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.

PowerPoint 2013: Adding Text to Shapes and SmartArt


Text can be added to drawn shapes and to SmartArt, a special case of drawn shapes.  In either case, text entered in this fashion will not show up in Outline View.  Usually text placed on drawn shapes is brief, like a label or flowchart process, text placed on SmartArt however, can be more expansive because the SmartArt will scale the text to fit within the shapes that comprise the illustration.  Here is how to place text on drawn shapes, and then on SmartArt.

Text on a Drawn Shape

Most of the shapes drawn using the Shapes tool on the Insert tab (there is also a Shapes gallery by default on the Home tab) allow for text entry.  Simply draw the shape and start typing to add text to a drawn shape.  By default the text will be the standard text/font size for the theme, in a contrasting color to the shape.  It will be centered on the shape, but the alignment can be changed by selecting the text and using the contextual mini-toolbar (or the text tools on the Home tab) to change alignment.

Text Mini Tool Bar

Note that text will not auto-re-size to stay within the borders of the shape, but will, by default, simply overflow the shape as you continue to type.  To control this behavior, right-click the shape and choose Format Shape…  Click Text Options and Text Box.  Then change the behavior to “Shrink text on overflow” or “Resize shape to fit text,” depending on the behavior you want.  Of course, placing a great deal of text on a shape is not a good idea in the first place.

Text Box Overflow Options
Text Box Overflow Options

The text and the shape are part of the same object, and deleting the shape also deletes the text.  If you want text that can be independent of the shape, draw the shape and then use the Text Box tool to type the text.  If you wan them to move together, group them.  Grouping will be the subject of a future post.

If you have typed text on a shape, and decided that another shape would be more appropriate you do not need to retype the text.  Use the Change Shape tool on the Drawing Tools tab to change it.

Change Shape Tool

Text on SmartArt

SmartArt is a special type of shape that can contain text or, sometimes, graphics.  The procedure for adding text to SmartArt shapes is different than for drawn shapes.  First, insert the SmartArt.  Configure it for the number of shapes you wish it to contain and format it for color and effects.  Then type the text in the text placeholder on each shape, or open the text side panel and type the bullet-point style text there.  Each bullet point in the side panel represents a text place holder on each SmartArt shape.

SmartArt Text Panel

The little arrowhead control on the left border of the SmartArt matrix illustrated above is the control that opens or closes the text panel.  Most SmartArt will expand to create a new shape within the borders of the SmartArt object for each bullet item in the text panel.  With some shapes, only a fixed number of shapes (and therefore bulleted items) are allowed, like the Matrix in this slide, which only allows for five: the upper level, central bullet item “Education,” and the four sub-items.  One of the things that makes SmartArt smart is that the text you type to label each shape will automatically re-size as you type, and it will re-size on all shapes, not just the one you are typing, so that the font size will be uniform.

SmartArt Matrix Shape

The SmartArt gallery can be found on the Insert tab in the Illustrations group.

SmartArt Tool

Clicking the SmartArt tool will bring up the SmartArt gallery, from which you can pick the graphic best able to illustrate your idea.

SmartArt Gallery

The following video demonstrates these concepts.

PowerPoint 2013: Pasting Text on a Slide from a Text Source


In this post I will describe how to paste text from any text source onto a PowerPoint slide.  Text added in this fashion will not appear in Outline View.

If you want to bypass the Text Box tool altogether, you can simply paste text onto a slide from Word, or any other text source.  In fact, if a source document will let you copy to the Windows clipboard, PowerPoint will let you paste the text in.  There is a caveat about formatting, however, and a couple of tricks that might assist with this process.

The caveat:  be sure to paste in using the Paste Options tools and selecting “Keep Text Only” in order to clear the formatting from the pasted text.  This is especially important when pasting from a web page that may have all sorts of hidden html in the text string.  Keep Text Only strips away the formatting code and pastes in just the text.

