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Fixing PowerPoint Annoyances by Echo Swinford

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I never set out to become a PowerPoint wiz. In fact, I started using PowerPoint by accident.

Way back in 1997, I worked as a temporary employee for a medical meeting planning company. I asked the owner if I could create our presentation slides in-house rather than pay an outside firm to do the work. She agreed with my proposal, which forced me to learn PowerPoint—and learn it fast.

Of course, I soon ran afoul of PowerPoint and its many quirks. For example: Why does the file size increase tenfold after you insert a JPG? How do you plot individual error bars on data points in a column chart? I even remember the panicky feeling I got after I upgraded from PowerPoint 95 to 97 and had to scrounge around for the Write Up tool. Where did it go? How could I make good looking handouts without it?

Over the years, I’ve had to dodge many such bullets and develop workarounds for PowerPoint’s most puzzling dilemmas. (No wonder I thought I could write a PowerPoint book in my sleep.) Hopefully, the tips and tricks you find here will help you master, or at least survive, PowerPoint, and you can learn to enjoy it as much as I do.

Do You Need This Book?

If PowerPoint annoys you, this book is for you. It will appeal to PowerPoint users who regularly run into vexing issues. It should also be helpful to novices as they work their way through the wild and wooly world of PowerPoint presentations.

What’s Covered in This Book?

This book is not the ultimate reference to the complete works of the Microsoft PowerPoint development team. And it was a little difficult (okay, a lot difficult) to divide the myriad annoyances into logical chapters. But I tried. Still, the book is set up so you can jump in wherever the water looks good and get out easily whenever you’re tired.

Here’s a general outline of what you’ll find.

Chapter 1, Presenting Your Presentation

Get a handle on setting up the equipment, troubleshooting projection issues, navigating during a presentation, and using custom shows.

Chapter 2, Dumb Defaults

Learn how to deal with PowerPoint’s dumb default settings: Fast Saves, AutoFit, moving objects, shortened menus, and the lack of default slide layouts and charts.

Chapter 3, Formatting and Editing

Work with PowerPoint, not against it. Read about creating templates, using multiple masters, leveraging color schemes, working with slide numbers, and using bulleted text and tabs.

Chapter 4, Importing

Wrap your head around importing a wide variety of materials into PowerPoint, including Word documents, Excel data, charts, pictures, clip art, and PDFs.

Chapter 5, Organization Charts, Diagrams, and Drawing Tools

Organize organization charts, diddle with diagrams, and feel the power of connectors, edit points, and the alignment tools.

Chapter 6, Charts and Graphs

Chart a new course through old, tired waters. Learn how to create combination charts, break an axis, add error bars to data points, and update links efficiently.

Chapter 7, Animations, Action Settings, and Hyperlinks

Make your audience go “Wow” with your cool animations. Learn how to incorporate action settings and hyperlinks to increase the interactivity factor of your presentations.

Chapter 8, Sound and Video

Stop tearing your hair out trying to get background music and other multimedia playing in your presentation.

Chapter 9, Printing and Distribution

Deal with getting your presentation into someone else’s hands, whether via notes pages, handouts, Flash, web pages, video, or an Autorun CD.

“You Haven’t Covered My Pet Annoyance”

We feel your pain! If you’d like to share yours—and any solutions, for that matter—feel free to reach out. Send your emails to . Also, visit our Annoyances web site http://www.annoyances.oreilly.com for more tips and tricks, as well as information on upcoming books.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographic conventions are used in this book.


Indicates new terms, URLs, filenames, file extensions, directories, and program names.

Constant width bold

Indicates commands or other text that you should type literally (rather than substituting text appropriate to your computer’s configuration or the situation).

Constant width italic

Indicates commands or other text that you should replace with values suitable to your computer’s configuration or the situation.

Menus and navigation

This book uses arrow symbols to indicate menu instructions. For example, “choose File → Open” means that you should open the File menu and choose the Open item from the menu. But when you need to click a tab, check or uncheck an option box, or click a button in a dialog box, this book tells you that clearly.


Pathnames show the location of a file or application in the Windows or Mac OS X filesystem. Windows folders are separated by a backward slash—for example, C:\Temp\Documents. Mac OS X folders are separated by forward slashes—for example, ~/Library/Preferences. In Mac OS X, a tilde (~) represents your Home folder.


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A number of people made the writing of this book possible. I would especially like to thank the Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs for their spirit of cooperation and teamwork, as well as the people in the microsoft.public.powerpoint newsgroup for making it a fun and educational place. Thanks also to Ric Bretschneider and April Dalke just for being you. Finally, I would like to thank Robert Luhn and Brett Johnson at O’Reilly.

This book is dedicated to Mom, Dad, Amber, Azure, and Marte Farte.

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