PowerPoint Notes

Info-things on PowerPoint usage including tips, techniques and tutorials.

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Monday, September 18, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 AM IST

Did you know that PowerPoint 2003 and previous versions provided an option to create pattern fills for shapes that had transparency? For example, you could end up with horizontal lines that were 50% transparent, 20% transparent, or transparent with any percentage value.

Look at Figure 1, below and you can clearly see what I am trying to explain. This slide has a fairly multi-colored background. Now notice the rectangle placed over this background. This one has a Pattern fill, which is 50% transparent. See how this transparency plays with the different background colors.

Transparent Pattern Fills in PowerPoint 01
Figure 1: Transparent Pattern fill in PowerPoint 2003 for Windows

Now I created the exact, same slide in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows. Figure 2 shows the results. There’s no transparency for Pattern fills. I don’t know if this is an improvement, but I do know that my choices have diminished.

Transparent Pattern Fills in PowerPoint 02
Figure 2: Transparent Pattern fill in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows

Fortunately, there is are not one but two solutions, but I am not entirely happy with both of them. The first option requires that you have a copy of PowerPoint 2003, 2002, or 2000 installed. I did have PowerPoint 2003 installed on an old virtual machine, and that was great. Just so you know, you can see the Transparency option in Figure 3, below.

Transparent Pattern Fills in PowerPoint 03
Figure 3: Transparency for Pattern fill in PowerPoint 2003 for Windows

Now all you need to do is insert some shapes in PowerPoint 2003, and apply Pattern fills to them. Then add different Transparency values, such as 25%, 50%, 75%, etc. Save your file and shut down PowerPoint 2003. Now open this same file in PowerPoint 2016, and your Pattern fill transparency works! Even better, you can change the Pattern fill and the colors of the Patterns themselves. You can also resize the Shapes, but the transparency does not change. In fact, this can be a small problem if you indeed want to change the transparency because there’s no way to change that value in PowerPoint 2016!

If you do not have access to an older version of PowerPoint, you can still get transparency for Pattern fills by downloading a presentation I created. This presentation has squares with different transparency values applied in 5% increments.

Transparent Pattern Fills in Percentages

I did tell you that were two solutions to get the transparency values for Pattern fills back. We just explored the first solution. The second solution needs you to do some VBA programming and is not as difficult as you may imagine. We will explore that solution some other time!

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Monday, August 28, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 13:11 PM IST

A friend reached out to me a while ago and said “I have a 500-slide presentation, and have been asked to save each slide as a single-slide presentation. Do I really have to do this task, one slide at a time? Do tell me that there is a better answer.”

Luckily for her, there indeed is a better answer! Follow these steps using either PowerPoint 2013 or PowerPoint 2010. Some versions of PowerPoint 2016 do not provide these options, but do try and see if it works for you!

  1. Open your presentation that has 500 slides, or any number of slides. Save it quickly by pressing the Ctrl+S keyboard shortcut.
  2. Next, PowerPoint 2013 and 2016 users will choose the File | Share | Publish Slides option, as shown in Figure 1, below. If you are using PowerPoint 2010, you will choose the File | Save & Send | Publish Slides option. Next click the Publish Slides button.
    Share, Publish Slides
    Figure 1: Share, Publish Slides
  3. This brings up the Publish Slides dialog, shown below in Figure 2. This dialog box is essentially meant to publish slides to SharePoint slide libraries. But a little-known trick lets you publish to a local folder too, as single-slide PowerPoint presentations.
    Publish Slides
    Figure 2: Publish Slides dialog box
  4. Click the Select All button highlighted in blue. Then click the Browse button (area highlighted in red) to select a folder to save to. By default, PowerPoint will choose your default Slide Library folder, which typically is:C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\PowerPoint\My Slide Libraries, but you can choose any other folder. It’s a good idea to choose a new, empty folder. Then click the Publish button, highlighted in green.
  5. PowerPoint will now save all your slides as single-slide presentations!

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Sunday, July 30, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 16:30 PM IST

Did you select some text in the Notes Pane of PowerPoint, and change the font? Or perhaps the font size? Or you added a bulleted list? The problem is that nothing except the bulleted list shows up! All you see is plain text, as you can see in Figure 1, below. Why? Is it not possible to see formatting in the Notes Pane? The solution is easy, but not obvious.