After copying your source text, right-click on the slide on which you wish to copy it and select Keep Text Only from the Paste Options.  (These options can also be found on the drop-down beneath the Ribbon Paste tool on the Home tab).

Keep Text Only Paste

Once pasted, the text will exist in its own container, which acts like any text box container.  Clicking the dashed border will turn the border solid, and then any formatting command you apply will affect the entire contents of the container.

If you have a specific area on the slide where you want to paste the text, click the Text Box tool and draw a container for the text, then paste it in using the Keep Text Only option.  The text will fill the box, and the box will expand downward if the text will not fit, but it will maintain its width.

Finally, if you are pasting formatted text from, say a Word document, and simply use Ctrl-V to paste it into a container on a slide, click the border of the container so that it is solid, and then press Ctrl-spacebar to clear the formatting.  This will not clear line breaks, hard or soft, but will clear most other formatting.

The following video demonstrates these techniques and tips.

PowerPoint 2013: Adding Text to Slides


In this and the next three posts I would like to consider four ways to add text to PowerPoint slides:

  • Typed into a text placeholder and as a bulleted item;
  • As a text box – with two variations: click and type and a drawn textbox;
  • Paste from Word or other text source;
  • Text on a shape – with two variations also: a Drawn Shape and SmartArt.

Text Placeholders and Bulleted Items

The traditional PowerPoint slide (one that many designers now recommend NOT be used) is the bulleted list.  Regardless of recommendations, this layout persists as the most popular PowerPoint slide type, especially in academics, and (apparently) in business too, since the default New Slide type is a generic slide featuring bulleted textual content.  In a typical presentation, step one is creating a title slide (which is a special use of text box placeholders) the next new slide, if you are creating a PowerPoint presentation from scratch, “expects” to contain bulleted item textual content.  Consider the following Title & Content new slide:

Title-Content Blank

There is a blank placeholder for the title of the slide at the top (derived from the slide master, as we have previously discussed), and a central blank container containing several placeholders for bulleted text, and six other types of content:  a table; a chart; SmartArt; a Picture from a file; a Picture from the web; a Video from file or embed code from the web.  If you view this layout in slide show view, you will see nothing.  The placeholders and the containers do not display.  Only when they are clicked, and actual content is added will something actually display.  To add a title, for example, click where it says “Click to add title” and type the title of the slide.  To add the first bulleted item of text to the slide click where it says “Click to add text” and type your text.  If you press Enter after typing your text a dimmed out bullet point shows on the next line, ready to receive another text entry.  The bullet will not actually display on the slide until text is typed.  The other content placeholders disappear.  Consider the following slide with text added:

Bulleted items in outline view

It shows a slide with a title and four bulleted items in Outline View.  How does PowerPoint know what font to use, what font size to use for text items and what bullet style to use?  The same way it knows what color scheme to use and what background art to include:  the slide master, which inherits its color and font choices from the presentation theme.  We have already covered these ideas in other posts.

An all-too-typical PowerPoint slide is very like the one illustrated above, with a brief outline of the points the speaker wishes to address in abbreviated bullet list format, with perhaps some animation to make each bullet point appear on mouse click.  I happen to agree that this is not particularly effective slide/presentation design, but it is very common.  If this meets your needs, then this is about all you need to know to create PowerPoint slides.

Versions of PowerPoint since 2010 have included a feature that automatically re-sizes text when it overflows the bulleted text placeholder.  That is, when you enter more bulleted items than the placeholder can contain.  To turn this feature off, use the AutoCorrect options button that will appear when this action happens.

AutoCorrect Drop-down

Clear the check next to “AutoFit body text to placeholder to turn this feature off.

Autocorrect Options

Of the four ways to add text to a slide discussed in this series, this is the only way that adds text to Outline View.  Text that you add through text boxes or on shapes do not.

The following video demonstrates these techniques and tips.

PollEverywhere and PowerPoint 2013


If you’ve sat through one of my past Faculty Plenary sessions in the last several years, doubtless you’ve seen my use of PollEverywhere. I use their free higher-ed account, and since I never need more than 40 respondents to any poll, it meets all my needs.

