What is Microsoft PowerPoint?

Get to know Microsoft’s presentation software

Professional presentation
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Microsoft PowerPoint is a slideshow presentation program that was first developed by Forethought, Inc, for the Macintosh computer in 1987. Microsoft purchased the software three months later and offered it to Windows users in 1990. Since that time, Microsoft has released an abundance of updated versions, each offering more features and incorporating better technology than the one before it. The most current version of Microsoft PowerPoint is available in Office 365.

The most basic (and least expensive) Microsoft suites include Microsoft PowerPoint, as well Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Additional suites exist, and include other Office programs, such as Microsoft Outlook and Skype for Business.

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Do You Need Microsoft PowerPoint?

A picture of a blank PowerPoint presentation.
Joli Ballew

Presentation software is the easiest way to create and show the kinds of slides you've likely seen in meetings or in classroom situations.

There are several free options, including LibreOffice, Apache OpenOffice, and SlideDog. However, if you need to collaborate with others on the presentation, integrate with other Microsoft programs (like Microsoft Word), or if you need your presentation to be able to be viewable by anyone on the planet, you’ll want to purchase and use Microsoft PowerPoint. If integration with other Microsoft programs isn't important, Google's G Suite has a presentation program that allows for excellent collaboration with others.

As far as Microsoft PowerPoint goes, it also comes with all of the features you'll need to create presentations. You can start with a blank presentation, as is shown here, or you can choose from a variety of preconfigured presentations (called templates). A template is a file that is already constructed with various styles and designs applied. This option provides an easy way to begin a presentation with a single click.

You can also insert pictures and videos from your computer and the internet, draw shapes, and create an insert all kinds of charts. There are ways to transition the slides in and out as you present and animate the items on any slide as well, among other things.

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What is a PowerPoint Presentation?

A PowerPoint presentation for a birthday party.
A presentation for a birthday. Joli Ballew

A PowerPoint presentation is a group of slides that you create either from scratch or a template that contain information you want to share. Often, you show the presentation to others in an office setting, such as a sales meeting, but you can also create slide shows for weddings and birthdays as well.

When you display the presentation to your audience, the PowerPoint slides take up the entire presentation screen.

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Do You Already Have Microsoft PowerPoint?

A screen shot of a search for PowerPoint to see what version you have.
A search for PowerPoint shows PowerPoint 2016 here. Joli Ballew

Lots of (but not all) Windows-based computers come with Microsoft Office installed. That means you might already have a version of Microsoft PowerPoint.

To see if you have Microsoft PowerPoint installed on your Windows device:

  1. From the Search window on the Taskbar (Windows 10), the Start screen (Windows 8.1), or from the Search window on the Start menu (Windows 7), type PowerPoint and press Enter.
  2. Note the results.

To find out if you have a version of PowerPoint on your Mac, look for it in the Finder sidebar, under Applications or click the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of your Mac's screen and type PowerPoint in the search field that pops up.

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Where to Get Microsoft PowerPoint

A screen shot of the Microsoft Store where Microsoft Office is for purchase.
Purchase a Microsoft Suite. Joli Ballew

The two ways you can purchase PowerPoint are by:

  1. Subscribing to Office 365.
  2. Buying the Microsoft Office suite outright from the Microsoft Store.

Remember, Office 365 is a monthly subscription whereas you pay just one for the Office suite.

If you don’t want to create presentations but only want to view what others have created, you can use PowerPoint online to view it for free.

Some employers, community colleges, and universities offer Office 365 free to their employees and students.

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The History of Microsoft PowerPoint

A screen shot of PowerPoint 2016
PowerPoint 2016. Joli Ballew

Over the years there have been many versions of the Microsoft Office suite.The lower priced suites only included the most basic apps (often Word, PowerPoint, and Excel). The higher priced suites included some or all of them (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, SharePoint, Exchange, Skype, and more). These suite editions had names like “Home and Student” or “Personal”, or “Professional.”

PowerPoint is included regardless of which version of the Microsoft Office suite you are looking at.

Here are the recent Microsoft Office Suites that also contain PowerPoint:

  • PowerPoint Online (or PowerPoint 365) is available and updated regularly in Office 365
  • PowerPoint 2019 is available in Office 2019
  • PowerPoint 2016 is available in Office 2016
  • PowerPoint 2013 was available in Office 2013
  • PowerPoint 2010 was available in Office 2010
  • PowerPoint 2007 was included with Office 2007
  • PowerPoint 2003 was included with Office 2003
  • PowerPoint 2002 was included in Office XP

PowerPoint is available for Macintosh line of computers too, as well as phones and tablets.