How To Use PowerPoint

An Introduction Guide for the Beginner


Microsoft Powerpoint, the absolute indispensible tool for all visual presentations, the program that has revolutionized the way we teach, present, and hold meetings; the program that is an absolute must in this age of multimedia projectors and conference room LCD screens. Powerpoint is as ubiquitous and essential as any program in existence today and it’s capacity to make great presentations is undisputed. There’s just one catch; you have to know how to use it. Ready for a powerpoint trial? Want to learn a little Powerpoint online? Ever taken a powerpoint trial before and failed because you didn't understand how the program works? Perhaps you are in a situation where you only give presentations or lectures once in a while and you’ve always gotten by until now without a visual aid; or maybe with a primitive one such as a white board. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to use Power point slides in your presentation but found the prospect of learning the software much too daunting. Perhaps the use of Powerpoint is becoming a requirement for your activities now and yet, since the use of it seems intuitive to everyone around you, you’re afraid to ask for help. Have no fear for in this article we’ll get you on your feet and provide you with a starting point for learning your way around Powerpoint and in a short time you can become a professional Powerpoint creator. There are lengthy books available for that which are more overwhelming than the program itself. Obviously this won’t be an exhaustive guide. Powerpoint can do quite a lot, and in many different ways, many of which you may never need to learn. This article is only meant to give you a very basic introduction for getting started, but hopefully one sufficient enough to get you creating some basic presentations and primed for more advanced learning later on.

In this article we will assume that you are already fairly familiar with MS Office programs, especially Word, and how the menus and toolbars work. There are of course different versions of Powerpoint but for this basic introduction you shouldn’t run into any significant differences.

Ready to begin? Click open the Powerpoint program and let’s get started.

 Understanding What You See

powerpoint(74674)Credit: powerpointThe main part of the screen is the presentation itself. It will be a white, blank slide with a default presentation format which shows you two rectangle boxes and tells you to click to add a title or subtitle. You cannot just start typing on the screen like in Word, all of your text has to be put into boxes. On the left side of the screen you will see a window pane what shows a smaller version of your presentation slide. As you create more slides they will show in this section. This will help you to see your slide progression as you build your presentation. Across the top of the screen are all of your menu and toolbar commands. Don’t be intimidated by this and think that you are going to have to learn every single command and tool. For now you can create a very nice presentation using only a fraction of all of these tools. You are however are going to need to learn your way around the menu tools. These work just like they do in MS Word, with each menu option along the top bar opening a different set of graphical buttons which you will use to format your presentation.   

 Formatting Your Slide

Now let’s continue your Powerpoint trial with the learning how to format your slide. Do you just want to use a main point and a sub point, as the default format shows? Then you can type your points in those boxes. Want to use a different format?  Then click on the toolbar button above called “layout”. This will show you different slide formats, including one of the most common types which has a heading box, and then a larger box for bullet points. It would be a good idea to try using this format to get a feel for how the bullet points work. You can also choose a blank slide to work with but understand that for any text you use you will have to create a box in which to type. To do this, you’ll need to change your toolbars by selecting the menu item which reads “insert”. Now you can find a toolbar button called “text box” which will create a textbox on your slide. You can alter its size but it won’t matter much until you have your text entered. By inserting text boxes you can put text anywhere on the screen you like.  

 Formatting Your Text

Just as in a word processor you can format your text, font style and font size and such, also using the options on the toolbars under the home menu button. Note that readability is a bit different when presenting text on a large screen to a group of people. Be sure to make your text large enough (probably no less than a 24 pt font) and in a font style that is easy to read. Don’t get too fancy or your audience may struggle to make out the words.

 Text Animation

To animate your text, click on the animations button on the menu bar. Now you can select text from your presentation, and then click on an animation style to make it move. Controlling each line of text’s animation can be a bit tricky at first. To help with this, click on the button titled “animation pane” and a new window will open up on the right of your screen, showing you options for how your text animation will play out. From here you can choose whether your text animation will happen automatically or by mouse clicks. You can also alter the timing and speed of text animation. You can also highlight text through animation or make it disappear.

