PowerPoint lets you put presentations together in a snap, but your slide shows can be dull and boring if you only know the basics. It's time to learn how to customise templates, add animations and slide transitions and make slide notes.
Get Up and Running With PowerPoint Quickly
PowerPoint is fairly easy to use, and if you've used other Microsoft Office applications before, the menus and toolbars will look familiar. You have basic menus for opening and creating files, and just like Microsoft Word, there's a "ribbon" running across the top of the application's window that contains all the formatting options and contextual commands you'll need. You'll also see options for creating shapes, inserting images, designing slide layouts and choosing interesting slide transitions.
For this series, we'll assume you've used PowerPoint before, but if you want a refresher, Microsoft's quick start guide for PowerPoint gets you through the basics.
How to Do the Most Common, Essential Tasks in Microsoft PowerPoint
No matter what kind of presentation you're putting together, you'll need to know how to work with templates, tweak the Slide Master, prepare your slide notes and maybe even add an animation or two. Here are a few of the fundamentals you should know.
How to Customise Templates
Templates are like blueprints for your slide show. They also make it easy to create a slide show layout once and use it over and over again. Say, for example, you were teaching a class about tigers. You could load your pre-made template and create a separate slide show for each lecture, but still always have the same layout, cool fonts and background images.
You can use the pre-made templates that come with PowerPoint 2016, download templates from reputable sources online (like from Microsoft themselves) or even create your own. Of course, you can also customise any template you download or have installed. Once you open a fresh or pre-made template, go to the View tab on your menu bar (it's above the ribbon), then choose Slide Master in the ribbon bar. On the left side, you'll see the Slide Master at the top and all the different slide layouts in the template below it. Any changes you make to the Slide Master at the top will affect each and every one of the different slide layouts, but you can also customise things on a slide by slide basis.
If we return to our tiger lecture example (shhh that's totally a thing), you could pick a pre-made template and modify it to be more, well, tiger-y. You could change the background of every slide to an awesome tiger photo, for instance:
- Select the Slide Master
- Right-click the background (or hit Shift+F10 to bring up the context menu) and select Format Background
- In the Format Background window on the right, go to the Fill tab
- Select the Picture or texture fill radio button
- Under "Insert picture from", select either File, Clipboard or Online
- Choose your awesome tiger photo and click Insert
In the Format Background window you can also choose solid colours, gradient colours and patterns to fill the background of your slides if you'd rather not use a photo. Or if you have a bunch of cool tiger photos you want to use, you can set the background for each individual slide using the same process above. The same goes for formatting any shapes (random coloured squares, circles and rectangles your template might have). Right-click the shape, select Format Shape and tweak things the same way you would in the Format Background window.
If you want to change the font used in your template slides, mouse over a text box, right-click and choose your font style and size from the dropdown menu. You can set separate fonts and colours for titles and for several levels of text. Again, you can do this on a slide by slide basis, or set the style throughout the entire template on the Slide Master.
Of course, every object on each slide can also be moved around or deleted. If you want to adjust an object, left-click it to select it. Once selected, you can click and drag the item, adjust the item's size, or hit the delete key to make it go away. When you have your template the way you like it, you can save it for future use:
- Go to File > Save As
- Choose OneDrive, This PC, or Add a Place
- Select PowerPoint Template (*.potx) from the dropdown menu
- Name your template
- Click Save
Now the next time you want to throw together a tiger lecture, you can start with the same template and just fill in all the new information. You can also share your template with other tiger enthusiasts so they can create their own slide shows as well.
Last but not least, let's say you need to give your tiger presentation to some important businessmen and you've been told they hate cool photo backgrounds and nifty fonts. Well, you can apply any template and its associated colour and style themes to any slide show that's already made. Just go to the Design tab, pick a new pre-made template or browse for a template file you have already. All of your information will stay as it was, but reformatted to fit the new template. There may be some jankiness for specific slides, but it's nothing you won't catch when you give them a once-over.
How to Align Images and Other Objects
When you add images, charts, graphs, shapes or other objects to a slide they will pop up right in the centre. You can select the objects to resize them or drag them around individually, but you can also align them with each other or other objects in the slide so they look nice and orderly. Here's how to do that with just a few clicks:
- Hold the Shift key and select each object you'd like to align
- While they're selected, go to the Format tab on your menu bar
- On your ribbon bar, select Align
- Select "Align Selected Objects" from the dropdown menu (it may have a check mark already)
- Select the Align dropdown again and select alignment type
There are a few options to choose from: Align Left will align the left side of each object with the furthest left object selected. Align Right does the same thing with the furthest right object as the anchor point. Align Centre will centre all selected objects on the horizontal centre point of the selected objects. If the objects are on the same horizontal line, they will end up on top of each other (same goes for left and right alignment too). Align Top, Middle and Bottom do similar things, but work with the vertical instead of the horizontal. That means if objects are on the same vertical line and you align to the top, bottom or middle, they will end up on top of each other that way as well. You can also "Align to Slide" in the dropdown menu and align objects with the sides and centre of the slide as opposed to aligning them in relation to each other.
