PowerPoint Basics

Learning Objectives

Explain the basic steps of creating a presentation with PowerPoint.

When you open PowerPoint, the application will take you to a presentation gallery (see Figure 2), where you can choose to either open a new blank presentation or start a presentation using a template. To start with the proverbial blank page—no pre-set graphics, backgrounds or text—click (or double-click, depending on your version) New blank presentation. You’ll be presented with a new blank presentation title slide containing two text boxes for a title and subtitle. These are placeholders that can be used, deleted, or simply ignored.

A screenshot of PowerPoint Online's template gallery. A sidebar shows recently used templates, while the main screen shows a 3 wide grid of different templates.

If you want to use the default layout, click where it says Click to add title and type in your text. Note that when you click in the text box, the prompt text disappears and is replaced with a flashing cursor. To finish your entry, simply click outside the box. Pressing the enter or return key after typing your text will act as a return and advance the cursor to the next line. If you pressed return and don’t want a two-line title, simply press the Undo arrow under the File tab at the top left of your screen (or if you’re using Windows, press Ctrl + Z on your keyboard; if you’re using a Mac, press Cmnd + Z). To continue adding or editing text, click the text or within another text box and continue.

A screenshot of a template slide in PowerPoint online. The slide has two text boxes. One reads "Click to add title" the other reads "Click to add subtitle".

Placeholder boxes and prompts don’t show up in Slide Show or presentation mode, so you don’t necessarily need to delete those you don’t use. If, however, you find them distracting, click on the border of the placeholder and press either the delete or backspace keys on your keyboard.

As mentioned above, the web-based version of PowerPoint will save your file automatically, assigning a default title of Presentation. If you have multiple presentations in progress, it will save subsequent files as Presentation1, Presentation2, etc. To (re)name your presentation, click the default title, type your desired title and press enter.

A screenshot of the PowerPoint home screen with an introduction slide. In the center of the top bar there is a place to rename the presentation.

Saving Documents When Working Offline

If you’re not working with PowerPoint Online, you will need to save your presentation manually: click on the File tab.

Screenshot of PowerPoint homepage. Top right corner is a circle to show where to change the title of the presentation.

You’ll then click Save or Save As in the menu along the left side of the screen. Note: you can also use the common keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + S (Windows) or Cmnd + S (Mac).

Screen shot of the Save As option in PowerPoint.

To save your presentation on your desktop, choose This PC, select my Desktop and tile your presentation—for example, “To-the-Bank Retail Trends.” At this point, you will also choose the format you want to save your presentation in Save as type. If you will be sharing your presentation with other students or colleagues who are using an older version of PowerPoint, select PowerPoint 97-2003 as the type from the drop-down list. Otherwise, go with the default option.

Practice Questions

Now that you’ve created a presentation, let’s start adding to it! If you closed your presentation after saving, you can reopen it by starting PowerPoint and selecting your presentation (i.e., To-the-Bank Retail Trends) listed under Recents.

Adding Slides

You can add a slide from either the Home tab, Insert tab or Thumbnail pane.

From the Home Tab

Screenshot of Home Tab in PowerPoint. Red circles indicate icons used to add new slides or duplicate a slide.
  1. Click on New Slide (or Duplicate Slide, to copy the current slide layout)
  2. If you clicked New Slide, select a layout that best fits your content
  3. Press enter
Screenshot of choosing a new slide layout. The "title and content" option is selected.

From the Insert Tab

Screenshot of main PowerPoint screen. There is a column on the left showing the slides that have been created. Square in the center shows slide template.
  1. Click on New Slide
  2. Select a layout
  3. Press enter

From the Thumbnail Pane

Screenshot of main PowerPoint screen. There is a column on the left showing the slides that have been created. Square in the center shows slide template.

You can also add slides from the thumbnail pane, the lefthand column of your screen when you’re in the default or Slide view.

  1. Select (highlight) the slide you want the new slide to follow
  2. Right-click on the slide
  3. Select New Slide for the default content slide layout or Duplicate Slide to copy the slide layout and content

OR, to use a shortcut to duplicate the slide layout (not content)

  1. Select (highlight) the slide you want the new slide to follow
  2. Press Ctrl + M (PC) or Cmnd + M (Mac)

Note that your layout choice isn’t final, so don’t overthink the decision. If you’re just trying to get your thoughts down on slides, select Duplicate Slide and fine-tune later.

