Automating Text Formatting

Automating Text Formatting

PowerPoint gives you more options for formatting text than a normal human being will ever needeverything from the basic (bold, italics, underlining) to the wacky (beveling, stacking, 3-D rotation). And it gives you two ways to take advantage of these options: automatically, and manually.

Figure 3-2. Anyone who's spent time in corporate America has suffered through at least one presentation like this. While it's true that your message (and your audience) should dictate the formatting choices you make, getting carried away is never a good idea. Too many formatting bells and whistles can affect your message more negatively than no formatting at all.

  • Automatic. If you haven't finished adding text to your slides, you can turn on one or more of PowerPoint's automatic formatting features to tell the program to catch basic formatting and punctuation goofs for you as you type.

  • Manual. If you've already added text to your slides or want to apply fancy effects, you'll need to format your text manuallyeither by applying individual effects one at a time, or by applying one of PowerPoint 2007's predesigned styles.

In most cases, you'll want to use both automatic and manual formatting. The following sections show you how.

Less Is More

As you format your presentation, make sure you keep the following three goals in mind:




Specialty formattinglike drop-shadows, bevels, and text that runs up and down instead of left to rightis the PowerPoint equivalent of swearing: If you use it sparingly and appropriately, it gets your audience's attention. Use it frequently or indiscriminately, and it'll turn your audience off and reflect poorly on your skills as a communicator.

One way to keep your slides readable is to remember that your slides should aid you in giving your presentation; they shouldn't be your presentation.

Instead of automatically typing out a bunch of bullet points, consider displaying something on your slide that grabs your audience's attention, such as a drawing, a photo ( is a great source), or a provocative question. Then let your audience focus on this simple, powerful visual while you explain how it relates to your messageusing as many words as you need to. (Chances are your audience will remember a striking photo or a single, stark, provocatively worded question much better than a bunch of text.)

If you do decide to go the text route,keep it readable by sticking to three or four bullet points per slide; try to limit each bullet point to five or six words; and size the text at 32 points or larger.

Using AutoFormat

You can tell PowerPoint to catch certain formatting errorslike typing a hyphen when you meant to type a dashand replace them with the correct punctuation or symbol automatically. You can also tell the program to automatically format text that threatens to spill over its bounding placeholder box.

Note: AutoFormat isn't retroactive. In other words, turning on AutoFormat options doesn't affect existing text; it affects only the text you add to your slides after you turn on AutoFormat. To see how to manually format existing text, flip to Section 3.2.

To turn on automatic formatting options:

  1. Choose Office button PowerPoint Options (it's at the bottom of the Office menu).

    The PowerPoint Options window appears.

  2. Select the Proofing panel, and then click the AutoCorrect Options button.

    The AutoCorrect dialog box opens (Figure).

    Figure. Out of the box, PowerPoint assumes you want all of the AutoFormat options turned on, and you probably willexcept for the automatic bulleted/numbered lists and AutoFit options, which is annoying if you like to control your own formatting.

  3. Click the AutoFormat As You Type tab.

    This tab is where you control which items PowerPoint fixes on the fly. Turn on the checkbox next to one or more of the options that are described in the list that follows.

    • "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes." Popular with perfectionists, this option tells PowerPoint to substitute slightly curved quotation marks for the usual straight ones. (Here's where the "smart" part comes in: If you type "A dog named 'Sam,'" the first single and double smart quotes curve attractively to the right, and the final single and double smart quotes curve left. Plain old straight quotes, on the other hand, don't change their appearance based on position.)

    • Fractions (1/2) with fraction character (1/2). Turns the serviceable 1/2 (or 1/4, or 3/4, and so on) into a tiny, easier-to-read 1/2 (or 1/4, or 3/4) symbol.

    • Ordinals (1st, 2nd, and so on) with superscript. Tells PowerPoint to superscript the st, nd, rd, and th portions of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and so on.

    • Hyphens (--) with dash (). Tells PowerPoint to turn two short hyphens in a row into a single long em dash.

    • Smiley faces :-) and arrows ==> with special symbols. Tells PowerPoint to turn homemade smiley emoticons and arrows into actual smiley and arrow symbols, as shown in Figure.

      Figure. The standard substitutions you see here work for most folks, but if you prefer, you can turn them off by unchecking their boxes (Figure).

