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Ten PowerPoint Problems and Repairs for What Can Go Wrong

Although the actual number of things that can go wrong when working with PowerPoint is probably closer to 10,000, the situation is rarely hopeless. Here are some possible stumbles . . . and some ways to pick yourself up and get your presentation started again.

I can't find my file

You spent hours polishing that presentation, and now you can't find the file. You know that you saved it, but it's not there! The problem is probably one of two things: Either you saved the file in a different folder, or you used a different filename to save it than you intended.

The solution? The most likely way to find your presentation is to check the list on the right side of the File menu. This list includes the presentations you've most recently worked on. If you don't find the presentation in that list, summon the Open dialog box (choose File→Open) and then click Recent Places. This displays a larger list of recently used files. As a last resort, use the Windows search feature (on the Start menu) to find the presentation.

I've run out of hard drive space

Nothing is more frustrating than creating a fancy PowerPoint presentation and then discovering that you're completely out of hard drive space. What to do? Open the Windows Explorer window (choose Start→Computer) and rummage through your hard drive, looking for files you don't need. Delete enough files to free up a few megabytes and then press Alt+Tab to move back to PowerPoint and save your file.

If your hard drive is full and you can't find more than a few files to delete, try double-clicking the Recycle Bin icon and choosing File→Empty Recycle Bin. This often frees up additional hard drive space. If that doesn't work, choose Start→All Programs→Accessories→System Tools→Disk Cleanup. The Disk Cleanup program scans your hard drive for unnecessary files and offers to remove them for you. It can often free up many megabytes of hard drive space.

If you often run out of hard drive space, consider adding a larger hard drive to your computer. Nowadays, you can buy a 500GB hard drive for less than $100. If the thought of opening up your computer and installing a hard drive causes you to break out in a sweat, you can also get external drives that plug in to your computer's USB port.

I've run out of memory

Many people still use computers with only 1GB of internal memory. Although you can run PowerPoint with as little as 1GB of memory, it will run much better if you have at least 4GB of RAM. The additional memory helps your computer to not give up and crash from the overload of open applications. Memory is cheap! Why not make sure you have enough?

PowerPoint has vanished!

You're working at your computer, minding your own business, when suddenly — whoosh! — PowerPoint disappears. What happened? Most likely, you clicked some area outside the PowerPoint window or you pressed Alt+Tab or Alt+Esc, which whisks you away to another program. To get PowerPoint back, press Alt+Tab. You might have to press Alt+Tab several times before PowerPoint comes back to life.

PowerPoint can also vanish into thin air if you use a screen-saver program. Try giving the mouse a nudge to see whether PowerPoint reappears.

I accidentally deleted a file

Just found out how to delete files and couldn't stop yourself, eh? Relax. It happens to everyone. Odds are good that you can rescue the deleted file if you act quickly enough. Double-click the Recycle Bin icon that sits on your desktop. You can probably find the deleted file there. If so, right-click it and choose Restore from the menu that appears.

It won't let me edit

No matter how hard you click, PowerPoint won't let you edit that doohickey onscreen. What gives? The doohickey is probably a part of the Slide Master. To edit it, click the View tab and then click the Slide Master button in the Presentation Views group. This step displays the Slide Master and enables you to edit it. However, the object you're trying to edit might be underneath another object. If so, move the other object aside temporarily. When you're done, drag the other object back into place.

Something seems to be missing

Nothing happens when you try to insert a SmartArt diagram. Or worse, PowerPoint locks up when you try to insert SmartArt. Arghhhh!

It's possible that your PowerPoint installation has somehow become corrupted. Perhaps an important system file was accidentally deleted, or a problem has somehow managed to creep into the Windows Registry (the file that keeps track of settings for Windows as well as for programs you have installed on your computer).

Fear not! Office 2013 includes a self-healing feature that can diagnose and correct problems with your Office installation. To use it, click the Office button, choose PowerPoint Options, and then select the Resources tab and click the Diagnose button. Then follow the instructions that appear onscreen.

I can't figure out where the X-Y-Z command went

If you're a long-time PowerPoint user, you've invested a lot of time finding where all its important commands are hidden. Although the new Ribbon interface is supposed to be easier to use, sometimes features are still hard to find. For example, PowerPoint's self-healing feature used to be available as the Help→Detect and Repair command. Now you have to navigate several layers deep to find this command.

Fortunately, PowerPoint's Help has a handy chart that lists the new location for all the old commands and toolbar buttons. To find this list, click the Help button (found at the top right of the PowerPoint window), search for the word "menus," and then choose "Where are the menus and toolbars."

The projector doesn't work

An LCD projector might not be working for many reasons. Assuming that the computer and projector are both plugged in and turned on and you have used the correct video cable to connect your computer to the projector, here are two common problems you should check:

  • Make sure your video input ports are working. Most projectors have two or more video input ports. The projector must be configured to use the input port to which your computer is connected. Look for a button on the projector to set the input source. The projector might use a menu to set the input source: In that case, use the button that calls up the menu, scroll through the choices to find the video input source, and then select the input port to which your computer is connected.

  • If you're using a laptop, make sure that the external video port is activated. Most laptops have a function key on the keyboard to do this. Also look for a key with an icon that represents a video monitor. You might have to hold down a function key (probably labeled "Fn") while you press the monitor key. (If you're using Windows 7, you can switch to Presentation mode by pressing Windows+P.)

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