Deleting a Slide

As with most operations, there are multiple ways to delete a slide:

  • Highlight the slide in the thumbnail pane and press delete
  • Highlight the slide in the thumbnail pane and press the delete icon (Home tab)
  • Highlight the slide in the thumbnail pane, right click and select Delete Slide

Organizing Slides

To move a slide, simply drag and drop in the thumbnail frame.

Practice Questions

Inserting Text Boxes

There are multiple ways to insert text into your slides. One of the ways to enter text, as discussed earlier, is to click inside a placeholder box and enter your text. However, you may want to add text to a blank slide or in a place where there is no placeholder. To do so, select the Insert tab on the ribbon, and choose Text Box.

Screenshot of Home Tab in PowerPoint. Red circles indicate icons used to add a new textbox on a slide.

A text box will be inserted in your slide with a Click to insert text message similar to the placeholder Title and Subtitle boxes discussed earlier. The text box will expand to fit your text. If you decide you want to reposition the text box, you can click and move the text box/text around the slide. If you want to modify the width of the text box, click on a corner and drag it out as desired. The circular icon at the top of the text box activates the drawing and formatting options and allows you to rotate the text box.

Changing the Theme on a Presentation

Themes are one of the formatting options within PowerPoint. A theme is a slide design that contains pre-set colors, fonts, formatting and/or images. To view formatting options, click on the design tab and scroll through the available themes.

Screenshot of main PowerPoint screen. The top home bar shows different slide design themes. A column on the left showing the slides that have been created. A square in the center shows slide template.

Clicking on a theme’s thumbnail applies the formatting to your slides, so you can evaluate potential fit. A second group of options in the ribbon provides color variations on that design. A third option, exclusive to the online version of PowerPoint, is Design Ideas, providing additional variations; this feature is still being built out. To revert to your original format, click Undo.

One caveat: given the limited number of templates and the number of people using PowerPoint, using a standard template doesn’t do anything to distinguish you or your message. Instead of selecting a standard template, use thoughtful images and complementary fonts to add design impact.

Practice Questions

Adding Images and Clip Art

Adding art, images and photographs is a way to both personalize your slides and reinforce your message.

Adding visual elements to your slides is done from the Insert tab. Images can also be inserted directly from a new slide using the Add Pictures, Online Pictures or Online Video icons embedded in new slide layouts.

Screenshot of the home tab. A red circle indicates two icons for inserting pictures and clip art.

To add pictures from your computer

  1. Select the Insert tab
  2. Click on Picture
  3. Select your desired image
  4. Press Open to insert

The Add Pictures From the Internet option allows for two possibilities: searching via Bing and uploading images from OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud storage product). Of course, you can also do an image search using Google Images or your preferred search engine, download images to your desktop and upload them to your presentation using the steps above. Don’t be put off by the initial Bing images served up. Bing’s filters allow you to search by size (small, medium, large, extra large), type (all, photograph, clip art, line drawing and transparent), color (all, color, B&W and by 12 basic colors) and license (all or Creative Commons only).

To add pictures from the Internet

  1. Select the Insert tab
  2. Click on Online Pictures
  3. Type in your search term(s)
  4. Refine your image search using Bing’s size, type, color and license filters
  5. Select an image
  6. Press Insert to insert into slide
  7. Use the corner image “handles” (small boxes) to size

Screenshot of images found through bing search. "Brain art" is the phrase in the search engine.

Practice Question

Adding Videos

Adding video allows you to incorporate both motion and sound into your presentation and this can translate into audience energy! As with other visual elements, video is an Insert tab command.

Screenshot of the PowerPoint home bar. The bar shows twelve icons representing tables, images, or videos to insert into a slide.

The add video command launches a YouTube video search. To see video details, hover over the video. To view the video once embedded, click on the View tab, select Current Slide and press Play.

To add video

  1. Select the Insert tab
  2. Click on Online Video
  3. Enter your search terms
  4. Select your desired video
  5. Press Open to insert
Screenshot showing the option to insert a video from the internet into a slide.

Practice Question