Missing Text Formatting
Figure 1: Missing Text Formatting

To see the text formatting, you need to click the Show Text Formatting button, that used to be on PowerPoint’s Outlining toolbar. When PowerPoint 2007 was launched with the new Ribbon and Tabs interface, Microsoft quietly provided no interface to most of these options, including promoting and demoting outline levels and the Show Text Formatting option. They still existed, but you had to bring them back from the land of the dead! How do you do so? Follow these steps to learn more:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the Ribbon or your Quick Access Toolbar, and choose the Customize Quick Access Toolbar… option, as shown in Figure 2.Right-click on Quick Access Toolbar
    Figure 2: Right-click on Quick Access Toolbar
  2. This brings up the PowerPoint Options dialog box that you see in Figure 3, below. In the Choose commands from dropdown list, choose All Commands, as shown highlighted in red. Then select the Show Text Formatting option, highlighted in blue. Next, click the Add button, highlighted in green. Finally, click the OK button, highlighted in orange.PowerPoint Options
    Figure 3: PowerPoint Options
  3. You will now see the Show Text Formatting button in your Quick Access Toolbar, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 4.
    Show Text Formatting Enabled
    Figure 4: Show Text Formatting Enabled
  4. Click the Show Text Formatting button, and you will see most text formatting you apply within the Notes Pane. Why did we say “most,” rather than “all?” That’s because the Notes Pane shows bold, italics, underlines, superscripts/subscripts, character spacing, and font sizes, but it does not support the font color attribute.

You May Also Like: Smallest Font Size for Slides

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Monday, July 24, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 AM IST

Microsoft Office is updated in so many ways. Depending on how soon you want to see these updates, you can receive only thoroughly tested features, or you can play with new ones. If you prefer the latter, then you may be wowed by the new update that shows up as part of their Office Insider Fast program. PowerPoint and many other Office programs can now insert and manipulate 3D models.

Imagine inserting a 3D model on your slide–almost as if you were inserting a picture or a media clip!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:45 AM IST

This story began with a message from my mother, who never uses PowerPoint. She innocently sent me a link to a video clip, which she thought would be something I would love. And she was right. What she probably did not know is that I wanted to recreate the animation shown in this video clip using PowerPoint.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 AM IST

This question about the smallest font size for PowerPoint slides or slides in any program was originally sent to me as an answer request on Quora. I expand my answer below.

Most PowerPoint designers love to have white space on their slides, but there will always be demands from clients to include more and more content. Now, this is not a great idea because slides need to be aesthetic and focused–and adding so much more textual or any other content negates the very idea of well-designed slides. Adding extra content is, therefore, a compromise that you should avoid.

In the real world, there will be many reasons to cram this content, and the immediate result is that designers have to use a font size that’s smaller than what they started with. But really speaking, what is the smallest font size that you can use?

There is no definite answer to this question, and as a rule of the thumb, you will want the minimum font size to be 24 points.

However, by declaring 24 points as the minimum font size, I may have opened a can of worms. There are so many other factors in play here that I cannot recommend any rules. You may, however, like to understand some guidelines:

1. Start With the Largest Font Size

Let’s start with the largest point size — this can be 44 points for slide titles. Most PowerPoint templates built within the program use the largest point size as anywhere between 36 and 54, but don’t believe that PowerPoint templates that Microsoft built inside the program are design landmarks set in stone: ) 44 points, though is a good rule of the thumb for slide titles.

2. Explore Largest Non-Title Text Size

I would then look at the largest text size for the rest of the slide, such as body text. Around 32  points (anything between 28 to 36 points) is a good size.

3. Now Decide the Smallest Font Size

For sub-bullets or text in the lower hierarchy, you can go down two levels and make them 28 and 24 point size respectively. This is exactly how I arrived at the minimum font size suggested at the beginning of this post.

4. Go With Smaller Font Sizes for Unimportant Stuff

But what about disclaimers, warnings, etc. that you must add to your slide just because your legal team asks you to do so? There is no reason to make them 24 points. Even something as low as 8 to 10 points will do for them. If your audience has to squint their eyes to read them, you might as well make sure they can’t read them at all! After all, no one needs to read that stuff.

5. Not All Fonts Are the Same

Do remember that these point size recommendations are faulted! Why? That’s because 24 point Arial is much larger than 24 point Times New Roman or even Calibri. You remember that I told you these were guidelines and not rules!

6. Make Exceptions

Yes, you can go down a wee but lower than 24 too if needed. But limit these changes for few slides, and only when absolutely essential. Remember that the slides were created for the audience. The audience was not created for the slides. You must, therefore, make sure that the last person in the room can read the slides.

7. Use Less Text

It is amazing how this guideline automatically lets you use larger point size because you don’t have too much text to cram on a slide anymore!

8. Use More Pictures

That will again help you create slides with larger and lesser text.

9. Text Exists Beyond Text Boxes

Remember that text size is not limited to the text in boxes and placeholders. Text size is also important in charts, SmartArt, tables, etc. Most companies use slides with teeny-weeny text in these slide objects. At times, this will need a company-wide overhaul in design ethics. Maybe, it’s time you made a start in the right direction.

10. Learn to Break the Rules

So follow all guidelines, but there will still be times you will have to act against these guidelines. Maintain a philosophical attitude and try your best.


For many of you who have visited an ophthalmologist to check your vision, you must have seen a chart where the text diminishes in size in each subsequent line. In some ways, you have to treat your audience as someone who is visiting an ophthalmologist, but you cannot show them the smallest font size they cannot read! You have to make sure that every person in your audience can read all the text you want them to read. In other words, your alphabet chart should never contain font sizes that someone may fail to read. Of course, this alphabet chart is your slide!

