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Avoid PowerPoint Potholes

Microsoft PowerPoint looks simple to use. It should be simple to use. But Microsoft has made it anything but simple, due to some design and execution faux pas. Share the following tips with your users— heck, use PowerPoint yourself—and help them avoid PowerPoint potholes. (See the following URL for more PowerPoint tips:


TIP 1: Never work on removable media.
Slow I/O and the possibility for corruption spell death for accomplishing productive work on removable media in PowerPoint. Work locally, then use Pack and Go, or copy the completed presentation to a USB flash drive as the last step.

TIP 2: Use Pack and Go every time.
When you need to move a presentation from the machine on which it was created to another system, use Pack and Go to ensure that linked objects and unique fonts go along for the ride. The File menu provides access to the Pack and Go wizard (for PowerPoint 2002) or the Package for CD wizard (PowerPoint 2003).

TIP 3: Use Grayscale from the View menu.
Too often, users copy a presentation and tweak it so it prints well on a black-and-white laser printer. Teach them to click View, Grayscale instead. They can see how a presentation would print in black and white, but they can also right-click any problematic object in a presentation, then use the Grayscale menu to experiment with options to change its appearance.


TIP 4: Use Custom shows.
When users create a standard set of slides and then reorder the set for different audiences, they end up with a proliferation of versions of the presentation. Using Custom Shows, users can create multiple variations within a single presentation. Select the Slide Show menu's Custom Shows, then follow the prompts to create a new show that contains the slides you want to include, in the order you want to present them.

TIP 5: Create a table of contents.
One of the most common questions users ask is how to "branch" in a presentation. Create a table of contents slide on which each bullet has a hyperlink to the appropriate slide. To create a hyperlink, click the Insert menu and select Hyperlink. Put an action button or other hyperlink on the slide master that returns you to the table of contents slide.

TIP 6: Choose the easy way to copy and paste slides between presentations.
Use the thumbnails pane in the Normal view or the Slide Sorter view to copy and paste slides between presentations. In PowerPoint 2003, watch for the Paste Options button that appears after you paste—it lets you choose to use Keep source formatting, which is Microsoftese for "use the template from the original presentation for this slide."

TIP 7: Use the color selection tools correctly.
The color drop-down menus are terribly misunderstood. Users need to select colors from the correct row in these menus. For example, click Format, Font and look at the Color drop-down list. The first row of colors shows color scheme colors. Anything that uses a color from the first row will change if a new color scheme or template is applied or if the slide or object is brought into another presentation that uses a different color scheme or template. Use the first-row colors only for things that can and should change color: foreground (text, titles, lines), background, fills, etc. Always use colors from the second or a lower row when you want a specific color. For example, if you create a sun graphic and fill it with yellow from the first row of colors, the sun will change color depending on the color scheme. Instead, choose yellow from below the first row or click More Colors and choose yellow.

TIP 8: Put your presentation file on a diet.
Compress and convert: Compress photos using the Compress Pictures command on the Picture toolbar; convert embedded objects to pictures by copying the object, choosing Paste Special, selecting As Picture, and choosing Enhanced Metafile (if it's available as an option).

TIP 9: Turn off AutoFit options.
When a user is working in a text placeholder and adds one more bullet beyond what would normally fit, PowerPoint changes the font size and/or line spacing to squeeze that bullet in. However, the resulting presentation looks unprofessional. Use Group Policy to turn off AutoFit settings on the back end. You'll find Group Policy administrative (.adm) templates for managing Office at the Microsoft Web site.

Tip 10: Turn off Allow Fast Saves.
Allow Fast Saves is an evil option and must be purged. With this option, every time your users save, they're only appending changes, not deleting old material. So, for example, customer-specific content that the user thought was deleted actually remains in the presentation when it's sent to another customer. Can you say major information security problem?Use the Office .adm templates to disable Allow Fast Saves in PowerPoint on every machine in your domain; it's one of the few no-brainer policy settings.

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