Exploring Office 2007: PowerPoint 2007 Tips and Tricks

PowerPoint 2007 is one of the Office 2007 applications that supports the new next-generation Office interface, complete with the new Ribbon layout and interactive galleries.

Most of the functionality of the older PowerPoint releases is still there — with a few exceptions — but a host of new features will take your PowerPoint presentations to a new level of graphic excellence and functionality.

In this article we look at some of the improvements in PowerPoint 2007 that you can put to work in your presentations today.

Get Started with New Templates
PowerPoint has always been very generous in the templates it provides. Now you can access templates from the Office Bar — click New and you can view templates installed on your computer as well as templates available on Microsoft Office online.

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 - Templates Screenshot
There are a range of templates, including some with content in them, available in the New Presentation dialog.
(Click for larger image).

These include calendars, schedules and resumes as well as content slides. Click the More Categories link to find more templates including those for instructional presentations, evaluations and sales presentations. Gone is the old Auto-Content Wizard, although some of the templates include the basic structure for a typical presentation of that type.

To match the larger monitors now in vogue, you can configure your presentation to take advantage of letterbox format screens. To do this, on the Design tab click the Page Setup button and from the Slides Sized For option choose On Screen Show (16:9) or On Screen Show (16:10) for a letterbox format presentation.

If the monitor you are designing on is not a letterbox format monitor you can still preview your show — the top and bottom of the screen will be filled with black so your letterbox format slides will show in the correct aspect ratio. To be safe, set up letterbox format before you start designing the rest of the presentation.

Picture Perfect with Themes and Effects
When you open a template or start a new blank presentation, you can apply one of PowerPoint’s new Themes from the Design tab. Themes are richly featured tools that provide well-designed and attractive formatting options for your slides. Each theme comes with fonts, effects, background styles and customizable colors. If the built-in themes aren’t enough, you can download more themes from Microsoft Office online.

Once you apply a Theme to a presentation many of the elements that you add will be automatically formatted according to the theme’s design. For example, tables that are inserted using Table on the Insert tab now come preformatted with the theme’s coloring and style. As in other Office 2007 applications, when a table is selected the Table Tools options include Design and Layout tabs from which you can select a look for your table. Those at the top of the gallery are offered as the best match for the document’s theme.

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 - Picture Screenshot
The new Picture with Caption layout gives you an attractive presentation for images.
(Click for larger image)

When you change the Theme you’re using, all the elements in the presentation, charts, SmartArt and your tables will change to match the new theme. And all of these elements can have quite sophisticated effects such as shadows, bevels and reflections applied to them using the Effects icon on the Design tab.

If there is a theme that you want to use repeatedly (such as one designed for your business), you can set it as the default theme by right-clicking it in the gallery and choosing Set as default theme. If you have made changes to elements of a selected theme, such as selecting different colors, fonts and effects as well as background styles, you can save this configuration of your theme by selecting the Save Current Theme option in the themes palette.

You can also configure this as the default theme if so desired. As in earlier versions of PowerPoint, you can right-click a theme and select to apply it to all slides in the slide presentation or only to selected slides.

Other theme options include the ability to change the background for any theme. So if you like the theme’s look and feel but need to use a different background, select the Background Styles dropdown gallery from the Design tab and select a different background. These backgrounds vary from light to dark, and when you select a dark background, text on the slides will change color so it can be read on the new background color.

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 - Slide Master Screenshot
The Slide Master option on the View menu lets you configure the design for your slide layouts and you can now add additional placeholders.
(Click for larger image)

Recoloring Art
PowerPoint now has the capability to recolor an image such as a photo in much the same way as you have been able to do in Publisher. The Recolor tool appears on the Picture Tools, Format tab when you have a picture selected. Click the Recolor option in the Adjust area to preview the duotone effects, which range from dark variations to light variations. You can choose one of the color variations or create your own with a color selected from the current theme.

It is also possible to use a photo as a slide background and, for images used this way, you can adjust the image so it works better behind text and other graphics. To do this, from the Background Styles option choose the Format Background, Fill option and select the Picture Or Texture Fill.

Click the File button and locate a file to use as the background and click Insert to insert it. You can now vary the transparency of the image, and from the Picture options adjust its brightness and contrast to wash it out if desired. You can also select the recolor option and recolor the image.

Get Organized with New Layouts
There are now nine built-in slide layouts available from the Home tab when you click to create a new slide. These offer plenty of scope for creating slides that have a more designer-styled look than those in earlier versions of PowerPoint.

The new Picture With Caption slide lets you add a picture to a slide — it is displayed at a large size with an attractive caption. Click the Picture Tools, Format tab and you can choose from one of 28 styles for your picture frame. When you change the theme the image is reformatted to suit.

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 - PowerPoint in Excel Screenshot
When you click the Chart option on the Insert tab you now create charts for your PowerPoint presentation in Excel
(Click for larger image)

While PowerPoint does a good job of sizing and cropping the image to fit the layout, you can crop the image differently, if desired, to create a unique look.

Unlike previous versions of PowerPoint you can add additional placeholders to your slide layouts; so for example, if you need a two-column layout you can create one with a second placeholder. To do this, select the View tab to get access to the PowerPoint slide master.

Click the Slide Master button, select the layout to alter, click the Insert Placeholder option, and drag a new placeholder of the desired type onto the slide and size it to suit. Click Close Master View to return to the slide-editing window.

Charts in Presentations
When you design a chart for your PowerPoint presentation it will be created in Excel rather than using the old PowerPoint charting tool. Excel opens with a worksheet showing the categories and series for a basic chart.

You can edit this data, expand it if desired, and then return to PowerPoint to complete formatting the chart. You select Chart styles from the Chart Tools, Design tab that appears whenever you highlight a chart. Like other elements in PowerPoint, the chart’s look, colors and effects match the theme that you are using and, when you change the theme, the look of the chart changes to match the newly selected theme.

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 - SmartArt Screenshot
Only PowerPoint lets you convert an existing list to a SmartArt object.
(Click for larger image)

Get Smart with SmartArt
You may have read our previous article on SmartArt. SmartArt is a new feature in Office 2007 that offers an easy way to create very smart diagrams and business graphics. Like other elements, these are formatted to match the current PowerPoint 2007 Theme.

Typically you create SmartArt objects by choosing SmartArt on the Insert tab and then type the data for the graphic. If you already have a list prepared, you can select the text and, in the Home tab’s Paragraph area, locate and click the Convert to Smart Art Graphic icon. It’s not easy to see, but it’s there and is only available in PowerPoint.

Ready, Set, Present
Come presentation time, PowerPoint offers a much-improved Presenter View that you can use when you have multiple monitors attached to your computer. Presenter View gives you two views of your presentation — one for your audience and one for you.

Your view can include slide notes, which are notes you create for individual slides and which may contain additional information or reminders. You can make your notes as large or small as you like so they are easy to read.

You can also see a preview of the slides coming up in the presentation so you can prepare for what’s next. And a handy on-screen indicator tracks how much time you have spent making your presentation so you can keep track of time.

Saving options for your presentation include saving the presentation in the default new file format or as a PowerPoint 97-2003 compatible file. You can also download and use the PowerPoint PDF add-in to save your presentation as a PDF file or, as with PowerPoint 2003 you can use the Publish Options to package the presentation for burning to a CD.

There are plenty of new features in PowerPoint 2007 that will make it easier for you to create graphically consistent and attractive presentations and to craft those presentations more efficiently. Of all the applications in the new Microsoft Office 2007 suite, people will most likely appreciate the new graphic tools such as Themes and SmartArt.

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