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Cross Platform PowerPoint Compatibility

Author: Geetesh Bajaj

Date Created: November 26th 2008
Last Updated: June 14th 2012






Introduction
The Essentials You Should Know

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Introduction

This is an updated version of a previous article...

Do you work on PowerPoint for Windows, and often need to share presentations with someone who uses a Mac? Or do you work in a cross platform environment where both Windows and Mac machines exist? Or maybe, you have one of those new Macs that allow you to boot to both Windows and Mac OSs – and you want your PowerPoint presentations to look, play, and print the same all the time – irrespective of whether you are using a computer running Windows or a Mac.

Cross-platform hiccups happen for more than one reason – it’s not unusual for the same company to have both Windows and Mac machines, or there might be a requirement to create an important presentation that needs to be compatible with whatever platform a client has. It might be that the designer hired to create a presentation or a template might use a Mac when the presenter is using a Windows machine – or even vice versa. Regardless, the differences between the Windows and Mac versions of PowerPoint have been giving presenters a fair share of problems.

Whatever your requirement for cross platform compatibility may be, let me first share some good news with you: the file formats for PowerPoint files are the same on computers using Windows and Mac OSs. Here’s more info on the file formats:

  • The new versions of PowerPoint for Windows and Mac are PowerPoint 2007 and PowerPoint 2008 respectively – they both save presentation files to the PPTX file format. They can also save to the older PPT file format but that could mean losing out on some of the new features in PowerPoint 2007 and 2008.

  • All eight previous versions (four each for Windows and Mac) use the older PPT file format. These previous versions are:

    • Windows: PowerPoint 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003
    • Mac: PowerPoint 98, 2001, X, and 2004

  • In some cases, it is possible to download an update that lets some of the older versions of PowerPoint save and read PPTX files.

Most of the incompatibilities between Windows and Mac versions of PowerPoint emanate from the way the program is built inside the OS. While PowerPoint for Windows takes advantage of all the media abilities built inside Windows such as media play-lists, PowerPoint for the Mac similarly uses features like QuickTime built at the Mac OS level. This does mean that there are some incompatibilities that cannot be overcome. Fortunately, these incompatibilities can be easily avoided in the first place with a better understanding of prospective problem areas that I shall explore in the rest of this article.

Most of the problem areas for compatibility reasons can be sorted category-wise – go ahead and refer to a particular category if you need a quick solution, or read the information provided in all categories if you want to be aware and prepared to tackle any incompatibilities you may encounter in the future.

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The Essentials You Should Know

Start with a folder: First of all, I suggest that you stop thinking presentations and start thinking folders. Whichever platform you use, the first thing you need to do is create an empty folder for every presentation you create. Then copy all linked content into that folder, including pictures, sounds and movie files – even before the item is inserted as a link within the PowerPoint. If you need to link to Word documents, Excel sheets, PDFs, or other documents – copy them all to this folder before you create links to them from your PowerPoint slides.

Update your program: Keep your PowerPoint updated: Make sure you have the latest service packs for Microsoft Office installed. Several compatibility issues are resolved in these updates. For Windows check out http://www.microsoft.com/powerpoint/ and Mac users can look at http://www.microsoft.com/mac

Upgrade to the current versions: Always consider moving up to a more current version of PowerPoint. Versions 2007 for Windows and 2008 for Mac are the current versions at the time of writing – and have fewer compatibility issues than previous versions.

Make friends with the Compatibility Checker: PowerPoint 2008 for the Mac includes the Compatibility Report option (View | Compatibility Report) – this checks the open presentation for compatibility issues with profiles of all versions of PowerPoint on Windows and Mac – right back to PowerPoint 97 and 98 – it then tells you exactly what features may be compromised, and what will not work.

PowerPoint 2007 has a similar Compatibility Checker that can be accessed from Office Button | Prepare | Run Compatibility Checker – but this option only looks at compatibility issues with older versions of PowerPoint on Windows – there’s no reporting on problems with Mac versions of PowerPoint.

No Editing, Full Viewing: While many PowerPoint creators try to keep cross-platform presentations simple to avoid compatibility issues, keep in mind this isn't as restrictive as it sounds. Newer versions of PowerPoint on both platforms may not allow the editing of certain features, but will allow these features to be viewed in slideshow mode. A good example of this is the Motion Path animations in PowerPoint for Windows – while PowerPoint 2004 and 2008 on the Mac will not allow you to add or edit motion path animations, they will still play them.

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    since November 02, 2000