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.
- 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.
Figure 1: A typical slide in PowerPoint 2010
- 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
Figure 2: Page Setup dialog box.
- 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.
Figure 3: Change to 16:9 aspect ratio
- 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
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.
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.
- Open any existing presentation that has a Standard 4:3 ratio slide size in PowerPoint 2013 as you can see in Figure 6, below.
Figure 6: A typical slide in PowerPoint 2013
- 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.
Figure 7: Slide Size
- 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).
Figure 8: Slide Size dialog box
- 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.
Figure 9: The new Widescreen option
- 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).
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!
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.