 Formatting Your Colors

You can now decide on colors, both for your text and for your slide background. Your font color can be chosen through the toolbar for fonts under the home menu button. To choose the background color of your slide, right click on any empty space on your slide, then look at the pop up menu, and go down to the format background option. Click here and you will see how you can change the background color and what your choices are. You can also select from a handful of backgrounds. 

power pointThe critical aspect of color involves having a stark contrast between text color and background color. For example, a white or yellow text on a black background will stand out very clearly. A dark text on a dark background will be much more difficult to read, as will a light text on a light background. Again the key is contrast of color. It’s also important to avoid red text. Red text, as nice as it may look on your computer screen, often doesn’t present well on a large screen and many people’s eyes have trouble reading it.

Preformatted Slide Styles

It’s good to know the basic formatting methods as described above but if you want to move things along even more quickly there are preformatted slide styles available. There are many such Powerpoint ideas available, to find these, go to the top menu bar and click on the word “design”. You will then see a series of formatting options to choose from. Click through some of these and you will get the idea. Just starting out this may be the most convenient. In time however you may itch to work out your own more personalized styles as you learn to create professional Powerpoint presentations. 


Just like in Word and other applications, you can copy and past images into your Powerpoint presentation. Unlike working with text however, your image does not have to be presented in a box but can be pasted anywhere on your presentation and then moved and altered as needed. High quality images are certainly preferable as lower qualities images will not show very well on a large projection screen.

Creating More Slides

msofficeOnce you have your first slide completed you are ready to move on to more slides. Notice, while under the “home” menu setting, that there is a larger button called “new slide”. Click on this button to make a new slide. Notice how that a preformatted slide will then duplicate it’s formatting for all subsequent slides. If you would like to change this, then click the little arrow on the bottom of the “new slide” button. This will give you more options for a new slide, such as different text formats. You can also click on another option here which says “duplicate selected slides” which will duplicate your previous slide exactly.  This can be very convenient while creating presentations.

 Slide Transitions

If you do nothing your slides will transition from one to another instantly. If you want some animation to your slide transitions you can click on the menu item which says “transitions” and select one you like. Some transitions are simpler than others. Using a more involved transition is fine for a few slides but may grow tiresome for an audience if you use it a lot. You can select how many, or even all the slides to which you want to apply a selected transition. You can also choose the speed of the transition. A slow transition time can be frustrating if you have to wait on it to make a point.

Playing Your Slideshow

To play your presentation from the beginning, can simply click F5. There is a menu button as well which shows an image of a projection screen but F5 is usually simpler to find. Click any key on your keyboard or your mouse to proceed through the slideshow. The first few times you do this you will begin to see just how things really work and be able to make changes to get things the way you want them. Once you’re happy with what you see in your show you can rehearse your presentation along with the slides, and then save your presentation to a flash drive if needed. If, you will be presenting your show on a different computer, and if you are using some different and not necessarily standard fonts, you will need to embed your fonts in your presentation. Otherwise things may look quite different on the presentation computer. We won’t take the time to explain how to embed the fonts here but you can do a search for it or ask a colleague if you find you need to do this.

Important Presentation Conceptshow to use powerpoint

Clarity of text, images, and point is key. The Powerpoint presentation should aid your speech, not distract from it. Unless you are sharing involved diagrams you want your Powerpoint show to simply emphasize your speaking points, not take them over and make your audience focus on the visual presentation instead. When first starting out it’s best to keep things simple. There is also  no harm in keeping things simple even as you advance in your skills. Nothing is as simple, and usually not even as effective, as white text and black backgrounds. It may seem dull but this style is sure to clearly get your points across, as seen in the inserted image here. The mistake many Powerpoint users make is creating colorful, busy, and highly animated presentations which, are no doubt fun to create, but just serve to distract an audience from the message they are trying to convey. Again, in spite of all these Powerpoint ideas, keep it simple and avoid a lot of busy backgrounds. Opt to use solid color backgrounds instead, especially dark or light ones which you can make your text contrast against clearly.

Trial and Error

Unless you prefer to read heavy books on using a software program you can do most of your learning for Powerpoint by trial and error, clicking around and seeing what things do, with an occasional question asked of a friend or online. Naturally there will be some frustrations at times but be patient and you will eventually figure out the problem. Hopefully this article and Powerpoint trial has given you enough information to at least get started as well as a basic concept for what creating a professional Powerpoint presentation is all about. Over time, with practice and experimentation, you will catch up to your colleagues and being giving presentations every bit as good as theirs, if not better.