Love it or hate it, PowerPoint isn't going away any time soon; it remains the professional tool of choice for presentations. Features that were already in PowerPoint just became easier to discover and use with the 2013 release. For example, task panes and other elements now suggest options for tweaking your deck, rather than leaving you to find them yourself. You’ll see fewer but more relevant choices, thanks to the new Themes and Variants—and you’ll find tools that were previously hidden, such as Shape Merge. Here are 10 ways your workflow, from design to presentation, can be more efficient in the new PowerPoint.
To learn more about the new Office suite, find our full review of Office 2013, as well 10 killer features in the new Word 2013 and 10 awesome additions in Excel 2013. Read on for 10 reasons to consider an upgrade to PowerPoint 2013.
1. Start at the new Start screen
As with the other key Office 2013 applications, PowerPoint 2013 shares the new Modern-style interface and a revamped Start screen. Instead of the blank presentation you started with in PowerPoint 2010, this screen is packed with options including a range of templates. Also on the Start screen is a link to your current online SharePoint or SkyDrive account, a list of recently accessed PowerPoint files, and an Open Other Presentations link which you use to access files on disk or stored in the cloud.
You can also search online for templates and themes from the Start screen; a list of suggested searches helps here.
2. Themes are sleeker, and Variants more varied
PowerPoint Themes are predesigned slide designs that spare you from doing the design work yourself. In PowerPoint 2010 there was a plethora of Themes, Color Schemes, Font Schemes and Effects to choose from. PowerPoint 2013 simplifies everything. The new Themes default to a 16:9 aspect ratio and each has a small subset of Variants, which provide variations in color and some design elements for that Theme.
You’ll find Themes from both the Start screen and the new Design tab. On the Start screen you can click a Theme, preview its variant,s and scroll through previews of the Theme Title, Title and Content, Smart Chart and Photo layouts before committing to one to use.
3. Shape tools get improvements
Although some of the Merge Shapes features that are touted as being new in PowerPoint 2013 were in PowerPoint 2010, they weren’t accessible from the Ribbon toolbar. In PowerPoint 2013, though, the Join, Combine, Fragment, Intersect and Subtract tools are accessible by selecting the Drawing Tools, Format tab and clicking the Merge Shapes button. You’ll use these to create your own custom shapes by combining and merging simple shapes to make more complex ones. These tools have a handy live preview as well.
In addition, new alignment guides show when shapes are lined up to each other, to slide elements, and to borders and they make it easier to line up and space objects evenly on your slides.
4. Find new formatting tools
In PowerPoint 2013, you’ll find many formatting features from task docked to the right of the screen as you work. In earlier versions of PowerPoint, these options appeared in dialogs over the slide, which you had to move or close to continue working.
To access these new task panes, right-click a shape, for example, and choose Format Shape to see the available options for a shape in the task pane. Click a picture and the task pane changes to show picture formatting options. While most of the formatting options are not new, this makes them easier to find.
New is the Eyedropper tool, available when you are making a color choice. Use this to match colors by sampling a color to use from a shape or photo.
5. Video input and output improve
PowerPoint 2013 supports additional video formats so it's more likely videos will play in your presentation without you needing to install additional codecs. For example, PowerPoint 2013 supports the MP4 and MOV formats for playing video, and you can export a PowerPoint presentation to video in MP4 or WMV formats.
The new Video button on the Insert tab includes options that let you search for a video from an online source and drop it into your deck without first downloading it to your computer.
6. Audio playback options expand
PowerPoint 2013 supports a wide range of audio formats without requiring you to download and install additional codecs. Supported formats now include AIFF, AU, MID, MIDI, MP3, M4A, MP4, WAV, and WMA.
You can click a button in PowerPoint 2013 to play audio tracks across the entire slideshow or across slides. While this has always been possible, it was ridiculously annoying to set up. Now all you need do is to insert the audio file, select it, and choose Audio Tools, Playback tab and click the Play In Backgroundoption.
7. Presentation View becomes rosier
While the PowerPoint Presenter View was available in earlier versions of PowerPoint most users didn’t know it existed. Plus, if your computer only had one monitor you couldn't access it —even to rehearse your presentation!
Now you can access Presenter View even on a single monitor by pressing Alt + F5. In Presenter View you can swap monitors for Presenter View and Slide Show View if desired. You can also view a thumbnail view of your slides, and click to view a slide out of sequence.
The new Zoom option lets you look close-up into an area on a slide to draw attention to it. There’s a new laser pointer tool here, too.
8. Work better with your team
When you’re designing a presentation with others, the new Comments feature will make it easier to discuss your slideshow with collaborators. When you add a comment, it appears in a Comments task pane down the right of the screen and stays visible while you work.
There are also options to add a comment from the Insert tab or the Comments task pane. The Comments task pane lets you navigate through comments, and see if there are comments on other slides. You can view your presentation with or without comments by selecting the Show Comments from the Review tab, and deselecting Show Comments.
9. Bring your presentation online
Now you can present a deck stored in the cloud or on your PC to the Web in real time. To use the new Office Presentation Service, choose File, Share, Present Online. You can also allow attendees to download the presentation to their own PC.
You'll also see Presenter View while making your presentation. Plus, you can play video at presentation time, and viewers get their own set of video controls. In addition, viewers can navigate back to previous slides if they need to check or follow up on something.
10. Work with the cloud
PowerPoint integrates closely with your online data and services. The free, browser-based PowerPoint WebApp lets you view and edit presentations. In addition, PowerPoint presentation files by default are saved either to your SkyDrive account or, for business users, to SharePoint.
Other cloud options allow you to import pictures direct from Office.com, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere for use inside your presentations; there's no need to save them to your PC first.