An Introduction to Microsoft PowerPoint 2019 Presentations

By Doug Lowe

PowerPoint is similar to a word processor such as Word, except that it’s geared toward creating presentations rather than documents. A presentation is kind of like those Kodak Carousel slide trays that your grandpa filled up with 35mm slides of the time he took the family to the Grand Canyon in 1965. The main difference is that with Microsoft PowerPoint 2019, you don’t have to worry about dumping all the slides out of the tray and figuring out how to get them back into the right order.

Word documents consist of one or more pages, and PowerPoint presentations consist of one or more slides. Each slide can contain text, graphics, animations, videos, and other information. You can easily rearrange the slides in a presentation, delete slides that you don’t need, add new slides, or modify the contents of existing slides.

You can use PowerPoint both to create your presentations and to actually present them.

You can use several different types of media to actually show your presentations:

  • Computer screen: Your computer screen is a suitable way to display your presentation when you’re showing it to just one or two other people.
  • Big-screen TV: If you have a big-screen TV that can accommodate computer input, it’s ideal for showing presentations to medium-sized audiences — say 10 to 12 people in a small conference room.
  • Computer projector: A computer projector projects an image of your computer monitor onto a screen so large audiences can view it.
  • Webcast: You can show your presentation over the Internet. That way, your audience doesn’t all have to be in the same place at the same time. Anyone with a web browser can sit in on your presentation.
  • Printed pages: Printed pages enable you to distribute a printed copy of your entire presentation to each member of your audience. (When you print your presentation, you can print one slide per page, or you can print several slides on each page to save paper.)

Presentation files in PowerPoint 2019

A presentation is to PowerPoint what a document is to Word or a workbook is to Excel. In other words, a presentation is a file that you create with PowerPoint. Each presentation that you create is saved on your computer’s hard drive as a separate file.

PowerPoint 2019 presentations have the special extension .pptx added to the end of their filenames. For example, Sales Conference.pptx and History Day.pptx are both valid PowerPoint filenames. When you type the filename for a new PowerPoint file, you don’t have to type the .pptx extension, because PowerPoint automatically adds the extension for you. Windows may hide the .pptx extension, in which case a presentation file named Conference.pptx often appears as just Conference.

I recommend you avoid the use of spaces and special characters, especially percent signs (%), in your filenames. If you want the effect of a space in a filename, use an underscore character instead. Spaces and percent signs in filenames can cause all kinds of problems if you post your presentation files to the Internet, either on a web page or even as a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) upload.

Versions of PowerPoint prior to 2007 save presentations with the extension .ppt instead of .pptx. The x at the end of the newer file extension denotes that the new file format is based on an open XML standard data format that makes it easier to exchange files among different programs. PowerPoint 2019 can still save files in the old .ppt format, but I recommend you do so only if you need to share presentations with people who haven’t yet upgraded to PowerPoint 2007 or later.

PowerPoint is set up initially to save your presentation files in the Documents folder, but you can store PowerPoint files in any folder of your choice on your hard drive or on any other drive. You can also save your presentation to online file storage, such as Microsoft’s OneDrive. And, if you want, you can write a presentation to a USB flash drive or to cloud storage.

What’s in a PowerPoint 2019 slide?

PowerPoint presentations comprise one or more slides. Each slide can contain text, graphics, and other elements. A number of PowerPoint features work together to help you easily format attractive slides:

  • Slide layouts: Every slide has a slide layout that controls how information is arranged on the slide. A slide layout is simply a collection of one or more placeholders, which set aside an area of the slide to hold information. Depending on the layout that you choose for a slide, the placeholders can hold text, graphics, clip art, sound or video files, tables, charts, graphs, diagrams, or other types of content.
  • Background: Every slide has a background, which provides a backdrop for the slide’s content. The background can be a solid color; a blend of two colors; a subtle texture, such as marble or parchment; a pattern, such as diagonal lines, bricks, or tiles; or an image file. Each slide can have a different background, but you usually want to use the same background for every slide in your presentation to provide a consistent look.
  • Transitions: Transitions control the visual effect that is employed when moving from one slide to the next. The norm is to have the next slide instantly replace the previous slide with no splashy effects. But if you want, you can have one slide dissolve into the next, or new slides can push slides out of the way, or you can make it look like the wind has blown the old slide away to reveal the next slide. In all, there are nearly 50 transition effects you can choose from.
  • Themes: Themes are combinations of design elements such as color schemes and fonts that make it easy to create attractive slides that don’t look ridiculous. You can stray from the themes if you want, but you should do so only if you have a better eye than the design gurus who work for Microsoft.
  • Slide Masters: Slide Masters are special slides that control the basic design and formatting options for slides in your presentation. Slide Masters are closely related to layouts — in fact, each layout has its own Slide Master that determines the position and size of basic title and text placeholders; the background and color scheme used for the presentation; and font settings, such as typefaces, colors, and sizes. In addition, Slide Masters can contain graphic and text objects that you want to appear on every slide.

You can edit the Slide Masters to change the appearance of all the slides in your presentation at once. This helps to ensure that the slides have a consistent appearance.

All the features described in the preceding list work together to control the appearance of your slides in much the same way that style sheets and templates control the appearance of Word documents. You can customize the appearance of individual slides by adding any of the following elements:

  • Title and body text: Most slide layouts include placeholders for title and body text. You can type any text that you want into these placeholders. By default, PowerPoint formats the text according to the Slide Master, but you can easily override this formatting to use any font, size, styles like bold or italic, or text color that you want.
  • Text boxes: You can add text anywhere on a slide by drawing a text box and then typing text. Text boxes enable you to add text that doesn’t fit conveniently in the title or body text placeholders.
  • Shapes: You can use PowerPoint’s drawing tools to add a variety of shapes to your slides. You can use predefined AutoShapes, such as rectangles, circles, stars, arrows, and flowchart symbols. Alternatively, you can create your own shapes by using basic line, polygon, and freehand drawing tools.
  • Illustrations: You can illustrate your slides by inserting clip art, photographs, and other graphic elements. PowerPoint comes with a large collection of clip art pictures you can use, and Microsoft provides an even larger collection of clip art images online. And, of course, you can insert photographs from your own picture library.
  • Charts and diagrams: PowerPoint includes a slick diagramming feature called SmartArt that enables you to create several common types of diagrams, including organization charts, cycle diagrams, and others. In addition, you can insert pie charts, line or bar charts, and many other chart types.
  • Video and Sound: You can add sound clips or video files to your slides. You can also add background music or a custom narration.
  • Animations: Animations put the various elements on an individual slide into motion. One common use of animation is to make text appear on the slide with movement to capture your audience’s attention. But you can apply animation to any element on a slide.