Microsoft PowerPoint Hints & Tips

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We have included here a whole range of hints and tips to help you improve your operation of Microsoft PowerPoint.

Microsoft PowerPoint Hints and Tips

Inserting pictures

One of the best ways to improve your presentation is to insert pictures. Simply select Insert > Picture > From File. There is a range of photo libraries that you can source images from (such as iStock) or you can take your own pictures using a digital camera.

Customise the toolbars

To speed up the rate at which you work in PowerPoint – particularly in the Draw menu – you may find it beneficial to add useful commands such as Align or Distribute to the Toolbars. Select Tools > Customise > Options and select the tool that you want. You then drag down the tool onto your toolbar. In some versions you need to do Tools > Customise > Commands, select Drawing as a category and then drag the tool you want onto the toolbar.

Reduce file sizes

images frequently take up a lot of space in PowerPoint which means that you may have difficulty emailing a large file. PowerPoint does include a couple of tools that can help you to reduce file sizes.

Firstly turn off Fast Saves. This will mean that any changes you make, such as deleting a slide, will get instantly reflected in the file size. Select Tools > Options > Save and untick the box that says Allow fast saves.

Secondly PowerPoint has a built in compression tool. This tool can be found on the Picture Toolbar. To turn on the Picture Toolbar you select View > Toolbars > Picture. To compress the size of a picture simply click on the picture and then press the Compress Pictures button on the Picture Toolbar (5th button from the right). The alternative is to right click on a picture and then press the compress button.

You can play around with the settings but we generally use All pictures in the document and Print resolution and tick both of the options. This keeps the picture quality to a high level but reduces file size.

Emailing large files

If, after you have compressed the pictures in the presentation, you still find that you are having problems sending a file there are a few things that you can do.

Firstly you could try splitting the presentation into two or more files.

The second option is that you could send it through a large email service. We have been using YouSendIt ( to good effect. We have been able to receive 25MB files with no problems.

The third method (and the one that often works the best) is to stick it onto a CD or memory stick and send it in the post. It usually gets there within a couple of days and has no technical problems.

Evenly spacing objects

Spacing objects can be difficult on the screen. Microsoft PowerPoint has a built-in nudge tool. Simply select the object and you can then move it around the screen using the cursor keys on the keyboard.

But the best functions to use to space objects are the Align or Distribute buttons. These can be found on the Draw menu (confusingly found on the bottom left hand side of the screen). On some versions of Microsoft PowerPoint this may be on the bottom right – and (like all the toolbars) it can be easily moved to wherever the user likes -even floating on the screen.

Align allows you to keep the top, bottom, left, right or middle of objects in the same line. Distribute allows you to evenly space objects across the screen, either vertically or horizontally.

Text boxes

I’ve noticed that people sometimes get into difficulty with text and boxes. I often see a text box on top of an Autoshape such as a rectangle. This creates problems with getting the text to line up, or with moving the text and the boxes across the screen.

There are two ways around this. First you could add a rectangle onto the screen. To add text to the rectangle you only need to click onto it and then start typing. The only problem that you may face is that Microsoft PowerPoint defaults to the setting ‘resize Autoshape to fit text’. To turn this off you simply need to right click on the object and then select the Format Autoshape > Text Box and unclick resize Autoshape to fit text. In some versions it’s Format Text Box… > Text Box. I usually find it useful to select Word wrap text in Autoshape.

The alternative is to type in your text using the text box tool. By default the text box will be given a transparent line colour and fill. To change this you can just click on the Fill Color and Line Color buttons on the bottom toolbar. To change the size of the text box you will probably need to change the ‘resize Autoshape to fit text’ setting as above.

Adding pictures into Autoshapes

One way to make your presentation more stylish is to add pictures into Autoshapes. This can look really nice if you use pictures within circles or stars. Rather than needing an image editing package to do this you can do all of it directly in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Add in your Autoshape such as a circle or a star. Select the Fill Color button found on the Draw Toolbar usually found at the bottom of the screen. Then select Fill Effects > Picture and then select Picture and Insert. You probably also want to select Lock picture aspect ratio to keep the picture in proportion.

There are a couple of things that you may need to watch out for. Firstly this can rather dramatically increase the file size and we have also found that this function has not worked so well across facilities such as the Webex conference service.

Animating your presentation

Animation, when carefully used, can bring your presentation to life. This can be done quite easily and does not need complex programmes such as Macromedia Flash. To animate your presentation you click on an object and then select Slide Show > Custom Animation. From the Custom Animation toolbar (on the right of the screen) select Add Effect and then Entrance and the animation effect of your choice. This is where you will need to be very careful. We tend to stick with just four animation effects – Appear, Wipe, Fade and Box (Out). You can then change the animation settings and the timing settings. We use mainly Start after previous rather than Start on Click as it is easy to forget exactly where you need to click when you are giving a presentation.

Microsoft PowerPoint speed keys

There are a number of speed keys that will speed up your presentation and improve delivery. To get straight into show mode simply press the F5 button.

Once in show mode there are a number of keys that will make life easier. If someone asks a question you may not want the current slide on the screen. If you press B on the keyboard then a black screen will appear. Similarly, if you press W on the keyboard a white screen will appear. Press Esc to return to the show.

Moving around your presentation

Another useful tip is the ability to navigate around the presentation in show mode. Home takes you to the first screen and End takes you to the last screen. The most useful is the ability to jump directly to a particular screen. If you want to jump directly to slide 23 just press 2 then 3 and then Enter and you will jump directly to that slide. This is particularly useful if you are running short on time and want to miss out a whole section of your presentation. I normally write the slide numbers into my speaker notes so that I can jump seamlessly around my presentation.

Adding your presentation to the web

You can add your presentation onto the web in a couple of ways.

If you save your presentation as a Microsoft PowerPoint Show (pps) file this can then be viewed by anyone who has downloaded the free viewer or it can be viewed directly in Internet Explorer.

You can also save the presentation as a single file web page. Select File > Save as Web Page and follow the instructions. I find that this is quite a useful function, but does not necessarily generate the cleanest html code.

Grids and Guides

Another nice way to align or size objects is to use Grid and Guides. Select View > Grid and Guides or alternatively Draw > Grid and Guides. You can then display the grid or guides on the screen.

To make objects the same size we find the ‘Snap objects to other objects’ function to be particularly useful.


Published On: 20th Apr 2009

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  1. Is it possible to put an object on a slide that can be optionally shown during a presentation, using a wireless presenter tool? That is, I’ve a slide that has a ‘more detail’ text box, which I’d show if questions came up, otherwise, I’d go to the next slide without showing it…is this possible without using a keyboard?

    Clive 19 Oct at 10:37 pm
  2. I have a fade text animation nut it fades too slow. How do I speed up the fade?

    ZacJerry Zacharias 5 Mar at 2:21 pm