Tip o’ the Week 491 – PowerPoint layout tips

clip_image002Microsoft people love PowerPoint. Even when using it for completely unsuitable purposes (writing reports using PPT instead of Word, OneNote etc – filling slides with very dense and small text) or simply putting too much stuff on a slide, so a presenter has to say “this is an eyechart but…”

There are many resources out there to try to help you make better slides – from how-to videos to sites puffing a mix of obvious things and a few obscure and never-used tricks (eg here or here), and PowerPoint itself is adding technology to try to guide you within the app.

clip_image004The PowerPoint Designer functionality uses AI technology to suggest better layouts for the content you’ve already put on your slide – drab text, even a few clip_image006Icons (a library of useful-looking, commonly-used symbols) or graphics from your favourite source of moody pics.

If you don’t see the Design Ideas pane on the right, look for the icon on the Design tab, under, er Designer.

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The PowerPoint Designer team has recently announced that one billion slides have been created or massaged using this technology, and they have previewed some other exciting stuff to come – read more here.

A cool Presenter Coach function will soon let you practice your presentation to the machine – presumably there isn’t some poor soul listening in for real – and you’ll get feedback on pace, use of words and so on. Watch the preview. No need to imagine Presenter Coach is sitting in his or her undies either.

When it comes to laying out simple objects on a slide, though, you might not need advanced AI to guide you, rather a gentle helping hand. As well as using the Align functionality that will ensure shapes, boxes, charts etc, are lined up with each other, spread evenly and so on, when you’re dragging or resizing items you might see dotted lines indicating how the object is placed in relation to other shapes or to the slide itself…

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In the diagram above, the blue box is now in the middle of the slide, and is as far from the orange box as the gap between the top of the orange box and the top of the grey one. There are lots of subtle clues like this when sizing and placing objects, and it’s even possible to set your own guides up if you’re customising a slide master.

Tip o’ the Week 337 – PPT premium groove things

clip_image002Sometimes, news can pass you by and it’s only some time later when you are confronted by it, that you realise just what it all means. There’s been a lot of news in the UK of late (eg Larry the Downing St cat not only keeps his post as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office but is confirmed as one of the great survivors of modern British politics, outlasting the leaders of Labour, the Conservatives, Greens, Liberals, SNP and UKIP).

On a slightly more mundane front, a demo was shown clip_image004during the day #2 keynote at Worldwide Partner Conference, which drew mild gasps from the audience, even though the feature had been unveiled more than 6 months ago. The coolness in question was PowerPoint Designer, something available only if you’re running Office 2016 and have an Office365 subscription.

The Designer manifests itself as a selection of suggested layouts that will be displayed in the right-hand task pane of the PowerPoint app, after you’ve inserted some photos from your own collection or from the various online sources. A suitable colour scheme will also be found, depending on the predominant colours in the photo(s) you’ve pasted or inserted. It’s subtle and clever.

There’s a Design Ideas icon on the Design tab, if you want to manually invoke the Designer functionality too. When you start the Designer for the first time, you need to accept that the images you use within the designer will be sent to a cloud service for analysis. See here for more.clip_image006

At the same time as the Designer appeared, another premium O365 service was also added, called Morph (not to be confused with Tony Hart). The Morph service makes animating slide transitions really easy, and it’s probably simpler to demonstrate than to explain. Try this:

  • Create a new slide in PowerPoint, and paste an image, sized to a thumbnail in one corner of the slide
  • Add a text box with any old text in it
  • Now, in the slide thumbnails on the left side, right-click on the new one and choose Duplicate Slide.
  • Move your image to a different corner of the 2nd slide, and make it bigger – try adding some artistic effects or recolouring if you like, and try moving your text box to a different place, and change the font size, type, colour etc
  • Now select the 2nd slide, go to the Transitions menu and click Morph. Prepare to be amazed…clip_image002[5]

For more details on Morph & Designer, see Kirk Koenigsbauer’s blog post from November 2015.