Smallest Font Size for Slides
Image: James Oladujoye / Pixabay

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Thursday, July 6, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 AM IST

3D for PowerPoint Over The Years

For the last 20 years, users have waited for 3D in PowerPoint. There were umpteen add-ins (small programs that plug into PowerPoint, much like Photoshop and WordPress plug-ins) that added 3D models, 3D backgrounds, and even 3D text in PowerPoint. They met the same fate–discontinued by their vendors! And that’s sad because some of them were really awesome and ahead of their time.

Finally, 3D in PowerPoint

And now Microsoft has announced that there will finally be real 3D in PowerPoint. How is that different than the other add-ins? And does this mean that you can really do 3D modeling in PowerPoint? Here are the answers to those questions:
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 11:03 AM IST

Trend Micro released a comprehensive blog post that talks about a trojan horse malware triggered by PowerPoint’s Mouse-Over action setting. This action setting can run a PowerPoint macro.

OK, this is not as bad as it may sound. Why? I can think of three good reasons:

  1. First, PowerPoint will not let any presentation that you receive run at all. Such presentations typically run in Protected Mode. This mode shows a strip below your PowerPoint Ribbon that has a large Enable button. You must press this Enable button for your presentation to run any macros, or even be editable in the first place.
  2. Secondly, most new versions of PowerPoint since Office 2007 only allow macros in special PPTM files. So your regular PPTX files have no macros to run at all. And yes, that means you must be running a very old version of PowerPoint, such as PowerPoint 2003 to end up running a macro in a typical PowerPoint file.
  3. Let us now imagine that someone was foolish enough to run a file that they did not recognize. Then they were ready to click that Enable button. And then they also played the presentation. They then did not use the keyboard or a remote to navigate between slides. Even better, they actually hovered their cursor over an object that triggered a macro.

Well, if any person is capable of being so vulnerable–then they really don’t need PowerPoint to get trapped!

I am not saying that this problem does not exist, or it should be ignored. There’s one site that says, “You could also try to totally steer clear of PowerPoint files—some designers and businesspeople argue it’s a fundamentally flawed way to communicate, to begin with.

All I can say is that if you want people to not use PowerPoint, please find a better reason!

Now let’s talk about the Mouse Over option. Many people, even those who have used PowerPoint for years do not know about this Mouse Over option. To add a Mouse Over, follow these steps:

  1. You must first select any object. This can be text, a shape, a picture, or anything else.
  2. Now access the Insert tab of the Ribbon in newer versions of PowerPoint, and click the Action button.
  3. This will bring up the Action Settings dialog box. Select the Mouse Over tab shown in the screenshot below.

    PowerPoint Mouseover Malware

  4. Do you see the Run macro option? This option is the center-point of all this issue!

Disclaimer: Always be careful. The objective of this post is to keep you informed and aware so that you are not worried. But you must still be careful and make sure you do not click any option in PowerPoint or elsewhere without caution. Also, never open files from sources that you do not trust.

PowerPoint's Mouseover Malware Trojan Horse

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 AM IST

Switch Row/Column Grayed

Once you insert a chart in PowerPoint, you may find that you mixed up the series and categories! It’s easy to switch between both of them by clicking the Switch Row/Column button on the Chart Tools Design tab of the Ribbon–but wait, do you see the Switch Row/Column button grayed out, as shown highlighted in red within the screenshot below?

Switch Row/Column Grayed Out for a Chart in PowerPoint

The solution is simple, although not so apparent. All you need to do is to right-click the chart on your slide to bring up the contextual menu, shown below. Now select the Edit Data option.

Switch Row/Column Edit Chart

Now PowerPoint will bring up an instance of Excel and open your data, ready for editing. Of course, even if you do not want to edit, you will be happy to discover that the Switch Row/Column button is no longer grayed out, as shown in the screenshot below!

Switch Row/Column Active

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Friday, June 2, 2017
posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 AM IST

We finally explore the seventh timeline example in our series on different timelines that stand apart because they are unique.

This timeline is from our friends at Presenter Media, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based organization. My contact at Presenter Media was Art Holden.

Presenter Media Timeline Navigate 01

So what do we like about this timeline? We love the fact that the curve makes this timeline fit in more timeline stops in a smaller area. Plus, the current timeline stop shows up larger and gets more attention than the stops that denote earlier times.

Presenter Media calls this timeline the Navigate Timeline. This particular timeline includes several extras within the timeline presentation you download from their site.

  • Presenter Media Timeline Navigate 02
  • Presenter Media Timeline Navigate 03
  • Presenter Media Timeline Navigate 04
  • Presenter Media Timeline Navigate 052

Template Link | Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3) and Widescreen (16:9). Apple Keynote variant also available.

If you have found a timeline template that’s different than others, do let us know by adding a comment. Also, if you are a vendor who wants their templates to be featured as part of this series, do get in touch with us via our feedback form.

See More Timelines that are Different: 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07

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