PowerPoint 2013: Bullets


I’m not one to encourage the use of bulleted items, but let’s face it, many PowerPoint presentations are nothing but slide after slide of bulleted items.  If, therefore, you are faced with the task of changing the bullet style on some or all slides in a presentation, here’s how.  (Remember, if you make this change on the Slide Master it will automatically change all bullets on all slides in your presentation.  If you make it in normal view, it will only affect the slide on which you are working).

If you wish to change the style on one on a single slide, select the text of all of the items, right-click your selection, hover over Bullets on the context menu and, if you want to use one of the standard, presets on the fold-out menu, click it.

Bullet Dialog Option

If you want another bullet style, click Bullets and Numbering…  Here is the resulting dialog box.

Bullets Dialog Box

Note that you can change the size, relative to your presentation’s text size, and change the color of whatever bullet you choose.  Picture… allows you to search your file system, office.com, bing, or your skydrive for a pre-saved bullet.  Using picture bullets is usually not a good idea because they can sometimes cause spacing problems.  Finally, Customize… brings up a symbol selection dialog.  Change to the font set from which you wish to choose, and choose the character you want to be the new bullet style.

Symbol Dialog Box

If you wish to change the bullet style for your entire presentation, and not just on a single slide, follow the procedure outlined above on the Slide Master (View < Slide Master).

Here is a brief video that shows how.

PowerPoint 2013: WordArt


An advanced form of text editing in PowerPoint is called WordArt.  Some truly spectacular textual effects can be achieved with WordArt, while the text retains its characteristics as text (can be spell checked, font sizes can be changed, case can be changed, new text inserted, etc.).  Nevertheless, these effects don’t have much of a place in a well designed, professional presentation.  They should be used sparingly, and only for special emphasis.  This post will in brief review where the WordArt settings and controls can be found and applied.  We will get to a discussion of shape effects—which are the same effects applied to shapes, rather than text—in a later post.

To apply text effects, begin by selecting the text you wish to modify.  WordArt can be applied to text in placeholders, in textboxes, on shapes, and on SmartArt.  When you select the text a Drawing Tools tab will appear above the ribbon, with a Format tab beneath it.  Click the format tab to reveal the WordArt Styles group.

WordArt Styles

Note that for text on SmartArt a SmartArt Tools tab appears, rather than a Drawing Tools tab, but it has a Format sub-tab that contains the WordArt Styles.

Click the More drop-down to see the WordArt gallery.  It contains 20 presets, each featuring a different theme color and set of effects.  The color of the presets in the gallery will vary by theme, of course, but they will be the same basic styles.  Hovering over each preset will be live previewed in the selected text.

If you wish greater control over your WordArt style, use the Text Fill, Text Outline, and Text Effects drop-downs to the right of the WordArt gallery, and for maximum control, click the dialog launcher, or click the Options button on each Text Effects command, to open the Format Shape pane, where virtually all characteristics of the WordArt style can be controlled (except for Transform effects, which can only be accessed from the Text Effects drop-down).

Format Shape Pane
Format Shape pane with Shadow Effects expanded.

Tools to fill text and outline text are basic and easily understood.  The tools to apply text effects are more complex and require some trial and error to use effectively.  Let me repeat that WordArt ought to be used sparingly, and only for important emphasis.  It is easy to waste a lot of time monkeying around with text effects that will be lost on your audience.  Clarity, impact and legibility ought to be your goals when constructing presentation slides, and too many strange effects (my personal pet peeve is the reflection effect) can detract from your message.

In any event, watch this brief video to see a demo of WordArt styles.

PowerPoint 2013: Basic Text Editing


As mentioned in previous posts, if you are going to edit text in a PowerPoint presentation, it is better that the editing be done on the slide master, so that 1) your edits will propagate through the entire presentation.  Sometimes this is just not possible, especially with reference to text in text boxes.  You may want to color a single word in a text box differently than the rest of the words, or bold or underline a word, or expand character spacing for a group of words, or whatever the case may be.  This post discusses these basic text edits, which are common Word text formatting tasks also.  It is important to remember that any text editing you do on slides will override the placeholder settings of your design theme, and will not change when you change themes or change the slide master.

