10 PowerPoint Hacks for Teachers

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If Microsoft Word was a favourite among teachers in the past, the new PowerPoint will be your next best friend. PowerPoint is a versatile and intuitive tool with powerful functions that are not limited to presentations only. From posters to flyers, to flashcards, to videos, the list of things you can do with it is endless. So, here are some useful tricks:

1. Change slide size

PowerPoint-hack-change-slide-size
PowerPoint hack: change slide size

When you first open PowerPoint, it is set as a default to the Standard (4:3) slide size. But all other sizes are available. If you end product is going to be a video for example, you’d better go for the Widescreen size, as most TV screens are that size.

  • Go to the Design tab.
  • Click on Slide Size. Choose Widescreen (16:9).

or

  • Click on Custom Slide Size.
  • Choose your custom settings from the pop-up window. 

2. Duplicate

Instead of copying objects (shapes, text boxes, pictures, anything) and then pasting them, you can use this much easier method.

  • Hold Control while you click and drag on an object: an exact object will be made. 

3. Capture screenshots

PowerPoint hack: capture screenshots
PowerPoint hack: capture screenshots

For all demo purposes, PowerPoint now has a tool that will take a snapshot of your screen and drop it directly into the slide you are editing.

  • Go to the Insert tab.
  • Click on the Screenshot icon. You’ll see thumbnails of all your open windows.
  • Click on a window thumbnail to capture the entire window.

or

  • Click on the Screen Clipping tool to select part of the window. 

4. Make perfectly regular shapes

PowerPoint-hack-make-perfectly-regular-shapes
PowerPoint hack: make perfectly regular shapes

If you have tried to create a shape, you will have noticed that there are no regular shapes available. For example, there is a rectangle but there is no square. Here is how to create them.

  • Go to the Insert tab.
  • Click on Shapes and select your preferred one.
  • Hold down Shift while creating the shape and it will be perfectly regular. 

5. Combine shapes

PowerPoint-hacks-combine-shapes
PowerPoint hack: combine shapes

Not only can you create your favourite shapes, but you can mix and match them as well.

  • Select all the objects.
  • Click on the Drawing Tools Format tab.
  • Use the Merge Shapes dropdown menu to choose your preferred combination. The tool works with text and images as well. 

6. Align your graphics

PowerPoint-hack-align-your-graphics
PowerPoint hack: align your graphics

PowerPoint has a whole menu for aligning your objects. Align them to the slide or to each other.

  • Select all the objects you want to align.
  • Go to the Drawing Tools Format tab.
  • From the Align dropdown menu select the alignment you want.

7. Add gridlines and guides

PowerPoint-hack-add-gridlines-and-guides
PowerPoint hack: add gridlines and guides

Another way to align your graphics is to do it visually. Just turn on the available tools: rulers, gridlines, and guides.

  • Go to the View tab.
  • Tick the Gridlines box or the Guide boxes.
  • You can drag the guides around by clicking on them.
  • Right click on a gridline to open the Grid and Guides settings window. You can choose to snap objects to the grid, and also the spacing between the grids. 

8. Remove picture backgrounds

PowerPoint-hack-remove-picture-backgrounds
PowerPoint hack: remove picture backgrounds

Isolate an image from its background to create a flashcard. PowerPoint does an excellent job with just one click. If you are not happy with the result, you can use the available tools to correct and refine.

  • Select the image.
  • Go to the Picture Tools Format tab.
  • Click Remove Background.
  • Use the Mark Areas to Keep and Mark Areas to Remove tools for stylistic corrections.

9. Create a video with PowerPoint

PowerPoint-hack-create-a-video
PowerPoint hack: create a video

The Mix tab is the most recent addition. It can help you output your slides to video with three very simple steps. A real time saver.

  • Go to the Mix tab.
  • Click on Export to Video.
  • Choose the video size. Sizes range from 240p for portable devices to 1080p for full HD.
  • Click Next to start the creation of your MP4 video. 

10. Output to a different format

PowerPoint-hack-output-to-a-different-format
PowerPoint hack: output to a different format

Your PowerPoint presentation doesn’t have to be a presentation at all. You can save it in a number of other formats that fit all purposes. You can save it as a PDF if you want to make a flyer, leaflet or simple document. Alternatively, you can save it as a JPEG if you are making a classroom poster. If your project is going online, save it as a PNG for better quality or even as a GIF. Finally, if your project is going to the printers, you may want to consider the TIFF option with the highest resolution available.

  • First save your presentation.
  • Click on File and then Save As.
  • Click on the Save as Type menu to open the available options.
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Savas Savides
Education born and bred. I have worked as a teacher for many private language schools, as a test centre administrator, as a teacher trainer, as an educational consultant, and as a publisher. I am an advocate for literacy and a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom. I have a BA in English and an MBA in Marketing. I mostly write about English Language Teaching. I live in sunny Athens.