Over the past two years the student workers at UIS have worked on a little over 400 PowerPoint files with over 10,000 slides in those files. PowerPoints account for about 17% of the files we work on overall. In that time I have posted on how to use the accessibility checker in PowerPoint, proper use of lists, checking for color issues, a primer on alt text, and specifically alt text for math and science. In many cases, such as adding alt text, making the file accessible can add time overall. However, using proper slide layout can not only help make a PowerPoint more accessible, it can help save you time in the long run.
I must confess when I began using PowerPoint about 19 years ago, I would right click on a slide and paste an image, then resize it. I believe back then I could also right click and create a textbox to add a title or content, and resize it as well, let’s call this the “outdated method” . With many of the PowerPoints we see today I think that same thing is occurring. However, let me introduce you to using layouts.
In PowerPoint 2016 for PC you can access this feature on the insert tab, on the far left there is a new slide option with a drop down menu. This will give you about 9 different options for slide layouts. My guess is the two most commonly used are the “title and content” or the “two content” options.
In PowerPoint 2016 for Mac you can access this from the home tab, on the near left there is a new slide drop down menu. From there you will have the same options as for the PC.
If you select the title and content, you have a pre-made box which you can enter the title of the slide. You also have a content box, which will allow you to enter text, a table, a graph, smart art, a picture, or a video, just by clicking in the box for text, or clicking on the corresponding icon within the content box.
By using this layout you have solved one of the common accessibility problems, reading order. This means that a screen reader can intuit, from your use of the pre-made layouts that you would like the title read first, and the content text, image alt text, or table read next. If you use a two content layout it will know which order to read as well, title, content box one, and content box two. If you create slides using the outdated method, a screen reader will not be able to read the content in a necessarily logical order. As an added bonus if you use the layout features and need to convert the PowerPoint to an outline format, the titles and content text will transfer. If you use the outdated method, none of the content will transfer over.
What about slides where you just want a large picture, or you cut and past the same title over and over, perhaps “Civil War”? From a universal design standpoint, a unique title per slide will allow students to reference the slide on discussion boards, in class, or with classmates. Referencing the “Pickett’s Charge” slide is more precise, and helpful, than referencing that “Civil War slide, in the middle somewhere”.
And I promised this would save time, right? Using slides that already have these title and content boxes built in will save you several extra clicks per slide. If we think about 2 clicks per slide for the 10,000 slides we’ve worked on (estimating 1 second per click), that would save about 2 hours and 45 minutes, enough to enjoy a film in the theater.
And finally, if you use the layouts, and decide that you would like to change the design or look of the slides, using the built in layout will allow that to occur more fluidly, with less resizing and moving on your part. An image placed on a blank slide with “insert picture” will not move based on slide design, one placed in the content box will move with different design templates.