Home * Table of Contents * Unit #1 * Unit #2 * Unit #3 * Unit #5 *
Unit #6 * Unit #7 * Unit #8 * Unit #9 Image Table * Links
Exercise * Assignment
Absolute Beginner's PowerPoint

Joe Old

Shaking hands with PowerPoint:
PowerPoint is a wonderful tool for making presentations. As with many programs, it has lots of bells and whistles that people can add to "jazz up" presentations -- animations, sounds, clever fades, links to the World Wide Web. etc.

But it's also astonishing how few things you have to master to make this powerful program serve you well.

Here's a list:

  • Open the program
  • Go to View and select open Task Pane (it should appear on the right of the screen with lots of options)
  • Select a slide layout (if that option is not showing, click on the small inverted triangle and select Slide Layout from the drop box)
  • Start typing (for now it doesn't matter what; we're just shaking hands and getting to know the program)
  • Go to Save As and save the file (I always call my experimental files test; that way you can open them and play with various program features till you get to understand them).

It's literally that easy. Much of the "thinking" is already done for you, so getting started is easy. In fact, why don't you minimize this page, and do just the four things on that list. Then come back. (Note: I would create a working folder or store the new file in the folder you have for this module.)

Of course, you want to have some control over the presentation, and you can take as much as you can, as soon as you understand the various program features. You will already be familiar with basic features such as choice of font and type size, as well as whether to bold, italicize or underline text or align it to the left, center or right, merely from having a basic familiarity with word processing.

Having created your first slide, you're on the way to creating a presentation. To create a second slide, go to Insert and select the New Slide option and click it. (Notice the "Cntrl+M" command beside the New Slide choice. That's the fast way to create new slides. Just hold down the Control key and press "m" -- and voila! a new slide appears. It's always good to learn the so-called "speed keys," as they really make your work easier if you have a lot to do.)

If the slide layout is not to your liking, select a new one, and type something. Save it and let's see what we've got.

Notice that in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, there are some small icons. One looks like a screen for showing slide:

and and if you place the cursor on top of it, a box will inform you that that's what it is. Click on it and it will transform the PowerPoint desktop into a clean slide show. You can move back and forth between the slides by using the PgUp and PgDn keys on the number pad or the up and down arrow keys on your keyboard. To exit the presentation, just hit the Esc. [Escape] key. Try that now, and come back.

Congratulations! You have just created your first PowerPoint presentation. There wasn't much to it, but with 10 more slides and solid content, you have a respectable presentation.

Getting friendly with PowerPoint:
Now that you have had the initial meeting, it's time to get better acquainted. There are lots of things you can do to these two pages by way of experimentation. Many of the things you may never want to use but some are very handy. Every thing you do requires you to either have some text highlighted or have the cursor pointed in somewhere on the screen. The modifications you perform affect what you have highlighted or where the cursor is pointing.

First, notice the icon that has two capital letter A's with black triangles beside them

With text selected, these icons increase or decrease the size depending on the one you click on.

Another icon is also made with a capital letter A, though it has a bar under it.

This icon lets you color selected text. When you click on this icon, a drop box allows you to select from a few colors. If you want a larger selection, that option is available. The system is pretty intuitive, so you shouldn't have any trouble with it. You can color every letter in a different color if you want.

Why don't you try this right now, but maximizing the PowerPoint presentation. After you experiment a bit come back and we'll continue.

More basic options:
Besides sizing and coloring text, you can fill the text blocks with different colors, insert a table, bold, italicize, or underline text, or insert links into your presentation (the latter will work only if you're able to connect to the Internet when you show your presentation.

You can also return to the Task Pane and alter the appearance of your presentation using any of the options there.

.So, let's try this right now. Return to your test presentation and tinker around. But now there are several things you can do. I will summarize them here:

  • Add new slide
  • Resize selected text
  • Change fonts
  • Color selected text
  • Fill background for entire slide or text box
  • Add table
  • Select a new slide design

That list right there gives you lots of powerful tools for making a presentation. With this knowledge alone, you can do a fairly sophisticated presentation. But there's more to learn, as well. Tinker with these options a while and then return to the module for some more advanced work.

Incidentally, don't worry if you make an error. Most errors can be reversed by going to the Edit icon and selecting Undo. There's also a small curved arrow that gives you the same option.

Exercising more control over PowerPoint presentations:
There are some other things you can do that will increase your mastery of PowerPoint. These include the following:

  • Sorting slides
  • Duplicating slides
  • Inserting images
  • Inserting links

The latter two of these skills build on what you learned in earlier lessons with making web pages. I will discuss them briefly here.

