PowerPoint 2013: The Context Menu in the Thumbnail Pane

Becoming proficient at the Office programs makes the difference between finishing your work early or staying late.  Or for the student, getting the assignment in without a sweat or staying up all night with tedious, time consuming operations.  This post on a minor topic is one of those “little things” that can make the difference.  It is about the context menu in the Normal View thumbnail pane (the narrow pane on the left of the screen in Normal View that displays a thumbnail of each slide in your presentation.

UI Parts

Right-click any of the thumbnails in the thumbnail pane and you will see the following context menu.

Context Menu

Let’s talk a little about each option.  (By the way, the underlined character in the name of each item on the menu means that if you press that letter on the keyboard while the menu is visible the command will be performed).

New Slide

Not many people will use this method to create new slides, and I’ve got a feeling it is included just to be exhaustive.  The shortcut for creating a new slide is to press Ctrl-M or Enter.  A new slide will be created after the currently selected slide, and it will be the same slide layout as the currently selected slide.

Duplicate Slide

You may use this option a lot.  I do, except I use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-D.  A slide that is the exact duplicate of the currently selected slide will be created after that slide.  This is most useful when you are building a series based on the previous slide.   Think of a mathematical proof, for example.  Step one is illustrated on slide 1.  Now, duplicate slide 1 and add step 2.  Now duplicate slide 2 and add step 3…  You get the idea.  It is also useful when revealing only parts of a larger data set in sequence.  You will undoubtedly think of your own examples.  Duplicate slide works with multiply selected slides too.  If you wish to duplicate slides 1-3, select them (click on the first and hold down shift to click on the last) and press Ctrl-D, or select “Duplicate Slide” from the context menu.

 Delete Slide

This is the one you will probably use the most.  Click the slide in the thumbnail pane to select it, right-click it, and select “Delete”, though here again, after you become experienced you will select the slide and press the Delete key on the keyboard.  This works with multiply selected slides also.

 Add Section

Section headings were first introduced into PowerPoint 2010, and have not caught on in a big way, but can be a very useful organization tool once you start using them.  They presuppose that your presentation is long enough to profit from organizing it into sections, but sadly this is often the case with academic presentations.  Select a slide in the thumbnail pane (or click above the slide in the area between slides to place an insertion point), right-click, and choose “Add Section.”  The words “Untitled Section” will appear above your slide, with a little arrowhead to the left of it.

Untitled Section

Right-click those words and choose “Rename Section.”  Give the section an appropriate (and memorable) name.  Do this for all of the naturally occurring sections in your presentation, then you can easily collapse them all, and open just the slides you wish to work on when appropriate.  It also makes it easy to move sections within the presentation in Slide Sorter view.

Publish Slides

If you have access to a Microsoft Sharepoint Library publishing slides to it can be a great way to share slides of common interest across an organization.  If not, don’t worry about this option.  Without SharePoint you can share across common folders, but the publish option has no more meaning than copy.

 Hide Slide

This is the only other useful command of consequence on the context menu (the others are performed best in other ways).  Hiding slides can be a very useful way to arm yourself with information that helps answer questions that might be asked by your audience, but that you do not want to take the time to address directly during your presentation.  Let’s say I am presenting on the topic of e-Textbooks, but do not want to take the time in my brief presentation to illustrate the differences between e-Ink and LCD screen displays on tablet devices.  I have a feeling, however, since I will be talking to some technically inclined people, that they may ask about this.  I can therefore prepare a slide or two illustrating the differences, and maybe containing ownership data, but hide them so that they will not appear during the presentation.  If asked about this after the presentation, I can use the slide navigator (just right-click a slide and choose “Go To Slide” to jump to a hidden slide.  Hidden slides will appear in the list of available slides with their numbers in parentheses.

Hidden Slides

Note that hidden slides appear in the thumbnail panel dimmed out, with a diagonal line through their slide number.


This brief video will review these ideas.