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3 Cool Things You Can Do With PowerPoint

Put some POW into your PowerPoints

Whether you’re one of those people who thinks PowerPoint is evil, or you can’t live without it for crafting those persuasive business presentations of yours, you probably agree that this ubiquitous presentation tool isn’t going away anytime soon. And you’ve probably seen all the animations PowerPoint is capable of, in fact, you’ve probably seen them all used in one presentation – so this article is not about those. This article is about three feature’s in particular that are quite unexpected in this clumsy “design tool” that we’ve all come to love and/or hate.

1. PPTX = ZIP

Ok, to get us started, this one is an absolute gem of a trick. In just the few occasions that I’ve used it, it has saved me hours of time. A .pptx file is actually very similar to a .zip file. To try it out, take any PowerPoint that is saved in the .pptx format and change the extension to .zip, unzip it, and take a look at the contents. You’ll find several folders, and contained in those folders, you’ll find every image used in the document at full resolution. If they were cropped in PowerPoint, you’ll now have access to the full image uncropped, and if they were vectors … guess what? You’ve got vectors!

2. Remove Image Backgrounds

This feature has been around since PowerPoint 2007, but judging by how many presentations still display images with a tell-tale white bounding box overlayed onto a colored background, I’d say that few people actually know how to use it. Admittedly, this feature works best with images that have a clearly defined subject over a simple, flat background, but those are often the best images for presentations anyway.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. With your image already on a PowerPoint slide, select the image and click on the Format tab
  2. Select ‘Remove Background’
  3. Now you’ll see a  transparent magenta rectangle covering your image, with handles on the bonding box. Use the handles to crop in as tightly as possible on the wanted area, and then simply drag lines across the remaining unwanted parts of the image within the cropped area. It’s super easy, quick, and surprisingly effective.

By the way, you can also add some interesting Photoshop-like effects using this tool, as Ric Bretschneider, former PowerPoint Senior Program Manager, discusses on the PowerPoint blog. For example, if you place an image with its background removed over the original, intact image, and then apply a blur to the original, you can get a nice effect that mimics a photo with a very short depth of field. This has been called the PowerPoint Blur Effect.

3. Change the Default Color Palette

Not ground-breaking, by any means, but there does seem to be a lot of presentations that are given where the colors seem to vary from slide to slide or from presentation to presentation within an organization. To change the default color palette of a PowerPoint, you need to work with PowerPoint’s Themes.

  1. On the Themes tab, under Theme Options, click Colors, and then click Create Theme Colors.
  2. At the bottom of the list of theme colors, click on Create New Theme Colors. By selecting different colors and then clicking Apply to All, you’ll see your changes take effect.
  3. In the Name box, type a name for your custom theme color, and then click Apply to All.
  4. The theme color is applied to the current presentation.

You can easily apply this color palette as the default to any future presentations by selecting it in the Custom set of colors in the Theme Options tab.

Ok then. While we wish there were many other features that PowerPoint had  – paragraph style sheets, for instance … oh, and more built-in keyboard shortcuts, we’ll take these for now. Got any others? Tell us about them in the comments.