Change PowerPoint Slide Size, and You Lose Fonts, Backgrounds, and Colors!

Created: Thursday, January 25, 2018, posted by at 9:30 am

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A few days ago, I needed to demo some animation effects in a training class. I happened to open one of my older presentation decks, and this one was probably created using PowerPoint 2002 or 2003. The animation was just what I needed. With a few tweaks, this deck could save me hours of work. There was just one small problem. The slides were all 4:3 Standard resolution, and the new deck needed to be 16:9 Widescreen resolution.

Figure 1, below shows one of the slides from the old deck.

Old Deck Before Slide Slide

Old Deck Before Slide Slide
Figure 1: Slide before using the Slide Size command

I opened this deck in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows, and accessed the Design tab of the Ribbon. I then clicked the Slide Size button to bring up the drop-down menu you can see in Figure 2, below.

Slide Size

Slide Size
Figure 2: The Slide Size command

When I selected the Widescreen (16:9) option, PowerPoint did not present the expected dialog box that you can see in Figure 3, below. Let me repeat: PowerPoint did not show the dialog box shown!

Changing the aspect ratio of your slides

Changing the aspect ratio of your slides
Figure 3: Changing the aspect ratio of your slides

Instead, I saw a poor transformation of my existing slides. You can see what I ended up with in Figure 4, below. Compare this slide with the slide shown in Figure 1.

Slide after using the Slide Size command

Slide after using the Slide Size command
Figure 4: Slide after using the Slide Size command

As you can see, you end up losing all colors, fonts, and backgrounds. Even the text alignment differs! Clearly, this is unacceptable. It appears this behavior can be replicated in both PowerPoint 2013 and 2016 for Windows.

So why does this happen? The culprit here is Theme variants, or rather the SuperThemes that are included in newer versions of PowerPoint. When you change the Slide Size, PowerPoint is trying to be helpful and finds a Theme variant of the same name, completely oblivious to the fact that you have made significant changes to the original template.

The solution is simple indeed. You cannot use a typical PPTX or even the older PPT file, but these Theme variants get stripped away in POTX files! Follow these steps to resolve this issue:

  1. First, save all changes you have made to your original presentation. If needed, save as a new file.
  2. Next, save your presentation as a POTX file. POTX is the PowerPoint template format. Make sure you do not choose to save as THMX, the other PowerPoint format for themes and templates. You must choose POTX.
  3. To learn about various PowerPoint file formats, look at our File Formats in PowerPoint page.

    To quickly access the Save As dialog box, you can press the F12 keyboard shortcut.

    When you choose POTX as the file type, PowerPoint will change the folder you are saving to. At this point in time, you can change the folder location back to where you want.

  4. With your file now saved as a POTX file, go ahead and access the same Slide Size option, as shown in Figure 2, previously on this page.
  5. As you can see in Figure 5, below, the same slide changed the resolution successfully!
  6. Slide Size changed successfully

Hopefully, you won’t have to follow this workaround and Microsoft may provide a more elegant solution in newer versions of PowerPoint. If you want to report about this problem to Microsoft, please vote to draw it to their attention at the UserVoice site.

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