When text is selected, the Font group on the Home tab is activated (it “lights up”) and the Drawing Tools tab appears.  The Drawing Tools are for more advanced text editing.  In this post we will concentrate on the basic edits available in the Font group on the Home tab.

Font Group


I have discussed basic font manipulation in another post.  I would repeat my warning here NOT to use whimsical, novelty, romantic, cursive, gothic, or otherwise weird fonts in your presentations.  There are always exceptions, of course, but at least think twice before putting a relatively illegible font on a slide.  If you stick with the font theme that is part of your PowerPoint 2013 design theme you will be doing well.  If you need to change font family or size, however, you can find a list of all the fonts installed on your system in the font drop-down in the Font group.  In working with different fonts, though, remember that the set of fonts installed on computers is usually somewhat (sometimes radically) different, so sticking with basics is better to insure consistency if you develop a presentation on one computer but present it on another.  As long as you are using TrueType fonts (those that show up in your Control Panel Font tool) you can also embed them, to be sure they will be available to your presentation.

Font Control

Font size is measured in points—in the illustration above Century Gothic 54 pt. is selected.  A point is approximately 1/72nd of an inch, though the actual size of a point varies depending on the font being used.  The font size up and down controls will increase or decrease the font size by preset intervals, or you can simply type a new font size in the font size box.  This is the only way to create really large fonts, which are useful in certain animation effects.

The Clear Formatting command can be very useful if you have been doing experiments with text effects and get things in a hash.  Just select your text, click Clear Formatting, and you are back to your design theme setting.

 Text Effects

Basic text effects formatting needs little discussion.  Bold, Italics, Underline and Shadow and Strike Through are all self evident.  Just select the text and click the effect button to apply it.  If you find an effect you think is especially effective—adding a shadow to white text can make it stand out and increase legibility, for example—make the edit on the slide master rather than on the actual slide, so that it will be applied to all placeholder text.  If you want a consistent effect on text box text, edit the text in an existing text box and then make it the default for future text boxes  (existing text boxes will not be affected, so you will need to use the format painter to quickly change them).

Basic Text Effects
Basic Text Effects

Character Spacing

The character spacing control allows modification of the space between letters.

Character Spacing
Character Spacing drop-down

Here is a table of samples using the various character spacing drop-down presets on the Century Gothic font used in our sample presentation.  The font you use will affect the appearance of various character spacings, of course.

Character Spacing Examples

Clicking “More Spacing…” at the bottom of the character spacing drop-down opens the character spacing dialog, where any desired setting can be configured.


The case control drop-down allows for conversion from one case to another, an extremely useful tool if you have pasted text that is all upper case, or needs to be all uppercase, etc.

Case Control


Understanding color is critical to designing presentations that can be easily modified.  The font color drop-down allows for selecting from one of 10 theme colors (there are officially 12 theme colors, but 2, the ones used for hyperlinks and visited hyperlinks, are not shown in this drop down); or 50 shade variations on the theme colors.  As long as you change your text font to one of these colors, they will change to the colors of a new design theme is you apply one.  If you pick from the Standard Colors, however, or from the More Colors… options, they will not change with design theme.

Font Color Selector

Each design theme has its own color theme, which can be changed using the Color selector on the Slide Master view (or under the Variant gallery on the Design tab).

Color Themes

Changing the color theme will change the theme color selections you may make, of course, from the font color drop-down.  Clicking “Customize Colors…” on the theme color drop-down permits editing of any/all of the theme colors and/or creating your own re-usable color theme.

New with PowerPoint 2013 is an eye dropper tool which will allow you to “pick up” any color on your slide and make it the new font color.  This is most useful when you have place a photo or piece of art work on the slide, and want to add a color coordinated label or call out.

