How to Explore the PowerPoint Interface

By Faithe Wempen

In Microsoft PowerPoint, you work with slides and presentations rather than documents (as in Word) or worksheets (as in Excel). A slide is an individual page of the presentation. The term page isn’t a perfect descriptor, though, because PowerPoint slides are designed to be displayed on a computer screen or with a projector rather than printed. A presentation is a collection of one or more slides saved in a single data file.

At a big-picture level, PowerPoint’s interface is very similar to that of Word and Excel: It has a Ribbon, an Office button, and a status bar. The default view of the presentation, called Normal view, consists of three panes.


  • The Outline/Slides pane is the bar along the left side. It has two tabs: Outline and Slides. When the Outline tab is selected, a text-based outline of the text from the slides appears here. When the Slides tab is selected, thumbnail images of the slides appear here.

  • The Outline tab doesn’t always show all text on all slides. It shows only text that has been entered using the text placeholders in the slide layouts. If you add text to a graphic or add a manually placed text box to a slide, that text isn’t included in the Outline tab.

  • The Slide pane (that’s singular, not plural) in the middle shows the active slide in a large, editable pane. Here’s where you do most of your work on each slide.

  • The Notes pane runs along the bottom of the screen. Here, you can type any notes to yourself about the active slide. These notes don’t show onscreen when you display the presentation, and they also don’t print (unless you explicitly choose to print them).