Microsoft's PowerPoint has name recognition, but it's not the only
software in this product category. Like Kleenex or Xerox, it has become
almost a generic name. And it has become a bit of a cliche, with too
many presentations using the same generic PowerPoint templates while a
speaker drones on and on. It has been stereotyped as
PowerPoint is not the only digital presentation software, however. Many
Mac users are now using Apple's Keynote, for instance. And the free,
open-source OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice includes Impress, a PowerPoint-compatible
module. (See my
tutorial on using Impress).
Before you get started
Plan ahead. Think about the purpose of your presentation and your
audience. Are you wanting to create a standalone photo display that is
intended to run unaccompanied? A report combining text and images (and
optionally sound or video) to accompany an oral report or discussion?
Do you already have the images (and optional music and video clips)
that you need?
Think about your text. Your presentation should not be too text-heavy.
Text in a presentation should present an outline of what you're
planning to say-- not actual paragraphs of content. Like an outline, it
shows the main points- a summary.
In fact, you may want to write out an outline before you begin entering
anything into your presentation-- though there's also an outline mode
in your presentation software. Alternatively, I encourage users to
prepare a list of questions; each question (and an outline of the
answer) can easily become a slide in the presentation.
Note: I am preparing this tutorial using the version of PowerPoint
included with Microsoft Office 2000 for Windows; if you have a
different version of either the Windows or Mac version of MS Office,
you may see different dialogue boxes (etc). Remember-- most software
options are discoverable. If
your software looks different from this, feel free to explore and
When you start PowerPoint 2000, you should see a dialogue box offering
Many people use one of PowerPoint's templates... if
you choose the Design Template option, you're presented with:
As you can see, PowerPoint includes a large number of templates and
presentation designs. You're welcome to pick them. However, these
premade templates have been over-used. Instead, for this tutorial,
we're going to start with a blank presentation design, and then
customize backgrounds (etc) later. Add your content
You'll be presented with the New Slide dialogue box. (This will pop up
each time you create a new slide):
Note that when you select one of the designs, its name appears in the
lower-right. As well, note that there are more designs than fit in the
box-- you can scroll down to see more and more. I picked the third
design in the top-row. The New Slide dialogue box disappears, and my
screen includes an outline view on the left and a view of the slide on
the right, enabling me to enter text and graphics into the slide. If
you decide you want a different slide design, right-click on the slide
(outside the various text or graphics areas) and choose Slide Layout from the popup menu.
Alternatively, click the Format
menu and choose Slide Layout. Either way, you'll see the same dialogue
box again (but titled Slide Layout) letting you change the layout.
Doing that, I changed to the layout with text on the left and room for
a picture on the right.
Some people work best creating an outline-- using
the outline pane on the left; each main point will become a new slide,
with sub-points showing up as bulletted text. (Press the tab key to
make a sub-point- Enter by itself creates a new slide. If you indent
too far, hold shift down while pressing tab to move back to the left).
are more comfortable typing directly in the slide preview pane.
There is a lot of 'eye candy' in presentation software... you can spend
huge amounts of time fiddling with fonts, sizes, animations,
transitions, backgrounds, and more. My suggestions:
text and pictures first... when you've got all the content
entered, then (if time permits) fiddle with the background,
transitions, and animations (in that order).
is not necessarily better. It's easy to create a presentation
that distracts your audience from your content. Ask yourself whether
your presentation is effective at communicating with your audience.
Don't add special effects just because you can!
it appears in the illustration, if you prefer to work slide-by-slide
(rather than in the outline panel), click in the appropriate area to
add a title and text to your slide. Note that when you add text to the
left-hand column, by default it appears bulleted. (You can change
with the Bullets and numbering
item of the Format menu, or by
clicking the Bullets item of the toolbar).
Double-clicking the picture lets you add clipart from Microsoft's
Clipart Gallery. You can search for images by category or keyword.
While this clipart can be used in your presentation without any
copyright issues, again, it is somewhat overused and cliched. You may
prefer to use your own photos, or clipart from other sources. To do
that, click the Insert menu,
select Picture and then From File...
You'll be able to navigate to the folder where you have stored digital
photos or other images., starting off in the Windows My Pictures folder. You're able to
preview images before choosing one.
You may have to resize the imported image to fit your design.
