Understanding Microsoft PowerPoint and How to Use It

Deliver professional-looking presentations for business or classroom

What to Know

  • PowerPoint is a standalone program, a subscription service, a website, and a mobile app.
  • Use PowerPoint by creating and customizing presentations with text, images, and other graphics.
  • PowerPoint is the most popular presentation software, but Google Slides and Apple Keynote are popular, too.

Microsoft PowerPoint creates slideshows suitable for projectors or big-screen TVs. Usually, a presenter speaks to the audience and uses the PowerPoint presentation to hold the listeners' attention and add visual information. However, some presentations are created and recorded to provide a digital-only experience. This article addresses PowerPoint 2019 and 2016, PowerPoint for Microsoft 365, PowerPoint 2016, and PowerPoint Online.

Customizing PowerPoint Presentations

PowerPoint presentations output to photo albums—complete with music or narrations—shareable on CDs, DVDs, or flash drives. The software supports charts, images, and org charts. Make your presentation into a web page for emailing purposes or as a promotion displayed on your company's website.

It is easy to customize presentations with your company logo and dazzle your audience by using one of the many design templates that come with the program. Many more free add-ins and templates are available online from Microsoft and other websites. In addition to an on-screen slideshow, PowerPoint features printing options that allow the presenter to provide handouts and outlines for the audience and notes pages for the speaker to refer to during the presentation.

Where to Find PowerPoint

PowerPoint is part of the Microsoft Office package and is also available as:

  • A standalone program for Windows computers and Macs
  • Part of a Microsoft 365 subscription
  • PowerPoint Online
  • PowerPoint apps for Android and iOS mobile devices

How to Use PowerPoint

PowerPoint comes with many templates that set the tone of a presentation—from casual to formal to off-the-wall.

PowerPoint open to the "New Presentation" window, with default theme thumbnails shown.

Select a template and replace the placeholder text and images with your own to customize the presentation. Add additional slides in the same template format as you need them and add text, images, and graphics. As you learn, add special effects, transitions between slides, music, charts, and animations—all these features are built into the software—to enrich the experience for the audience.

Collaborating With PowerPoint

A group can use PowerPoint to collaborate on a presentation.

In this case, the presentation is saved online on Microsoft OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint. Send your collaborators or co-workers a link to the PowerPoint file and assign them either viewing or editing permissions when you're ready to share. Comments on the presentation are visible to all the collaborators.

If you use the free PowerPoint Online, work and collaborate using your favorite desktop browser. You and your team can work on the same presentation at the same time from anywhere. You need a Microsoft account.

PowerPoint Competitors

PowerPoint is by far the most popular presentation software program available. Approximately 30 million presentations are created daily in the software. Although it has several competitors, they lack the familiarity and global reach of PowerPoint. Apple's Keynote software is similar, and ships free on all Macs, but it has only a small share of the presentation software user base.

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