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Discover the impact of PowerPoint 2013’s new 16:9 aspect ratio, and what this new default format means to you and your presentations.
In PowerPoint 2013 the slide layout area is now default 16:9 widescreen, so as soon as you start a new presentation your area dimensions are set like this as standard. All previous versions of PowerPoint default to a 4:3 ratio.
The reasoning behind this is quite simple as most screens we use to view our presentations are now a 16:9 widescreen dimension.
- Laptops – 16:9 widescreen
- Plasma/LED TVs – 16:9 widescreen
- Projectors – Whilst older ones project in a 4:3 mode, newer models are using a 16:9 widescreen.
- iPad – Apple has typically gone against the grain as the iPad has a 4:3 area, this means that there will for some time to come, always be a place for the old dimension.
This new default dimension brings several Potential issues for users:
- Most Presentation templates will have been developed for use on 4:3 template, in order to switch to widescreen mode, the background will need to be re-designed in the new dimensions; copying and pasting the old format onto widescreen will simply stretch the design over the wider area.
- Perhaps the biggest challenge to organisations will be the staff adoption to this new layout. The first hurdle will be how to roll out the new widescreen template. Do staff need to use the old one in certain circumstances, or should everything be created in widescreen from then on?
- If I cut-and-paste an old 4:3 slide into 16:9 it stretches. This is where the real headache starts – when you need to use parts of old presentations on the new widescreen format. If you simply copy and paste the slides from an old 4:3 formatted presentation into a new 16:9 widescreen your slides are all going to stretch to the new wider workspace, all elements on the slides from images to logos will become stretched.
Could I have a single presentation with some slides 4:3 and some 16:9 if I wanted?
PowerPoint will only allow you to have one size of slide in a presentation, so either 4:3, 16:9 or a custom size. This makes sense really as when presented it will only be viewed on a single device.
How do I fix the default back from 16:9 widescreen to 4:3 ratio when creating a new presentation?
You would have thought Microsoft would have made this quite an obvious option, with a quick and easy select either button when launching into a new presentation, but no….
Instead you have to choose create new presentation from the home screen in PowerPoint 2013. Then navigate using the top ribbon to the Design tab, then on the far right of the ribbon you will see a button named Slide Size. Click on this and it brings up the option to go back to standard 4:3 mode.
What happens if we view a 4:3 ratio presentation on a 16:9 widescreen?
This is already being done without most of us realising it. Most presentations currently use a 4:3 dimension for their presentations. In the past most screen manufactured had a matching 4:3 ratio. Over recent years screens have become 16:9 widescreen output, so really it was only a matter of time before PowerPoint made the change also. When viewing a 4:3 ratio on a 16:9 widescreen all that happens is that wide space to the left and right of the screen remains blank, with the rest of the presentation being in the centre. You can test this out on your laptop – put your slides into presentation mode, if the presentation has been designed in a 4:3 ratio, you will see black space on the screen to the left and right.
Why do I need to change to a widescreen format then?
As explained above your 4:3 presentations work fine on a widescreen device, it’s just that you’re not making the most of the space available to you. In order to utilise the whole of a screen, the presentation needs to be designed in a matching format. It would be great to think that in the future all screen sizes will conform to one standard dimension, unfortunately the iPad seems to have scuppered that dream from becoming reality, as it is a 4:3 ration screen, unlike all those 16:9 widescreen devices.
How do I transfer old 4:3 presentation slides into a new 16:9 widescreen presentation?
The only way to effectively transfer old material is to select all of the individual elements on a slide (not the slide itself) and copy and paste them onto the new layout. This is not perfect, as it’s much more time consuming; also once the elements have been pasted, there will be a gap on the left and right of the slide where the screen is wider.
A technical point
In the older versions of PowerPoint, when widescreen 16:9 format is selected its dimensions are 25.4cm wide x 14.29cm high. Effectively this just chopped off the bottom of the normal 4:3 view which had an area of 25.4cm high x 19.05cm high.
When looking at the dimensions of the widescreen 16:9 setting in PowerPoint 2013 the dimensions are different, 33.867cm wide x 19.05cm high. The area has increased in size in order to match the height of the old 4:3 view.
