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Widescreen Implementations in PowerPoint

Explore the gamut of Widescreen slide aspect ratio implementations in PowerPoint.


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PowerPoint’s implementation of the Widescreen aspect ratio has changed somewhat over the last few versions. Although this is a “wee bit” change, it is still a very significant change that will influence your understanding of what is happening behind the scenes.

Before we proceed, let’s understand a few principles:

  • Widescreen aspect slides typically use the 16:9 proportions whereas conventional Standard aspect slides use the 4:3 width:height ratio.
  • This Widescreen implementation changed in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows for the better. This is also similarly implemented in subsequent version including both PowerPoint 2016 for Windows and Mac.

Let us start with how things worked in PowerPoint 2010 and previous versions.

  1. In our scenario, we will begin with a default presentation that uses the 4:3 Standard aspect ratio that you can see in Figure 1, below.

    A typical slide in PowerPoint 2010
    Figure 1: A typical slide in PowerPoint 2010
  2. Now let us check the slide dimensions. To do that, we access the Design tab of the Ribbon, and click the Page Setup button. This brings up the Page Setup dialog that you can see in Figure 2, below. Notice that you can see that the Width of our slides in 10 inches and the Height is 7.5 inches. It is OK if you see centimeters here rather than inches – the units you see depend on your Regional Settings.

    Page Setup dialog box
    Figure 2: Page Setup dialog box.

  3. To learn more about the options in this dialog box, see our Change Presentation Aspect Ratio from Standard to Widescreen in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows tutorial.
  4. Click on the Slides sized for box, and you will see a drop-down list as shown in Figure 3. We chose the On-screen show (16:9) option.

    Change to 16:9 aspect ratio
    Figure 3: Change to 16:9 aspect ratio
  5. You would expect that the Height of your slide will remain the same, and the Width would increase to give you a larger slide size? Unfortunately, that is not true, as you can see in Figure 4, below. Notice that your Width now is still 10 inches but the Height has reduced to 5.63 inches (see area highlighted in red in Figure 4). This means that a Widescreen slide ends up with a smaller overall area than a Standard slide!

    Your slides get smaller
    Figure 4: Your slides get smaller

Figure 5 below explains what exactly is happening! The entire area represents the original Standard slide and the overlapping violet box represents the widescreen slide.

The Widescreen slide is smaller than the  Standard slide
Figure 5: The Widescreen slide is smaller than the Standard slide

To make this change, PowerPoint squishes graphic objects and reduces text sizes. The end result is scary, and fortunately this implementation was improved in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows. How? Let’s learn now.

  1. Open any existing presentation that has a Standard 4:3 ratio slide size in PowerPoint 2013 as you can see in Figure 6, below.

    A typical slide in PowerPoint 2013
    Figure 6: A typical slide in PowerPoint 2013
  2. Access the Design tab of the Ribbon, and click the Slide Size button. This brings up the drop-down gallery that you can see in Figure 7, below. You can straightaway click the Widescreen (16:9) option available in this gallery. However, we want to take a closer look, and we will click the Custom Slide Size option instead.

    Slide Size
    Figure 7: Slide Size
  3. This will bring up the Slide Size dialog box that you see in Figure 8, below. Do note that this dialog box is identical to the Page Setup dialog in PowerPoint 2010 (see Figure 2, shown previously on this page).

    Slide Size dialog box
    Figure 8: Slide Size dialog box
  4. Click on the Slides sized for box, and you will see a drop-down list as shown in Figure 9. We did not choose the On-screen show (16:9) option (highlighted in blue within Figure 9) since that will result in reducing the slide height from 7.5 inches to 5.63 inches (see Figure 5, shown previously on this page).

    Rather, we chose the new Widescreen option, highlighted in red within Figure 9.

    The new Widescreen option
    Figure 9: The new Widescreen option
  5. The result can be seen in Figure 10, below – notice that the Height value is retained at 7.5 inches. However, the Width value, highlighted in red has changed from 10 inches to 13.333 inches (compare with Figure 8, shown previously on this page).

    Widescreen option retains the height and changes only the width
    Figure 10: Widescreen option retains the height and changes only the width

    What does this mean? This means that your text no longer needs to be made smaller! Moreover, you end up with a larger screen area as well.

Figure 11 below explains this perfectly. You already have seen part of this image in Figure 5, previously on this page. Note the extra green area on the slide. This is the additional slide area you benefit from when using the new Widescreen option in PowerPoint 2013. Do note that the older On-screen show (16:9) option is also still available in PowerPoint 2013!

New Widescreen option provides more slide area
Figure 11: New Widescreen option provides more slide area

Note: Not only is the implementation better in PowerPoint 2013 and newer versions, but these versions now let you specify three decimal places in the Slide Size dialog box! This is further explained in our Slide Dimensions in PowerPoint - Size Differences tutorial.

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003 for Windows
PowerPoint 2016 and 2011 for Mac

Have your ever used keyboard shortcuts and sequences in PowerPoint? Or are you a complete keyboard aficionado? Do you want to learn about some new shortcuts? Or do you want to know if your favorite keyboard shortcuts are documented?

Go and get a copy of our PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences ebook.



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