If you’re not familiar with the PollEverywhere service, here’s what their FAQ page says in response to the question “What is PollEverywhere?”

On the surface, Poll Everywhere is a simple application that works well for live audiences using mobile devices like phones. People participate by visiting a fast mobile-friendly web page for your event, sending text messages, or using Twitter. Instructions are displayed on-screen. The poll that is embedded within the presentation or web page will update in real time. Advanced uses include texting comments to a presentation, texting questions to a presenter, web voting, and SMS interactivity in print, radio, and TV.

What first attracted me to this service was that the polls allow for audience input via multiple points, such as text messages, tweets, and even a customized web interface. And, best of all, the result graphs would dynamically display from within PowerPoint slides, right in front of the audience during the polling period. (There’s just something… cool, watching your own votes show up on the screen moments after you submit them. It truly does make the audience feel more a part of the presentation, as I can attest from being in an audience using the polls.) My only reservation about the graphing function is that, in recent months, the Adobe Flash tool (which is how the graphs were rendered) was not playing nice with PowerPoint.

Apparently the good folks at PollEverywhere had similar reservations, because they have taken steps to abandon use of Flash, and coincidentally made integrating polls into PowerPoint slide decks easier than ever!

As the below video demonstrates, there is an add-in for PowerPoint (both Windows and Mac versions) which makes adding a poll results screen just as easy as adding any other slide to your presentation. And as the tech which powers the graphs now is purely HTML5, there should not be any security warnings or troubles such as Flash may have inflicted.

So, if you’re already using PollEverywhere with your students, rejoice in the new and improved PowerPoint integration. If you aren’t, maybe this is a good time to consider adding some interactive polling to your in-class presentations.

PowerPoint 2013: Date, Slide Number and Footer


Having visited the slide master in Slide Master view a few times you may be wondering about those “empty” placeholders on all the slides.  There are at least five placeholders on most layout masters, inherited from the slide master: Title, Content, Date, Slide Number, and Footer.  But when you look at the slide in Normal view you see only two of those areas: Title and Content (unless you have chosen the blank slide layout, in which case you see nothing).  Some layouts have many more placeholders, of course, but the date/time, slide number, and footer placeholders do not actually show up in Normal view.  How do you get these elements to show up on your slides?

Five Elements
The five content placeholders

Open your presentation and click on the Insert tab, and then click on Header & Footer in the text group.

Header Footer

You can do this from good old Normal view.  Note that the check boxes on this dialog box are clear.  Place a check in each box for the element you want to appear on your slides:  Date and time, Slide number, and Footer.  Note also that you can elect for these elements to NOT appear on the title slide.  Then click Apply, to apply these settings to the currently selected slide(s)—use Slide Sorter view to select a group—or Apply to All to place these elements on each slide in your presentation.

Turn on slide options

The drop-down next to date allows for many different date/time formats.  Selecting “Update automatically” updates the date/time field each time you open the presentation.  Choosing “Fixed,” on the other hand, will always display a fixed date.  You can type the fixed date and add time (or anything else you want) in the dialog box.  You can also type any footer you wish.

If you want to start numbering at a number other than 1, after applying your settings, go to View > Slide Master, click the drop-down under Slide Size, and select Custom Slide Size  (I know, this is a weird place to put it).  Change the number in “Number slides from:” to be whatever you want (and no, negative numbers are not accepted).  This is sometimes useful when combining multiple presentations into a single, long presentation).

Number Slides From

Granted, these elements are in an unusual location on the slides in our presentation, but that is because these elements are located where they are as part of the Ion theme layouts.  They are in somewhat different locations in each theme, and changing themes will change the location of these elements.  The “Retrospect” theme will place them in the more traditional location along the bottom of the slide.

I do not like using these elements in my own presentations because they take up slide real estate that I eventually end up needing to display data, and they do nothing but state the obvious anyway.  Others feel differently.  Here is a quick summary video.