How to convert an old presentation into a corporate template

The introduction of an unique Howest template raises the question of how the staff of Howest can apply this template to an existing presentation. How smooth the conversion goes depends on a few crucial factors, just like it did with the conversion of the slide size in my previous post. And also in this story, the pre-set layouts of the Slide master are playing a major role. This proves again how important they are in terms of creating a presentation.

The slide sorter gives an overview of all the possible slide layouts of the Howest template with aspect ratio 4:3

Open the template (like the 3:4 template of Howest in the picture above) that you like to use. Import the slides from an old presentation into this template via the tab Home > drop-down menu of the command New slide > the option Reuse Slides…

On the right, the window Reuse Slides appears. Locate the slides that you want to insert, either from a slide library or from a PowerPoint file.

window reuse slides

Make sure the option Keep source formatting (below the window) is ticked off before you right click on one of the slide thumbnails in the right window and select Insert All Slides.

The result after inserting all slides into the template, not quite what I had in mind…

How your presentation looks like now and in which degree the result corresponds to the layouts of the template all depends on how your old presentation was created.

If in the old presentation no layouts (or associated placeholders) of the Master View were used, you will have to transfer the content of each slide manually to a proper layout of the template.

But if your slides in Normal view are based on the layouts of the Slide master, the conversion will go more automatic. Though, you’ll still need to verify each slide and you will probably need to make quite a few minor adjustments or choose a better layout for a slide.

To change the layout of an imported slide: Click right on a slide and choose Layout. The selected layout is the current one. You change this just by selecting another one (of the desired template).

The last 5 layouts don’t belong to the original template.

Besides being patient, the best thing to do is to compare each slide in both presentations (the old one with the new one) via the Tab View > Arrange All.

Again, if you have a better workaround, feel free to share!

How to resize your presentation

As promised, a sequel to the article of last week about the slide aspect ratio 4:3 and 16:9.

Most likely you will convert 4:3 format into 16:9 rather than vice versa, as widescreen has become the new standard (the 4:3 screen format of iPad is an exception) and the same goes for slides.  Anyway, this blog post covers the conversion in both directions. In the article I assume that the presentation you would like to resize, is created in a template and pictures and text are inserted in placeholders.

Is this a story with a happy ending?  Well, it depends on a few factors…

There are different methods of resizing your presentation. One option is to resize your presentation via the tab Design, Slide Size. Another way is to copy all the slides from the original presentation and paste them into a new presentation which has the desired aspect ratio (Choose past option Keep Source Formatting)
Which path you take, does not really matter. Just make sure you work with a copy of the original presentation, because the original might come in handy in the future!


After converting a widescreen into a 4:3 format, the photo looks distorted.

At this point all the graphics or logos in your slides will be out of proportion (Scale Height and Scale Width will be dissimilar). They will look either stretched or distorted. To fix this, select all the slides (to do so: select the first slide, hold the shift key and select the last slide) and click on Reset on the tab Home, this command resets the position, size and formatting of the slide placeholders to their default settings. So thanks to the feature Reset pictures get their normal proportions back. But you are not out of the woods yet, because there is also a drawback to this feature.

Using the pre-set layouts of the Master View is one thing concerning formatting slides, but not the only one. Often, there has been also a lot of “direct formatting” in Normal view. A few examples to clarify what I mean: pictures you’ve positioned via the crop tool in the placeholder, font colour you’ve changed, words you’ve made bold, new layouts you’ve created because the layout you are looking for was not foreseen in the template,… The Reset feature takes no account of these kind of adjustments in Normal View. They just get lost after clicking Reset. 

After converting a widescreen into a 4:3 format and clicking on Reset, the photo looks okay, must be repositioned in the placeholder again.

If you know for sure you haven’t done a lot of this “direct formatting”, the story ends well for you (checking the font size and indentation is the only thing left to do, because they might have changed after conversion).

But it can be quite frustrating if you’ve made a lot of these little changes in the Normal view and time consuming to restore everything to the way it was before… As an alternative you can leave the Reset feature for what it is and Crop > Fill each picture via the contextual tab Picture tools which appear after selecting a picture.

crop and fill

Converting slides often takes a long time. If you know a  more efficient way or a magical button to convert slides without losing any direct formatting AND with respect to the aspect ratio of the pictures, please share and make my day!

Look before you leap!

Before you start designing a new presentation, you do well to ask yourself what slide format you need to give your public an optimal viewing experience. Should your slides have 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio to make full use of the projection screen? PowerPoint does not help you which format to choose, it opens a new presentation automatically in widescreen format. So be aware!

The standard output on monitors and screens used to be 4:3. Now the format of most screens is 16:9 or widescreen. PowerPoint has gone through the same evolution, as since 2010 the default dimensions of new presentations are 16:9 (although the slide size 4:3 is still called ‘Standard’ in PowerPoint)

Forewarned is forearmed, but sometimes you do not  know in advance which kind of screen will be used. If you’ve made the wrong choice and made a widescreen presentation that you have to display on a 4:3 projector screen or vice versa, your slides will not fill the entire screen. Either horizontally or vertically you’re will lose a part of your projection space. The black bars in the pictures underneath illustrate this.


So the worst case scenario is not too bad! But try to avoid it if you can.
Of course, you can convert your presentation into the right format, but this can cost you a great deal of time. In a future article I’ll tell you how to fix this.

Icons made by from is licensed under

Shapes versus placeholders: the crucial differences

In the view Slide Master of PowerPoint, you can insert both text boxes as text placeholders. Both seem the same at first sight, but when you return to the normal view of your presentation differences become cleary noticeable. This post highlights the differences between text boxes and text placeholders or, in a wider context, between shapes and placeholders.

Even if you’ve never heard of Placeholders before, you are probably more familiar with them then you might think. Take the first slide of a new presentation for example. It contains two frames in which you can enter text according to the instructions, but which you also can delete, resize, colour,…. These flexible frames look like text boxes but are in fact Text Placeholders.

If you go to the Slide Master and scroll through the different layouts you’ll notice that there are -in addition to frames for text- also frames for pictures, charts, tables, SmartArt, Media, Online pictures or content in general. These are all placeholders.
If you make your own template, you can insert these placeholders by the feature Insert Placeholder on the tab Slide Master.

Besides placeholders, you can also insert shapes (including text boxes) in the Slide Master view. But unlike the first, shapes cannot be adjusted in the normal view. If you insert for example a blue text box in the Master view and return to the view Normal, you will notice that this is a fixed element on the slide which is impossible to select, and thus impossible to adjust.

There is also a second difference between placeholders and shapes: a placeholder can be put on the back or foreground on the slide whereas a shape will always remain in the background when you insert them into the slide master.

However, both shapes and placeholders are useful when it comes down to making a PowerPoint template. How to use these two elements correctly is for a future post.

Based on PowerPoint 2016.