The Font Dialog Box

Most of the fine-tuning controls in PowerPoint 2013 have been moved to panes, which appear on the right of your screen when needed, but not so font fine-tuning controls.  Clicking the dialog launcher at the bottom right of the Font group will open an old fashioned Font dialog box, giving you access to even more font choices.

Font Dialog Box

The variations available from this dialog box are fairly self explanatory.  “Offset” refers to the amount of offset a superscript of subscript will have.  “Small Caps” is a popular options, and elaborate underline styles are also a popular use of this control.


These, in sum, are your basic font editing tools.  It is worth repeating that keeping font editing on slides to a minimum will make for more consistent design and easier changes to your presentations down the road.  If you need to edit fonts it is better to do so on slide masters, or default versions of text boxes and drawn shapes, rather than on specific instances of text.  Once you edit a specific instance of text on a slide, the new formatting will override your design theme settings (which are really “placeholder” settings, and not actual settings, of course).  If you then change a setting on the slide master, individual settings on specific slides will not change.

Here is a video summarizing these concepts.

PowerPoint 2013: Embedded Fonts


To wrap up our discussion of fonts, let’s try to decide whether we should embed fonts within our presentation when we save.  You may want to present on another computer than the one you used to develop the PowerPoint presentation, and each computer’s font set may be different.  To be sure you will have the correct fonts so that your presentation will look as expected on another computer, embedding may be necessary.  Before launching into the discussion, however, you need to know that you can only embed TrueType fonts in a PowerPoint presentation (.ttf) and that embedded fonts in a Windows version of PowerPoint will not work on a Mac version.  A thorough discussion of this topic can be found here.

The option to embed fonts found on the File tab, Options group, Save group.  You have the choice to embed either the specific font characters used in your presentation, or all characters, in case you need to edit on a computer that does not have the font.

Embed Options

Let’s open a presentation and find out what effect embedding the fonts has.  Here is a screenshot from the Windows Explorer showing the file size of our basic presentation, without embedded fonts, 935KB.

Embed File Size 01

Now let’s save the file with embedded fonts, choosing “embed all characters” and check the file size.  (The fonts referred to are only the Century Gothic font used by the Ion theme for this particular presentation.

Embed File Size 02

Quite a change; an additional 1822 KB to embed the theme font.

What if we add another font to the presentation.  I will edit the presentation, and change one of the text boxes to use Algerian font, and then save with fonts embedded, choosing to embed all characters.  Here are the results.

Embed File Size 03Very little change this time, only 42 KB more.  Algerian contains only regular characters with few variations.

Does this mean that for each additional font I embed, I will only incur a small file size gain?  Let’s tray a different font.  Instead of Algerian let’s try an Adobe Open Type Font  called Adobe Gothic STD B.  (Note: in the font drop-down list you will see an O next to Adobe OpenType fonts, but the font will only be embeddable if it is a TrueType font developed in cooperation with Microsoft.  Pure .otf files will not embed).   Here is the result.

Embed File Size 04

This time we see an enormous jump, akin to the jump when we first embedded our theme fonts.  Why?  Because the font is extensive.  Not all fonts are created equally.  Some contain glyphs, ligatures and other variations that others simply do not have.  Some Asian fonts are truly enormous.  On my system I have TrueType fonts, from my initial Windows 8 install, my Office 2013 install (among other Windows programs); I have TrueType Adobe OpenType fonts (.ttf) and I also have non-TrueType Adobe Open Type fonts (.otf) from the installation of various Adobe products; I have PostScript fonts from the installation of yet other Adobe products; and I have yet other system fonts and purchased fonts.  Remember that PowerPoint can only embed TrueType fonts, and that not all TrueType fonts will successfully embed.  It depends on the licensing restrictions placed on the font, of which you will usually be unaware.

In the case of some fonts you will be warned that it will not embed.

