Overview of Microsoft Powerpoint 2016

A discussion of using Powerpoint as a general purpose graphics tool.


In this section, I’ll provide an overview of Microsoft PowerPoint 2016 by describing the basic operations of create slides, inserting and manipulating object and saving and exporting your results. This section sets the stage for more advanced topic discussed in the remainder of the document.

Starting Microsoft Powerpoint on Windows 10

To start Microsoft Powerpoint, either double click the Powerpoint program file name or icon or double click a Powerpoint file (a filetype of .pptx). But how do you find Powerpoint on your system in the first place?

To locate Powerpoint on Windows 10, click on the Windows icon in the lower-right corner of your screen. The Start menu will appear. Simply type “powerpoint” to display the Powerpoint program and double click the program name to start it.

One of the things I like to do on Windows, is insert Powerpoint into my taskbar at the bottom of the screen for easy start up. This can be done in one of two ways.

When Powerpoint is running, right-click on its icon on the taskbar and select “Pin to taskbar”. Note that you can use the same procedure to unpin Powerpoint from the taskbar.

Search for Powerpoint in the start menu as previous described. Instead of double clicking on the program name to start it, right click on the program name and select “Pin to taskbar”. Note that “Pin to taskbar” may be hidden under the More submenu.

Once pinned to the taskbar, you can start Powerpoint simply by double clicking on the program icon displayed in the taskbar. Powerpoint will take a few seconds to load and display the default screen layout discussed in the next section.

There’s probably a similar way to set up Powerpoint for quick launch on MacOS, and if there is, you should do so.

Screen Layout

The following screenshot shows the default Powerpoint screen layout displayed when the program starts.

Figure 1. Powerpoint Screen Layout

A view of the Powerpoint screen layout

Displayed along the top of the screen is the menubar. Below it are the submenu items known collectively as the ribbon. The ribbon changes based on the menu item selected. By default, the Home menu ribbon is displayed.

Note that the ribbon can be collapsed so that it will only pop up when a menu item is selected by clicking on the tiny up arrow in the lower-right corner of the ribbon. It can be kept open by selecting a menu item and clicking on the thumbtack in the lower-right corner of the ribbon. I like to work with the ribbon collapsed to gain screen real estate, unless I’m working with the ribbon a great deal, in which case I pin it open until I’m done.

The big gray area is the work area in which your book cover will be displayed and where you’ll do the majority of your work.

Command panes will be displayed when you select some menu options (e.g. Format background). Pop up dialog boxes will also be displayed to gather information (e.g. where to save your files). Finally, pop up context menus will be displayed when you right click on the screen or an element.

Creating a New Book Cover Project

To create a new Powerpoint project, click on the File menu item in the upper right corner of the screen and select New from the drop down menu. Throughout this document, I will refer to such an operation as clicking on File->New which indicates the menu and submenu item to select.

In response to clicking File->New, Powerpoint will display a screen asking you to select a template as seen in the following screenshot. Note that the File menu is the only menu to react in this way. The rest of the menu items depend on the ribbon for submenu item selection.

Figure 2. Powerpoint Templates Selection Screen

The screen displayed by Powerpoint to allow you to select a presentation template.

Powerpoint templates are numerous and fun to explore; however, we’ll be using the boring Blank Presentation template for all of our book cover projects. Double click on this template to create the project. The following is the screen that will be displayed.

The final step in setting up your slide is to remove the two text panels on the screen. To do this, click on the edge of each text panel so that the edge turns from dashed to solid, then press the Delete key to remove the panel. Do the same for the second panel.

The Navigation Pane

When you open a new project, Powerpoint will display the Navigation pane along the right side of the work area. This pane can be resized to moving your mouse pointer along its inside edge until the pointer turns into a two way arrow. When this happens, simply left click with your mouse and drag the edge of the pane left or right to decrease or increase its size.

The navigation pane displays all the slides in your presentation. This pane can be handy when working on multiple book covers in a single Powerpoint project. Each panel in the pane displays a small picture of what the slide, or book cover, looks like, trimming any elements that go off the edge.

You click on the slides displayed in the Navigation pane to move from one slide to the next. You can also click and drag slides up and down to change their order.

The Navigation slide will not be very useful to you when working on a single book cover.

Inserting Elements

Now that you’ve established a blank canvas to work on, I’ll have you insert the three element types we’ll be working with to create book covers; namely, shapes (primarily rectangles), text and images.

Inserting Shapes
To insert a shape, select the Insert->Shapes menu item. From the drop down menu, select the rectangle then click and drag in the work area to stretch out your rectangle from its upper left corner to its lower right.
Inserting Text
To insert text, select the Insert->Text Box menu item. Next, click on the screen and begin typing your text. You can modify your text by clicking in the text box and typing your modifications.
Inserting Images
To insert an image, select the Insert->Pictures menu item. From the drop down menu, select “This device” to insert an image from your computer.

Selecting, Resizing, Moving and Configuring Elements

In this section, I discuss the most common ways to manipulation Powerpoint elements.

Selecting Elements
To select an element, simply click on it. The element will be highlighted by a dashed box around it with balls in the four corners and four sides of the box. When selecting a text element, you have your choice of selecting the text within the text box by clicking within the text, or selecting the text box by clicking its edge and turning it from dashed to solid.
Resizing Elements

To resize an element, grab one of the eight balls on its edge and drag them either in or out to increase or decrease the size. Use the balls on the corners to resize the element while maintaining its aspect ration (the original proportion of width to height). Use the side balls to resize without maintaining the aspect ratio.

Not that dragging the balls on a text box will resize the box but not the text. To resize the text within the box, use the Home->Font size option.

Moving Elements
To move an element, move your mouse pointer over the edge of the element until your mouse pointer turns into a four-direction arrow. Right click and drag the element to the desired location.
Rotating Elements
You can rotate an element by selecting the circular arrow attached to the top of the element when selected to spin the element around. The element will snap to various rotation points to make it easy to place at popular angles and to bring it back to level.
Configuring Elements

Configure elements via the Shape Format menu ribbon. The most common configuration options are changing a shape’s fill and outline colors and changing the fill and outline colors of text. Shape and text effects are also accessible from the Shape Format menu ribbon.

Note that one of the most common errors to make is to configure Shape File or Outline when you intended to configure Text Fill or Outline (and visa versa) and wondering why the option has no affect.

Undoing Your Mistakes

Use the left curling arrow in the upper-left corner of the screen to undo any of your mistakes. You can repeatedly click the undo arrow to undo multiple mistakes.

Saving Projects and Exporting Images

You should set aside a directory for storing your book covers. I usually store my book cover along with the Microsoft Word file containing the text of the associated manuscript.

Use File->Save as to name and save your Powerpoint project the first time. From that point onward you can use File->Save to save your work over the original file or click on the floppy disk icon in the upper left corner of the screen to save your work.

Note that Microsoft Powerpoint project files (.pptx files) can only be used by Powerpoint and not other programs. To make your work available to other programs such as KDP, use File->Export->Change File Type menu item and double click on the JPG File Interchange Format to export your book cover as a JPG image. Note that you can export a single book cover to a JPG file or multiple book covers to a directory.

Powerpoint Overview Exercises

To insure you have a firm grasp on the concepts outlined in this section, create a blank slide and populate it with as many elements as you can stand. Resize, move and configure each element.