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Making PowerPoints more portable

January 19, 2015
View | Slide Master

I work at a company where PowerPoint is used *a lot*. In fact, I can’t think of a job I had that didn’t rely heavily on PowerPoint. They work great when I want to store it on my hard drive or USB flash drive and present to a customer, but I often run into trouble when I want to share one with a customer. Even though we have modern ways to share content through amazing tools like OneDrive, sometimes it’s just easier to email a file. Of course, if the file exceeds the attachment limit for a recipient (still often capped at 10 megabytes, or 20 if you work for a truly enlightened employer), you’re going to run into trouble. The good news is that there are a few handy tricks to reducing the size of a PowerPoint deck, without affecting the messaging.

  • Remove unused slide masters – this action can be the biggest space saver, and only takes a little while. Slide masters are an excellent way to define standard layouts and slide designs that can be used across the decks in your organization. What you may not know, however, is that every time you copy and paste slides from one deck to another, and use the “preserve original format” option, the original slide master is also being copied over to your new deck. Over time, especially if you reuse or clone decks, this can add a lot of unneeded bulk to your decks. Navigate to View | Slide Master and take note of how many slide masters you have in your deck – unless you created this deck from scratch, the number will probably surprise you.
    View | Slide Master

    Navigate to the Slide Master area of your deck. Note the “Preserve” button in the ribbon.

    Select the “header slide” of each deck and click on the “Preserve” button to unpreserved the slide master. For each slide master that is not actively used – i.e. no slide in your deck is using a layout from that master – you will receive a prompt letting you know that this slide master will be removed. If the slide master is utilized by slides, nothing changes. By taking this step for each slide master, you can significantly reduce the size of your deck… with no functional impact to your slides.

    Unpreserve dialog

    This is the dialog that displays if the selected slide master is not used on any of your slides.

  • Consolidate slide masters – after you have removed any unused slide masters (see above), you can cycle through the slides to see if you can change layouts on any slides to consolidate to fewer (ideally one) slide master(s). In the main view, right-click on each slide and select “Layout…” This will open up the slide master layout selector – in this pane, you can see which slide layout is assigned to this slide and from which slide master the layout comes. When I review decks in this fashion, I often find a few slides that use a layout from one slide master, but could easily use the same or similar layout from a more widely-used master. This process is a bit more time-consuming than removing unused slide masters, but can allow you to drop out additional unused slide masters.
    NOTE: Taking this step of consolidating slide masters may result in minor edits to slides to preserve layout, font, or color settings.
  • Discard image edits and/or compress images – when editing a PowerPoint deck, the application does an excellent job preserving the images that you embed, even if you resize or crop the images. This is helpful when you are continuing to tweak the layout and appearance of slides, but just adds to the file size once you have finalized the deck. You can navigate to File | Options | Advanced to access the Image Size and Quality options. By checking off “Discard editing data”, all of the cropped portions of images can be discarded, reducing overall file size. Additionally, you can uncheck “Do not compress images in files” and select one of three target image densities, measured in pixels per inch (PPI), to further reduce the size of images in the file. One thing to note, however, is that changing the image density can affect the quality of images, so be sure to test the changes before committing to a final copy.
File | Options | Advanced

Go to File | Options | Advanced to set image quality and retention settings.

    Completing these steps for a large slide deck can reduce the size by as much as 75% (according to my empirical data in a sample set of 1). They are a great first step to reducing file sizes and increasing portability. Even better is to share this post with your colleagues who also create and edit decks, so they can incorporate these best practices too. You can be the hero of the office!
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