To add another slide, click the Insert
menu then select New Slide.
Again, you'll see the New Slide dialogue box to pick a slide design.
Repeat as needed. Backgrounds
you've created all your slides and added your text and images, you may
decide that you want something other than a plain white background. To
change the background on one (or more) slides, select a slide from the
Slides list on the left. Then click on the Format menu, then choose Backgrounds. You'll see:
got the secondary pop-up by clicking the little arrow beside the empty
space near the bottom of the initial dialogue box... but even this is a
pretty slim set of choices. Click More
Colors... to see:
This (or the Custom tab) gives far more colour options. Alternatively,
clicking Fill Effects (see
above) gives many more choices:
Notice that you have several tabs. Gradients smoothly change from one
colour to another, in a variety of ways. You can pick each colour, and
then the style of the change. Texture have a variety of backgrounds,
such as marble, denim, brown paper, etc. Patterns are (fairly boring)
cross hatch and plaids, while the Picture tab lets you select a picture
stored on your hard drive.
When you select a background, you have the option to apply it to the
currently-selected slide or to all your slides.
Note that if you select a dark background, you may find that your text
becomes less readable. In that case, you can either change the
background, or change your font colour. To change the font colour,
select a piece of text (you'll need to select each block of text on
each slide individually), then click on the Format menu and select Font. You'll see an item allowing
you to change the colour of the selected text.
Alternatively, you change the colour of all the Titles or all the Text
at once. To do that, click the Format
menu and select Slide Color Scheme. Go
the Custom tab, click on an
item to change, and click on the Change
Again, you can choose to make changes only to the current slide or to
Transitions are special effects that optionally take place when a new
slide appears on screen. Tastefully done, they are a plus. Choosing a
different, complex transition for each slide can distract from your
talk. Moreover, complex transitions may not display smoothly on older
hardware-- even if they appear to display properly in the preview.
Always check out your transitions by running your slide show.
To apply a transition to a slide, select the slide, then click on the Slide Show menu and choose Slide Transition. You'll see:
You can check out a list of transitions; each will be applied to the
picture of the cow to let you see how it ought to look. You may decide
to make the transition (and the change to the next slide) occur when
you click your mouse or automatically after your choice of time delay,
and you can choose to have an optional sound play when the slide
Finally, you can make the transition settings apply to the single,
selected slide or to all of your slides.
Be careful with animations
All the hesitations I have about transitions apply doubly to
animations. While transitions are effects that apply to the whole slide
when it first appears, animations are special effects applied to
individual blocks of text (even to single letters) or to graphics,
after the slide has appeared.
I'm not going to go into detail about animations; to access these
features, first select a piece of text or a picture to animate, then
click on the Slide Show menu. Preset Animation gives you a set of
presets; Custom Animation gives
If you think you want to use this feature, experiment! Remember,
however, that over use of animations slows down your presentation,
distracts the audience from your content, and can leave some viewers
Turning your presentation
into a web page
You can use PowerPoint to turn your presentation into a linked series
of web pages; to do that, click the File
menu, then Save as Web Page.
You'll be prompted for a location and file name for your saved
website... I would strongly urge you to create a folder to hold the
many files that will be created. I would also suggest giving your
webpage the file name 'index.html', which has special useful meaning to
web server programs.
In a moment, your website should be created in the location you
selected. You can view this in your web browser by clicking
PowerPoint's File menu and
selecting Web Page Preview.
This will open your site's
start page. The Publish button
in the Save as Web Page
dialogue gives some potentially useful options:
You could choose to only publish selected pages. And I would recommend
choosing to support version 3.0 browsers.
Printing a handout
Choosing to print your publication offers more flexibility than simply
printing each slide to a separate page-- though that might be useful if
you want to create acetates to show on an overhead projector.
Clicking File then Print gets you more options than you
might see in printing a word processor document:
Note that you may want to choose Pure Black and White or Grayscale, and
to scale to fit paper, or include a frame around the sides. Also
interesting is the option to print just the outline, notes, or
handouts. I find printing handout especially helpful. If you pick that,
you are given options to choose how many slides per page-- 4 to 6
slides per page make a good option.
Nicely, if you choose grayscale or pure black and white, your coloured
backgrounds and text colours are discarded-- your handouts will print
clearly with black text on a white background.