Tip o’ the Week #276 – Reduce massive PowerPoint files

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clip_image004Windows Explorer has a search function which can filter found files, based on some attribute or other – so you return files that are only of a particular type or age, or maybe of a specific size. The problem is, the understanding of what is a big file has changed over the years.

In the days of the floppy disk, any file larger than 1Mb was a bit unwieldy. When server hard disks cost £1,000 per Gb, then file servers would impose quotas of maybe a few 10s of Mbs per user.

But now, with storage so cheap (e.g. a 4Tb hard drive is a little over £100, Azure storage is a few pennies per Gb/month, and OneDrive seemingly can’t wait to give it away) it’s easy to become blasé about very large files.clip_image006

One particular culprit in the generation of unnecessarily mahoosive files is PowerPoint. With the ease of inserting graphics and video, especially, it’s not hard to get files well into double figures of megabytes, which can be problematic to email and take ages to open. There are a few tips that can help you keep the size a little more trim.

clip_image008Delete stuff you don’t need

Well, duh. Obviously, deleting stuff can make a big difference to the file size: before distributing a deck, maybe dump the hidden slides and the many appendix slides unless you feel they might be a useful reference…

It’s sometimes not as easy as ditching slides you don’t need, however – the template you’re using might have a lot of imagery that’s unnecessary in it, so it may be worth cleaning up a little.

Go into the View tab, look under Slide Master and you’ll be able to see the slide templates that define the look and the layout of new slides. It’s not uncommon to find hundreds of these, though in most cases they’re not a cause for concern – unless they have lots of images embedded.

This is particularly the case when an elaborate slide deck is produced for a conference, and people start using that template as the basis for their own presentations, because it’s got a really nice background or whatever – not realizing that the template might have 10Mb of grinning stooges holding long-obsolete mobile devices and conference logos from years gone by. If you don’t use the graphics slides, feel free to delete them from the master, then Close Master View to go back the regular deck. (Might be an idea to save a copy of the deck first, just in case you muck it up…)

Look within

The PPTX file format that has been used by PowerPoint since 2007 is part of the Open XML file formats – the idea being that instead of a proprietary binary file, the artefacts and contents within the file are described using XML according to a published format, so other applications could re-use the files. In order to achieve this and not end up with huge file bloat (XML not being well known for its brevity), the whole shebang is compressed.

What you may not know is that all of the Open XML formats use the same compression as ZIP files, and if you rename the .PPTX extension to .ZIP, you’ll be able to see inside it.

clip_image010Navigate to your file location, and make sure can see the file extensions – go to the View tab in Explorer and tick the File name extensions box if you can’t see them.  Make a copy of the PPTX file you want to work on, select it and right-click to Rename (or just press F2). Now overtype the .pptx bit at the end with .zip, and agree to the dire warning that the Earth might stop turning if you continue.

Now open the ZIP file up and look in a couple of places to see what is likely to be making it huge – ppt\media and ppt\embeddings are a couple of notable sources (the clip_image012former when you’ve maybe got a video or just lots of high-res pictures embedded, and the latter is a common source of embedded XLS files which might be unnecessary… ie. Maybe you could get away with a simple copy of relevant data, rather than the whole file?). Maybe the best way to slim down the file is to open the un-renamed one in PowerPoint, then navigate to the place where the huge content was and resize, compress or replace it.

Compress pictures

A very simple way of cutting the size of large files without digging around in their innards might clip_image014be just to compress pictures – you can get to that from the Format tab when you have a picture selected, and clip_image016individually reduce the size and resolution of each image.

Alternatively, when it’s time to save your work, use Save As and under the Tools drop down in the lower right of the dialog, you can invoke the same function, but which applies clip_image018to every image in the deck.

Choose the appropriate resolution – Screen is probably a good one for PPT, though the same picture compression functionality is also available in Word and Outlook, so if you’re pasting images into an email then resizing them, it’s an idea to compress them and you can get away with an even lower resolution there.