Less Stress. Better Presentations. PowerPoint 2016 for Windows

Last week, my colleague Chris Burbank wrote about PowerPoint 2016 for Mac and some of its major improvements. Many of the PowerPoint 2016 for Mac improvements are particularly notable since the PC version has been two steps ahead for years. For those of us working on the PC, the challenges are a bit different.

It’s true we could turn layers on and off, create nuanced animations, paste vector art in as editable objects, and be off on our merry, animating way. But where we’ve had the benefit of just plain better features, we’ve had to contend with frustrating little glitches that tend to only appear when there’s a tight deadline. Not to mention, tools that are almost perfect – but not quite. Sure, you can use that motion path, but you’re going to have to guess where it ends! And yes, the path is going to jump by an inch each time you try to move it, muahahaha. Is it just a rumor that there used to be PowerPoint voodoo dolls in our office for occasions like these? I’ll never tell… but if you need to borrow a pin, I know where you can find a LOT of them.

In terms of the 2016 update, it may be getting a bit more difficult to “love to hate” PowerPoint. Let’s take a look at how you can use some of the best new features to create PowerPoint presentations that don’t look like well… PowerPoint.

Morph Transitions

You can use morph to achieve a number of great effects, this is just a quick example to show you how much time it could save you – this took no more than a few minutes to create. Imagine animating all of these pieces using motion paths and rotate!

A Word of Caution: While this is a transition effect is amazing and self explanatory, (I created a slide, duplicated it, moved the objects around, resized and PowerPoint created the motion for me) it can get messy when you have extremely complex layers and tons of duplicated objects.

Workaround Tip

We ran into some problems when we duplicated objects on the new slide. PowerPoint became confused about which object should move where (and naming the layers does not seem to help.) We worked around this by copying the new duplicated objects to the previous slide. Depending on the goal of your animation you can make them transparent, move them off-screen so that they fly in, etc. Just make sure that before you create your duplicated slide, everything you will need for BOTH slides is accounted for.

Improved Motion Paths

In the past, motion paths have been a great tool. With that said, if you needed to position the start or end in a very specific spot it can get tricky. One reason we did this in the past was to create the same smooth transition from slide to slide that Morph can now take care of for us. For us designers there still might be times when we want fine-grained controls over BOTH ends of the animation. Previously it was trial and error, zooming way in, moving the motion path slightly, then playing the animation to see if it lands in the exact location that we wanted it. But now, as you can see in this example, when you click on a motion path, you get a ghosted image of the end state (or the beginning state if you reversed the path direction) and you can line it up visually to the exact position you want it. Bullseye!

Ghosted end state of motion paths allows you to line up animations easily

Color Pick With Eyedropper

The only thing to say regarding the color pick with eye dropper is that it’s just simply a great, easy to use feature. If you want to select a color that isn’t in the palette but matches something else in your presentation, you can just grab the eyedropper tool and select it. Simple, but definitely a welcomed new addition.

Customizing PowerPoint To Work For You

This one isn’t actually a new feature, but it is probably too often overlooked so I thought I’d mention it. There are a number of ways to customize PowerPoint – you can customize the ribbon and customize the quick access toolbars to give yourself instant access to the things you use most. I recommend customizing the quick access toolbar – for me it’s helpful to have easy access to Pick Up Style and Apply Style as well as Bring to front and Send to back. If you do customize your ribbon, keep it simple at first — I’ve added a new tab with all of the merge shape options so that I can quickly create custom shapes. (Note that the merge shapes does have one new option – fragment – that I used in my morph sample above.)

Custom Tab in Ribbon
Merge Shapes is no longer hidden!
Custom Quick Access Toolbar

In order to customize the ribbon (or the quick access toolbar), right click on the ribbon and select customize ribbon. You’ll get a dialogue box that will allow you to reorganize and add things. Note though, that by default, PowerPoint selects Choose commands from Popular Commands. If you change this to All Commands, or Commands Not in the Ribbon, you’ll get a lot more options and possibly find some things you didn’t know PowerPoint could do.

Customizing the ribbon and toolbar – make sure you’re accessing ALL the commands, not just the popular ones!

Those aren’t of course the only upgrades in PowerPoint 2016, but they are the ones that have made my life easier when I’m on a deadline for a conference keynote presentation (less late nights, more happy clients!). A few of the other great features that may be worth looking into for you are the new charts, a feature called design ideas, and sharing tools.

All in all, I’m really excited when I hear that a client is using this latest version of PowerPoint, because it makes quick work of animations that previously would have taken an immense amount of time. And ultimately that means it’s easier for me to do something that clients are almost always asking for — Make a PowerPoint presentation that looks nothing like PowerPoint.

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Thank you for your time!