Sorting Slides: If you will again notice the icons on the lower left-hand side of your PowerPoint screen. Besides the Slide Show icon, there are two others. One has a rectangle and two smaller boxes, and the other is comprised of four boxes. Here's what they look like:

The first one is for the view that normally appears when PowerPoint is opened; the four boxes is for sorting slides. You can switch among the Slide Show, the Normal View, and the Slide Sorter View depending on your needs. A word is in order about the view that lets you sort slides.

When you click on this view, you get a full screen view that allows you to see miniatures of as many as 25 slides at a time. This is very convenient as it lets you move them around to different places in the presentation. You can do this by using either the Cut-and-Paste method or the Drag-and-Drop method. You should experiment with this to see how it works.

Duplicating Slides: This is a simple operation using the Insert icon on the toolbar. When you select Duplicate Slide, PowerPoint inserts an identical slide adjacent to the one that's on screen (in the normal View) or selected (in the Slide Sorter View) when you chose this option.

It is often handy to duplicate a slide when you have to make another slide that's similar in some way. It's a lot easier to make a few changes to a duplicated slide than it is to recreate the slide from scratch!

Inserting Images: This is one of the features of PowerPoint that makes it fun to use and which adds distinctive elements to a presentation. And it's easy to use.

In order to insert an image, go to Insert on the toolbar and click on it. When the drop box appears, you will find several options. The one that concerns us here is Picture. Clicking on it gives you other options, including Clip Art... and From File... . If you select the latter, you can load into PowerPoint any image you have save in your computer. It's simply a matter of navigating to it and selecting it. PowerPoint will insert it immediately. Once it's inserted, you can resize it or move it around by selecting it. You resize it simply by grabbing one of the handles that surround the image and dragging it outward to make it larger or inward to make it smaller.

If you have an image handy, you may try this now. If not, find an image in this module, right-click on it, and save it to your working folder. Then you can insert it into your PowerPoint presentation. Another alternative is to build a quick image in Paint, saving it as a GIF or JPEG file, and inserting it.

Inserting Links: This option allows you to link your PowerPoint presentation to the something on the World Wide Web, provided you have access to it while you're creating your presentation or while you're delivering it.

Creating links in PowerPoint is nearly the same as creating links in web pages. First find the page on the WWW you want to link to. Then copy the URL (the http:// address...) to your clipboard. Once you have done that, highlight the text you want to convert to a link, then click on the Insert Link icon on the PowerPoint toolbar (it's the one with the blue/green globe and what looks like a paper clip attached to it; the "paper clip," of course, is a "link" from a chain.

Once you click on this icon, a drop box appears. You merely paste the URL from your clipboard to the box labeled Address and select OK. Your text becomes a link.

This feature may have limited use if you don't have regular access to the Internet when you're delivering a presentation. However, it's good to know about, and it's not difficult to learn. You might want to stop and practice adding links to your experimental presentation.

Advanced PowerPoint features:
You now have everything you need in order to make solid and effective PowerPoint presentations. There are still some features that we haven't discussed that you have probably seen in presentations you've sat in on. These include the following:

  • Animations
  • Sounds

It's easy to add animations to PowerPoint. These normally control the way text moves onto the screen or the way the screen appears as you move from slide to slide through the presentation. Each action depends on a mouse click, selecting on of these keys on your keyboard: enter, PgDn, PgUP, or the arrow keys.

As there are so many possibilities, we won't go into them. But you can experiment all you desire and select the ones that give your presentation the appeal you ant.

You can also add sound to a presentation, including your own voice but also a variety of sounds that come with PowerPoint. Another thing you can do is control the timing of your animations. And even this doesn't exhaust the options, but you can explore them on your own. For now, rest assured that you have enough basic skills to do dozens and dozens of effective presentations, each of them disjunctive.

As you become more and more expert, you might want to take advantage of some of PowerPoint's other features. There are "Wizards" to help you automatically add content, prepare the presentation as a stand alone program, and save it in HTML for web presentation.

The more you experiment, the more you will learn!

A word of advice: The simpler you can keep your presentations the faster they will load. Sound files are very large and animations sometimes do strange things on the web. Here is a presentation I am working on for my mass communications class:

The World as Spectacle: A Critique Inspired by Guy Debord

It's actually a work in progress. The web version is 126 slides. It's simple in that it has text, images, and links to other places on the web. I have given credit for all the material I have cited.