Embed Cannot Save

Unfortunately, PowerPoint does not always inform you that a font will not embed or completely embed a font.  Even some TrueType fonts will not embed, once again, because of licensing restrictions.  It is usually worth embedding fonts, just to be sure spacing and layout will remain consistent regardless of the computer you are presenting on (assuming it is a PC and not a Mac).

PowerPoint 2013: The Replace Fonts Command


Here is a practical tip that can help you redeem a presentation when someone (not you, of course) has used an outlandish font in text boxes or even in bulleted lists.  Remember, your goal in placing words on a PowerPoint slide is to communicate a point, and to do so the text you use must be legible.  Therefore, weird, hard-to-read fonts should be avoided at all costs.  Unfortunately, humans being what they are, many people seem drawn to cursive, fantasy, gothic, or otherwise nearly illegible fonts.  PowerPoint provides a quick remedy for this, however.  It’s called the Replace Font command.

Let’s say you have inherited a presentation that contains a number of text boxes that use a cursive font, like this:

Cursive Text Box

The original author has compounded the problem by using yet another outlandish Old English Gothic font for a bulleted list, and Algerian in yet another text box.

Old English

Algerian Text Box

Do you need to go through this entire presentation and reformat all these text boxes and lists to use the normal font theme?  No.  Here’s what you do.

On the Home tab, in the editing group, click the drop-down for Replace and select Replace Fonts…

Replace Fonts Command

A Replace Font dialog box will appear.  The Replace drop-down will contain ONLY the fonts used in the current presentation, making it easy to spot the culprits.

Replace Font Dialog Box

The With drop-down contains all the fonts available on your system.  What you want to replace the offending fonts with is the font used by the font theme in the design theme you have chosen for your presentation.  In this case, I have chosen the Ion theme, which uses the Century Gothic font set.  So to get rid of those horrible cursive text boxes, I choose to replace Brush Script Std with Century Gothic, the pleasing sans serif font used by my design theme.

Replace With Command

PowerPoint responds by running through the ENTIRE presentation, replacing Brush Script with Century Gothic.  Font sizes remain the same.

Now repeat the process for Old English Text MT, and Algerian.

Replace Old English

Easy.  Done in just a few clicks rather than laboriously searching through the presentation and reformatting each instance of an illegible font.

Here is a video that demonstrates the technique.

PowerPoint 2013: Font Basics


Each design theme has a font family defined for headings and for body text.  The same font family extends to text entered into text boxes and on shapes and SmartArt.  The simplest way to control font family throughout a presentation—which is a good idea, because it gives a consistent, professional look to the presentation—is to stick with the default font choices already built-in to the font themes used in PowerPoint 2013.  This is a rule more honored in the breach than the observance, unfortunately, because people just seem to have a thing about unusual font choices, but if good advice can prevail, I urge you to put aside your love of cursive or decorative fonts, and stick with the basics.

Text in Placeholders

Font family and size entered in text placeholders (titles and bulleted items) get their font family, font size and color from the design theme you select.  They can be changed independently from the other theme elements (colors, effects, and background art).  To do so, click on the View tab, select Slide Master View, and click the drop-down on the Fonts group, to reveal the theme fonts gallery.   Each font theme set contains a font family for Header text (i.e., slide titles) and one for Body text.  In the font themes at the top of the drop-down these are the same font, just in different font sizes.  In those towards the bottom of the themes these are different font families for headers and body text, Like Times New Roman for headers and Arial for body (see the illustration below).

Theme Font Gallery

Note that you can also create your own, custom font theme by clicking the Customize fonts… command.  (The font theme can also be changed from Normal View using the Font gallery drop-down in the Variants group on the Design tab).

A lot of nonsense has been spouted about font selection for slide presentations and their effect on audiences.  To me the only important factors are legibility, and ease of use when re-purposing fonts on existing slides.  Therefore, my advice is to stick with the basics.  Use one of the font sets towards the top of the font theme drop-down, where the header and body fonts are the same, and stick with it.  Unless you have a compelling reason, go with the font theme associated with the design theme itself.  Avoid the impulse to use a “cool” looking font.  With respect to serifed vs. sans serif fonts, I think it is a matter of taste.  I personally favor the clean sans serif fonts, but others will feel differently.  As long as fonts are legible to those in the back of the venue at which you will be presenting, they serve their purpose.  Above all, avoid decorative, fantasy, and cursive fonts.

