PowerPoint 2013: Working with Outlines

Outline Icon

In out last post we described creating a new PowerPoint presentation by creating a blank slide, adding text, creating another slide adding more text, and so on.  This is indeed the way many people build their presentations.  There are others who prefer to outline their presentation first, and then build the presentation based on the outline.  This post discusses the various ways to outline with PowerPoint or with Word or Notepad and then import to PowerPoint.  Finally, it discusses how to import a Word “outline” based only on Word document heading styles, a powerful technique to capture the structure of a Word document for a PowerPoint presentation, without importing all the text.

Outlining in PowerPoint Itself

If you have not already typed an outline in Word or some other document, you can type it right in PowerPoint by using Outline View.  Create a new blank presentaiton and then click on the View tab to open Outline View.

Outline View

Note that one blank slide exists in the Outline pane, representing the blank title slide that is created by PowerPoint when you create a new, blank presentation.  Type a title next to it and press Enter to create a new slide.  Type a title for the new slide too, press Enter and then press tab to create the first bulleted item on this new slide.

Outline View Text

Pressing Enter after the first bulleted item creates a second bulleted item.  If you wanted to make this item a sub-item of item one, press tab again, and it is demoted.  On the other hand, if you want to make it a new slide, or press Enter and make a blank new slide, press Shift-tab to promote the bullet point to slide.  It works just like Outline View in Word.

Importing an Outline Created in Word

There are two ways to create an outline that can be imported from Word.  1) Type your text, pressing enter between each line.  After it is typed (or while you are typing it, its your choice) go back and click into each line and click on a Heading lever in the Word style gallery.  Heading 1 lines will become slides, Heading two lines will become a bulleted items on the slides.  Heading 3 lines will become sub-bulleted items, and so on.

Heading Levels

This same file could be created in Word’s Outline View, looking more like a classic outline.  In Outline View, just like in using Outline View in PowerPoint, a Level 1 item will be a slide.  Pressing tab will demote an item to Level 2, and make it a bulleted item.  Pressing tab twice on a slide title will make it Level 3, and so on.

Word Outline View

Now, whether I create the outline using Heading Levels or using Outline View, it will import into PowerPoint as described.  Be sure to close the Word document, however, before importing it to PowerPoint.  You will get an error message if you do not.

To import to PowerPoint click the drop-down under New Slide on the Home tab and select Slides from Outline…  Navigate to the Outline file and click Insert.

A TXT File Outline

The same procedure will work with a txt file created in Notepad.  Just type your outline, pressing tab to demote lines to bulleted items, or shift-tab to promote a level.  Once the outline is created follow the same procedure described above in order to create a presentation based on the outline.

Notepad Outline

Opening a Word Document in PowerPoint

Finally, as long as you have used Word styles to format your Word document, you can simply open the document in PowerPoint.  PowerPoint will parse it and make all the Heading 1 styles into slides, Heading 2 styles into bulleted items on the Heading 1 slide above it, and so on, for as many levels as you have headings.  PowerPoint will ignore all the text, graphics, footnotes, etc. that occur in the Word document, as long as you entered them using the style of the Word document’s theme.  If, on the other hand you paste in some text from a different document and forget to format it as Normal text using the style gallery (or whatever kind of text it might be) PowerPoint will not know what to do with it and import the text verbatim onto its own slide.  Be careful, therefore, to make sure your Word document is well formatted using styles.


Here is a video demonstrating each of these techniques.