The Align dropdown menu also has another useful feature: you can evenly distribute objects so their spacing will be equidistant from each other. Select your objects, go to the Align menu and select either Distribute Horizontally or Distribute Vertically. If you have "Align Selected Objects" checked, the two outside objects will stay and the middle object will perfectly space itself between the two. If you have "Align to Slide" selected, the objects will perfectly space themselves across the span of the slide.
How to Add Slide Animations and Transitions
Once you have all your objects where you want them, you can have a little fun and add animations to them. You can make text appear one line at a time with a dissolve effect, or have images fly into view from off-screen. PowerPoint makes adding animations super simple:
- Go to the Animations tab
- Select the slide you'd like to animate
- Select the object you'd like to animate
- Choose an effect in the ribbon
Keep in mind, animations play in the order you add them. If you want an object or some text to appear first on the slide, add that animation first, then continue to the next one. You can always re-order the animations on the ribbon bar or in the Animation Pane, but it's easier to just animate everything in the order you want it.
If you want some snazzy transitions between each slide, that's even easier. Go to the Transitions tab, select the slide you want to add a transition to, then choose a transition from the ribbon bar. Whatever effect you pick for that slide will be what transitions into that slide from the previous slide, not out of it and into the next slide.
How to Create Slide Notes and Use Presenter View
If you'd like to jot down notes for each of your slides and see them when you present them without the audience seeing them too, PowerPoint has that built right in. While in Normal View, select the slide you'd like to add notes to and click in the text box at the bottom of your screen (it should say "Click to add notes" if there's no text yet). Type in your notes and you're all set.
If you want to use those notes during your presentation, you have two options: you can print them out, or use Presenter View during the presentation. To print out your slide notes, go to File, choose Print then select Notes Pages in the Print Layout menu. To use Presenter View:
- Go to the Slide Show tab
- Select From Beginning or From Current Slide
- Hit Alt+F5 or use your mouse to tap the three dots button in the lower, left-hand corner of your screen
- Select "Show Presenter View"
Presenter View shows you the current slide, how many slides are left, how much time you've been on the current slide, the next slide in your presentation and your notes for each slide. If you're projecting your slide show on a separate monitor, projector or online, only you will see Presenter View.
Best New Features In PowerPoint 2016
PowerPoint has gotten a little sleeker and a little more user friendly in more recent versions, but it's still the same slide show-making machine people have used for years. That said, there are a few welcome new features in PowerPoint 2016:
- You can search the ribbon: On the Windows version, you'll see a "Tell me what you want to do" box above the ribbon bar (the little light bulb symbol). Here, you can type in any question you have and PowerPoint will find what you want. For example, you can ask it how to insert a picture, how to add animations, or how to create and add charts. For whatever reason, this isn't included in the Mac version.
- Collaborate on presentations in real time: PowerPoint 2016 now lets people work on the same slide show at the same time. You can see when someone else is working with you and also see exactly what they're working on in each slide.
- Draw on touch-enabled devices: If you're working with PowerPoint 2016 on a tablet or other touch-friendly device, you can use the Draw tab to make handwritten annotations. You can also draw shapes and write out equations.
Beyond that, PowerPoint's changes are pretty minor: a new high-contrast black theme, some new slide transitions and some new chart types. Hey, if it ain't broke...
Work Faster In PowerPoint With These Keyboard Shortcuts
You can find a complete list of PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts at Microsoft's support site, but here are the major ones you'll want to know:
- Alt+H, F, and then S: Change the font size for selected text.
- Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V: Cut, Copy or Paste selected text, object or slide.
- Shift+F10: Display the context menu for the selected item.
- Alt+N, P: Insert a picture.
- Alt+H, S, and then H: Insert a shape.
- Alt+G, H: Select a theme.
- Alt+H, L: Select a slide layout.
- Alt+W, Q: Change the zoom for the slide.
- Alt+H: Go to the Home tab.
- Ctrl+Z: Undo the last action.
- Ctrl+S: Save the presentation.
- Alt+S,B: Start the slide show.
- Esc: End the slide show.
Get familiar with these and you'll be able to whip up a presentation in no time.
Additional Reading for Power Users
There is a lot you can do in PowerPoint, but we've barely scratched the surface here. If you want to pop the hood and really get your hands dirty, here are some other resources worth checking out:
- Grab some free advanced templates from Microsoft: There are over 150 great templates available. More pre-made templates means less work for you and more ways to customise.
- Learn how to make awesome diagrams for your slides: When it comes to use of font size, shapes and colour, these basic design principles will make sure your slide show catches some eyes.
- Use the right charts for your data: A chart can be a powerful way to represent data or it can be confusing and make your material fall flat. Make sure your charts and graphs are easy to interpret.
- Avoid common presentation problems: Make sure your slides aren't too crowded or complex, your presentation isn't too long and your message is clear.
- Redirect your audience's attention: Use the B key to black out your PowerPoint slide show and bring the focus back to you. Hit the B key again to bring the previous slide back up.
- Get some sweet add-ins for Microsoft Office: Random number generators, specialty graphs and charts and built-in Wikipedia search. These add-ins work with the entire line of Microsoft Office products.
PowerPoint is still a presentation powerhouse and essential skill for anyone who wants to run a focused meeting, wow investors or reveal important information to the right people. If you spend some time working with it, you can make your presentations engaging — and maybe even fun.