.

One other related shortcut is useful when you want to align all the objects in a section, like details.  If you right-click on the name of any section (in the left margin), you will see an option to “select all section objects”.  This is quicker and more reliable than a trying to shift-click them or lasso them. Just note that this will also include graphic objects, like lines, that may prevent the group functions from working.

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