One of my pet peeves is that so many companies use PowerPoint as the defacto software for flyers and other marketing materials. It was never meant to be a tool for print materials. But early versions of Word were so “flyer unfriendly” that PowerPoint made sense. Publisher, Microsoft’s inexpensive layout editor, while good puts you in a box – not good enough for serious design work and the files can’t be opened in other programs, including older versions of Publisher.
PowerPoint is certainly an easier to use and cheaper alternative to more expensive layout tools like InDesign. Most likely everyone has it or another compatible program and if you’re working collaboratively that’s a plus.
But I’ve seen some dreadful layouts that don’t convert well and make re-purposing content a pain. Long form text is broken up into little boxes haphazardly placed. Overlapping text/image boxes and wide spacing between text and titles that make your hard work look amateurish. Here are some tips to use PowerPoint for more professional results.
Think grid – it’s the base of good design. Decide on a number of columns and rows and place your elements in the grid cells. You can combine cells within the grid, but don’t go outside the lines. Overlapping elements can cause all sorts of unintended results when you convert to PDF or other formats.
If you’re using the default page size, margins are already accounted for. So line up your elements to the edge of the page on the screen. No need to leave room for a border/white space.
You can’t do it in PowerPoint. But text wrapping only makes sense for long form text – books, reports and so on. Use Word if you’re creating that kind of document. Otherwise you’re forced to break text out into separate text boxes making subsequent layout changes a real challenge.
Turn it off otherwise you’ll end up with text of different/unexpected font sizes. If your default font sizes are too large/small, you can easily adjust them when you need to.
Unused Text/Image Boxes
Just because you didn’t put anything in those boxes that are pre-placed on your new slide and you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. Believe me, Acrobat and other applications in which you copy/paste stuff from PowerPoint will. And they can cause odd layout issues in PowerPoint itself if you don’t get rid of them. Either select and delete them or use the blank slide to start.
Newer versions of PowerPoint have much better “snap to grid” features providing guidelines when you’re moving text boxes or other elements so you can line things up better. Much better than only snapping to the background grid. You can also use the Align tool. Select the objects, then find ARRANGE on the menu bar/ribbon then select POSITION OBJECTS…ALIGN. Select the alignment – left, right, center, distribution – that you want.
Text Box Margins
Sometimes your alignment gets messed up due to the default margins in the text boxes. Select the text box, right click then choose FORMAT SHAPE. Select TEXT BOX and set the margins to zero.
One thing I really dislike is the too large default line spacing in PowerPoint – especially for the titles. For more professional looking text, select the text, right click and choose PARAGRAPH. Set the SPACING “before” and “after” values to zero and make sure single space is checked.
The space between the bullet and the text is always too big! Once again, select the bulleted text, right click and choose PARAGRAPH. Set the INDENTATION (before text and “special”) to something smaller (I like .15…). Make sure “hanging” is selected for Special unless you don’t want consecutive lines in the list to line up with the bullets.
Have a footer or header that you want on every page? The same background or watermark? Tired of resizing the 48 point text each text box defaults to? Use the master slide. PowerPoint creates a series of them for each file. (VIEW…SLIDE MASTER). The first slide sets the font sizes. Change those to something more appropriate – 14 point titles, 11 point body text. You can also set formatting – lists, line spacing, text box margins.
The next slide is usually the default “title/text” format. Remove those boxes then place your common background, footer and header elements. Now, when you create a new slide, you don’t have to put these elements on each page – and nothing will move around accidentally.
If you have a specific layout that you want to “template” – let’s say a header and 2 columns – create text boxes and position them where you want them. These can be moved/removed if necessary but each time you create a new slide, the default text boxes will be there. You can save the file as a template for re-use – or just name the file “Template” so you’ve always got a copy.
Reducing the File Size
Everyone seems to import GIANT PHOTO FILES into PowerPoint. But resizing them to smaller dimensions doesn’t reduce the GIANT PHOTO FILE size. And cropping? Those scraps you “removed” are still there. Use PowerPoint’s Picture Tools to compress photos and remove cropping scraps. Depending on which version of PowerPoint you have, you’ll see them highlighted on the menu ribbon or a menu bar will appear when you have a photo selected. Turning off “Fast Saves” or using “Save As” to rename and re-save your file are two other tricks that can keep file sizes down. Your file recipients will thank you.