Font color needs to provide high contrast with the slide background, so it is wise not to modify the default theme colors with respect to header and body fonts, but to make your text even more legible I recommend, where possible, to increase font

Font Sizes

To increase font sizes for text in placeholders on all slides in your presentation, increase them on the Slide Master.  In the sample presentation we are building in our workshop, for example, right-click in the title area of the slide master (the header text), and increase its size to 54 point.  Don’t worry that the default “Click to” text in the placeholder wraps outside the placeholder.  We will never create a slide title long enough to wrap.  Brief, to-the-point titles are what to strive for; not wordy titles.  By increasing the font size of the default slide title we have increased its legibility.

Increase Title Font Size

Also increase the font sizes of all of the bulleted items (body text).  In the presentation we are creating we will not use bulleted items, but many presentations do.  Displaying bulleted items to third, fourth and fifth levels should not actually happen, but in case it does, increase their font sizes.  As with titles, avoid wordy bulleted items.  In the instance, I recommend bulleted item sizes of 40pt for level one, 36pt for level 2, and so on, down the scale.  Larger font sizes = increased legibility.  Do not create bulleted items that duplicate what you are going to say.  Use brief, pithy bulleted items that summarize your points.  They call it a “point” for a reason.  Any elaboration should be done by orally you, the speaker.  That way your audience will not be reading ahead, or be distracted by reading your wordy slide while you are speaking.  In my opinion the font sizes of the bulleted items on the default PowerPoint themes are all too small, and ought to be increased.  If you want to create a presentation with a lot of words, it probably should be a Word document, and not a PowerPoint presentation, and should be delivered as a download rather than in-person.


Increase Bulleted Item Font Sizes
Increase Bulleted Item Font Sizes

As I say, it is better from the start to pick a font that provides high contrast, increase its size to increase legibility, and stick with your choices.

 Text Box Text

Text in text boxes is different from text in placeholders.  There is no simple way to adjust its font size for all text boxes in a presentation.  I wish there were—actually, I wish what Microsoft would provide is a set of styles, as in Word, to apply to various text boxes, any of which could be modified as desired, but they do not.  I think the theory is that text boxes can contain anything, from large blocks of text to tiny, single word labels or grouped labels and graphics.  Whatever the theory, to change the font size in a text box you need to do it in the actual text box in the presentation itself, and not in slide master view.

If you are just beginning to create your presentation, however, and want to establish a text box style for all text boxes, you can adjust the default font size from the get go.  This will not affect text boxes you have already creating, but will become the default text box style.  Here’s how.

First, select the text in the text box you want to change, and modify it as desired.  In the case of our sample presentation, I want to use a much larger font size than the default 18pt font used by my theme (Ion).  Drag the cursor over the text in the text box, right-click the selection, and from the mini toolbar change its size.  In the case of our sample presentation, I want my text box text to be 54pt.  Once again, I want it legible from the back of a large room, and I do not plan to create text boxes that are too prolix.

Text Box Font Size

Now, click the border of the text box (the dashed line around it) so that it becomes a solid line.  With your cursor over this solid line (so that it is a 4-headed arrow) right-click, and from the context menu choose “Set as Default Text Box.”  The font size (and other font attributes) of this box will be the default for all subsequent text boxes you create in your presentation.

Default Text Box

The same procedure works for text size on a drawn shape.  Once set, it can become the default shape.

Default Shape


The nomenclature is somewhat confusing, because what you are really doing is setting the default font style on the shape, and not setting a default shape at all.  After setting a default shape in this manner, you can draw any shape, and when you type text on the shape it will have the attributes (font family, color, size) as that set on the “default shape.”

The following video summarizes the techniques presented here.