    • Internet and network paths with hyperlinks. Tells PowerPoint to automatically turn any Web and email addresses you add to your slides (like,, and [email protected]) into clickable hyperlinks.

    • Automatic bulleted and numbered lists. Tells PowerPoint to format your text as a bulleted or numbered list automatically when you type in a sentence beginning with either * or 1. (You find out all about lists in Section 3.3.2.)

    • AutoFit title text to placeholder. ells PowerPoint to try to keep your title text inside its placeholder bounds. Typically, you want to select this option for two reasons: Overflowing text boxes are hard to select, and wordy titles don't do your presentation any good. When you do select this option, PowerPoint shrinks your font size and squeezes your line spacing automatically as soon as the text you type overflows your title placeholder box.

      Note: Because titles, by definition, are supposed to stand out and be readable, PowerPoint doesn't automatically reduce your font size lower than the smallest size allowed by whoever designed the theme you're using (usually somewhere around size 40)no matter how much title text you type in. But you can reduce your type as small as you want. Section 3.2.2 shows you how.
    • AutoFit body text to placeholder. Tells PowerPoint to restrict your subtitle text to its placeholder bounding box, no matter how much text you type. If you type so much text that you spill over the placeholder, PowerPoint automatically shrinks the text font and line spacing to make it fit. Don't choose this option if you tend to be wordy, because as long as you keep typing, PowerPoint keeps shrinking your text until it's too small to read. Because the auto-shrunken text fits neatly into its placeholder box, you may not notice how small it's become. Thirty-two-point text is about as small as you want on a slide.

Using AutoFit

PowerPoint's AutoFit options let you control how you want your text to fit into the title and text placeholders you add to your slides. (Do you want your text to spill over? Shrink to fit?) AutoFit options also let you control whether you want to split giant wads of text into multiple columns, or break it up and put it on multiple slides.

Whether you've turned the automatic AutoFit options for title and body text on or off, PowerPoint always recognizes when text overflows its bounding box and lets you choose how you want to handle it by popping up the AutoFit Options icon shown in Figure.

Figure. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who appreciate the AutoFit Options icon springing to life every few minutes, and those who hate it. If you're the latter, simply click outside the text box to dismiss the icon. Otherwise, take advantage of the suggestions that this icon's menu provides. After all, the icon appears only when your text is running amok.

To select an AutoFit option:

  1. Click in a title or subtitle placeholder. Begin typing and continue until the text overflows the placeholder (the bounding box).

    PowerPoint displays a tiny AutoFit Options icon at the lower left of your placeholder (see Figure).

  2. Click the AutoFit Options icon.

    A menu similar to the one in Figure appears. The actual options you see depend on the kind of text box you're working with, as well as how much text you've typed in and how you've formatted it.

  3. Choose one of the following options:

    • AutoFit Text to Placeholder. Tells PowerPoint to shrink the text until it all fits neatly inside its bounding box (for text placeholders), orif you're working with a title placeholderto reduce the font size no lower than size 30. Choosing this option helps you keep your text within PowerPoint's suggested layout bounds (which, in turn, helps make sure your text is both readable and attractively laid out).

    • Stop Fitting Text to This Placeholder. Springs the font size of your text back to its original point size. You want to choose this option in cases where you're trying to create a specific, nontraditional effect. Maybe you want to display a simple drawing using an extra-large character from a dingbat font (such as Webdings).

    • Split Text Between Two Slides. Tells PowerPoint to create a new slide and move half of the text to a similar placeholder on the new slide.

    • Continue On a New Slide. Tells PowerPoint to create a new blank slide. As you continue to type, the new text flows onto the newly created slide in an unbroken stream.

    • Change to Two Columns. Tells PowerPoint to reformat your text as a two-column layout. (For more on columns and slide layouts, zip down to Section 3.3.1.)

    • Control AutoCorrect Options. Displays the AutoCorrect dialog box you saw back in Figure, which lets you change your AutoFit settings.

Tip: If you want to change (or just look at) your AutoFit settings without waiting for PowerPoint to kick up the AutoFit Options icon, no problemjust right-click your text box. Then, from the context menu that appears, choose Format Text Effects to display the Format Text Effects dialog box. In the Format Text Effects dialog box, click the Text Box tab. Figure 3-6 shows you the result.

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