I think the rationale behind this change is that Microsoft will assume that most presentations have been developed in a 4:3 format, so when copying over elements from one 4:3 slide deck to this 16:9 they will retain their size and not be cut off the screen.
Several presentation designers have started to think that Shutterstock may have overtaken iStock as the commercial stock-photo site of choice for finding photos for presentation design. Discover three reasons here.
Slide show expert Emiland De Cubber transforms the NSA’S clunky prism deck with minimalist cool.
When news of the NSA’s classified Prism program broke in, revealing that the U.S. government had ordered the collection of all Americans’ online activities, many cried foul over the Obama administration’s abuses of power. The op-ed machine churned out everything you could imagine, each piece more grave, impassioned, and seemingly “consequential” than the next. Some called for the imprisonment of Prism leaker Edward Snowden, while others offered sympathetic portraits of the young whistleblower.
But when the Prism slide show was circulated around the web, Emiland De Cubber’s first reaction was not a feeling of personal violation on the part of the state, nor worry about its unchecked powers, but rather one of disdain for the document’s presentation sins. He has revamped the NSA’s slide show, replacing its daft graphics with minimalist ones that are unnervingly cool.
“I thought it was a joke at the beginning, like a caricature of an overly corporate slide template,” De Cubber tells Co.Design. “Huge logos, massive gradients, default fonts, poor charts.”
De Cubber, a visual communication designer, stumbled across data-viz jedi Edward Tufte’s mocking tweets, in which he reserved his ire for Prism’s egregious graphic sense. Tufte’s sneering critique–“Dreadful spy-PRISM deck sets new record for most header logos per slide: 13”–prompted De Cubber’s own response. He updated every aspect of the top-secret Powerpoint presentation, including the program’s terribly ’70s-“Dark Side of the Moon logo,” which De Cubber renders in skeletal, glow-green lines.
Where the Prism slides each employ different graphic strategies, linked together only by a top banner laden with logos of the partnering companies, de Cubber devised a much more uniform system. His new Powerpoint features flat, pared-down icons that supplant the original’s cumbersome text boxes and jarring logos, and which seamlessly carry across the entire deck. In place of the gobs of text that cluttered the original, for example, De Cubber plots a field of web icons that clearly convey what kind of data can be extracted from online users. For the concluding slide–the one trolled ‘round the (micro-blogging) world–he vertically arrays the logos in tidy columns, each labeled with the year Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others signed onto the program.
The reinterpreted deck economizes the information and privileges empty space. “People are afraid of an empty slide,” De Cubber explains. “They say, ‘I definitely need this gradient frame around my title,’ and then occupy 30% of their slides with stuff that doesn’t convey any information. That’s why I tried to draw a lot of contrast by keeping my slides as minimalistic as possible. Each element must earn its space on the slide.”
There was one element of the NSA overview that, like many similar redesigns that have popped up online, De Cubber kept. He slightly modified “International Internet Bandwidth” graphic, featured on slide 2, tweaking certain aspects of its composition. He highlighted the U.S./North America circle and rearranged some bits of text to improve legibility. Asked why he left it intact, De Cubber says that he “liked the analogy between the graphic lines and the actual cables that convey data,” adding that the graphic accurately reflected how “nearly everything flows through the U.S.”
In addition to his wholesale changes to Prism’s visual language, De Cubber excised all of the presentation’s text and inserted his own in its place. In most cases, his thin lines of text delete redundancies and complications found in the original. Now and then, however, he does slip in some subtle digs that make plain the NSA’s intentions. “How can we monitor everything?” reads the heading of one slide; another touting the laundry list of collectable data assures the reader that “many more data sources [are] available upon request.” De Cubber’s cavalier approach to the entire project comes through in his concluding lines of the slide show: “Even if you are not a government agency, I would be happy to help you with your next presentation.”
Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.
You can’t build a compelling presentation that communicates your message if your slides are cluttered, text-heavy, or ugly. These tips will help you develop presentations that are professional and inviting.