PowerPoint Essentials

Selecting Your Software

SlidewareScreen Reader Compatible?Live Captioning?Clear Visuals?
PowerPointYesYes (Microsoft 365)Yes
Google SlidesYesYesYes

University of Toronto students, faculty, and staff have access to Office 365, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

Creating Your PowerPoint

Design Best Practices

Layout• Know your goal and audience
• Create a clean and uncluttered layout
• Establish consistency, perhaps via a Slide Master
• Identify your audience’s pattern of reading (e.g., F-pattern, Z-pattern)
Content• Use concise, non-figurative, accurate language
• Present three to six points per slide
• Limit the number of lines per point; one to two lines is standard
Fonts• Use standard, non-decorative fonts
• For readability, use sans-serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Verdana, Helvetica)
• Use larger fonts, 24 points and higher
• Bold for emphasis, underline for links

Colour• Ensure colour contrast by using a contract checker
• Check readability by switching to “Grayscale” view
• Avoid relying on colour as the only means of conveying information
• Match the colour with the tone of content

Lists• Use bulleted (unordered) list to group non-sequenced items
• Use numbered (ordered) list to group sequenced items
• Do not “simulate” a list with hyphens; use the “Bullets” and “Numbering” tools
Charts• Avoid importing charts from other programs; PowerPoint may treat the chart as an image
• Create a new chart by navigating to the “Insert” ribbon tab and click on “Chart”
Embedded Video and Audio• Caption verbal content and include audio description where appropriate

Checking for Accessibility and Usability

PowerPoint has an Accessibility Checker. On the “Review” ribbon tab, select “Check Accessibility.” The Accessibility Checker will not identify all accessibility and usability issues. Use the chart below to identify common problems in PowerPoint design. Problems that the Accessibility Checker identify are marked with an asterisk (*).

Missing slide title*• Slide titles allow screen readers to navigate through the presentation
• Use the default layouts for creating new slides
• The title is placed within “Title Placeholder,” not a “Text Box”
• Use unique slide titles
o If you have multiple slides of the same topic, use a numbering system (Topic A 1 of 3, Topic A 2 of 3, etc.)
Missing alternative text*• Provide alternative texts for images
• Right-click on the image and select “Edit Alt Text”
Table has no header row*• Identify a single column or row as a header
• Click inside the table to make the “Table Tools” options visible
• Select the “Design” ribbon tab on check the box for Header Row or First Column
Table has merged or split cells *• Tables should have simple cell structures to improve navigability
• Avoid merged or split cells
Check reading order*• Screen readers read text boxes last, regardless of the visual order
• On the “Home” ribbon tab, click “Select,” and open the “Selection pane”
• Readjust the reading order; place objects read first at the bottom of the list
Unclear hyperlink• Screen readers can scan a list of links; as a result, unclear hyperlinks such as “click here” does not provide information about the destination target
• Create meaningful hyperlink by including the full title of the destination page or the URL of the page if it is short and descriptive
Using colour as the only means of conveying information• Users who are blind, have low vision, or are colour-blind may miss out on meaning conveyed by colours alone
• In the “View” ribbon tab, switch to “Grayscale” view
• Underline hyperlinks instead of relying on colour only
• For headings, consider using a larger font or adding bold
Insufficient contrast• Use sufficient contrast between text and background
• Use contrast checkers to check the colour contrast ratio
o Acart Communications, Valerii, and WebAIM provide free web-based contrast checkers
Distracting slide transitions and text effects• Screen readers ignore slide transitions and text effects
• Avoid slide transitions and text effects unless there is a pedagogical purpose

Designing with a Slide Master

A slide master allows you to set the theme, layout, background, fonts, colours, and style to an entire presentation. Layout masters for each type of slides (title slide, title and content, section header, two content, comparison, etc.) are nested beneath the slide master. Use the slide master to set up header and footer information such as date and time or slide number. Designing with a slide master reduces design time significantly. To access the Slide Master, go to the “View” ribbon tab and click on “Slide Master.”

Adding Metadata

Before finishing your PowerPoint design, click on “File,” then “Info,” then “Properties,” and select “Advanced Properties” to add metadata about your document. Provide information on the title, subject, author, category, and keywords to help organize, search, and identify documents and its contents.

Using Presentation Shortcuts

Next slideN
Enter OR Spacebar
Page Down OR Right arrow key OR Down arrow key
Previous slideP
Page up OR Left arrow key OR Up arrow key
Go to slide "number""number" Enter
Black screenB
White screenW
Change pointer to penCtrl P
Change pointer to arrowCtrl A
Erase onscreen annotationE
End slide showEsc


Working with Images

Three Types of Images

When working with images, remember to cite your images. Consult the University of British Columbia’s Directory of Image Sources and the Image Citation Guide to find and cite images.

Informative• Visual representation of the content
• Provide a figure caption and an alternative text up to 120 characters
Decorative• Used for aesthetic purposes, such as borders or dividers
• No alt text (alt = “”)
Complex• Images containing substantial information such as charts, maps, or diagrams
• Information cannot be conveyed in a 120-character alt-text
• The purpose of the complex image should also be described in the main text

Two Types of Alternate Texts

Standard shorter alt text• A short description to identify the image
• Inserted in the code of an image via the “Alt Text” box
• Can provide information on the location of the long description
o For example: Best animal chart
Long description• Provides more details than the shorter alt text
• Can describe data use, variables used, indicated trends, etc.
o For example: This bar chart illustrates which is the best animal between wombat, quokka, and koala according to three criteria: fluffiness, friendliness, and innovativeness. Quokka scored higher on friendliness (4.4) than wombat (2.5), while wombat scored higher on innovativeness (4.3) compared to quokkas and koalas (2.4 and 1.8 respectively)
• The long description can be in the same document or hyperlinked to a separate page

Further Resources

Council of Ontario Universities. (2012). Using PowerPoint. http://www.accessiblecampus.ca/educators/teaching-tips/using-powerpoint

Duarte, N. (2008). Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentation. O’Reilly Media.

Reynolds, G. (2014). Presentation Zen Design: A Simple, Visual Approach to Presenting in Today’s World. 2nd ed. New Riders.

WebAIM. (2019). PowerPoint Accessibility. https://webaim.org/techniques/powerpoint/