You can do more than make slides with PowerPoint. Helen Bradley shows you five interesting and productive ways to use the presentation software.
Most of us use PowerPoint to design slide show presentations, but there's a lot more to a PowerPoint slide than you might think. Many people find PowerPoint so easy to use that they make it their go-to application for diverse tasks such as creating office signage and designing Web videos. We've rounded up our favorite things that you may not realize you can do in PowerPoint.
5 Unusual PowerPoint Tricks
1. PowerPoint as a Graphics Editor
While PowerPoint will never challenge the likes of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements as a tool for graphic designs, it includes some great tools for creating everyday images. Using the shape-combine tools (new in PowerPoint 2010); you can create complex shapes by combining simple shapes.
Give it a try: create two overlapping shapes, select them and choose Drawing Tools > Format tab. Click Merge Shapes and choose the desired option. You can use the custom shapes like any other PowerPoint shape or graphic: format them, apply effects to them and even animate them.
Other image editing tools include the background removal tool that lets you get rid of unwanted image backgrounds. To use this on an image on a PowerPoint slide, select the image, and from the Picture Tools > Format tab click Remove Background. Use the Mark areas to keep and Mark areas to remove tools to define the areas you want to retain or delete, and then click Keep Changes.
You can save any images you create or edit in PowerPoint as regular image files to use elsewhere. Simply right-click the image and choose Save as Picture. This lets you remove an image background and save the image as a transparent png file for use in another application.
Figure 1: You can easily lose the background and save the image using PowerPoint's handy background removal tool.
2. Creative Photo Albums
PowerPoint's built-in photo album tool makes it easy to create photo albums to showcase your products and services. Combine these albums with the PowerPoint's narration and music capabilities, and you can easily create good looking multi-media presentations.
To create a photo album: open a new presentation and choose Insert > Photo Album > New Photo Album. Choose to insert pictures from your disk, and then select the picture layout, such as one picture per slide with a title. You can choose frames for your images, if desired, and add captions below the images. When you finish making your selections, click Create.
Now you can organize the images on the slides. You can add additional images, move and resize them, add titles, captions and so on. It's best to make these changes only after you've imported all the images into the album, because adding images to the album later on would undo these changes.
Want to add music to your presentation? Choose Insert > Audio and choose the track you want. Want to narrate the presentation? Click Slide Show > Record Slide Show. You can start recording from the beginning and narrate the presentation as you record it.
Figure 2: You can create a visual catalog for your business using a PowerPoint Photo album.
More Creative Ways to Use PowerPoint
3. Make a Movie in PowerPoint
You can encode any PowerPoint presentation as a movie. Turn animations, photo albums and the like into videos that you can distribute as movies or upload them to YouTube.
Here's how to encode your presentation as a movie: choose File > Export > Create a Video. Next, select the desired output device so that your encoded movie will be the best size and quality for that device. If you have recorded timings and narrations, you can include them in the movie, too. You can encode movies as WMV or MP4, save them to your hard disk, and later upload them to YouTube, the Web or you can distribute them to clients and customers.
Figure 3: You can easily encode any PowerPoint presentation as a movie for distribution or sharing on the Web.
4. Quizzes in PowerPoint
PowerPoint's Action options let you create quizzes very easily. To see how it works, create a new slide with two textboxes: one that contains a question and another one that contains the answer to your question.
Select the textbox that contains the answer, click on the Animations tab and then select an Appear animation for this shape. Click the Trigger button and select On Click of TextBox1. Now, when you run the slide show, only the question textbox will be visible. If you click this textbox, then the answer box will appear.
While this is a very simple example, it's possible to create more complex quizzes—for example to test an employee's understanding of a training topic.
5. Making Animations
Many dedicated tools for making animations are complex and time consuming to learn. If you're already familiar with PowerPoint then you can produce complex animations using its animation features.
This ability to animate text and images and to then render the result as a movie file makes PowerPoint a great tool for animators. If you'd like to see what's possible, Satellite Visual Communications offers two interesting an examples created in PowerPoint. Here's one animated PowerPoint sequence. And here’s the second animated sequence.
Start your first animation: insert an image (such as a picture of a car) off to the left of a slide. Add a text box and type "We help get your business moving" into it. Click on the car and, from the Animations tab, click the dropdown animation list and choose Custom Path from the Motion Paths list. Click on the front of the car, and draw a line across the slide from left to right. When you're finished, press Enter and the car will appear at the left of the slide and move across it in front of the textbox.
You can animate any element on a slide and use the timeline in the Animation pane to configure when each animation starts and stops. Each element can appear, and disappear within its animation sequence.
Figure 4: PowerPoint has an easy-to-use animation tool capable of handling complex animation sequences.
PowerPoint will always be the tool of choice for designing slide show presentations, but don't limit its potential to creating slides. Instead, harness the PowerPoint skills that you already have and take them in new directions.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com.
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