Before exploring the concept of differences between text placeholders and text boxes, let us start with these thoughts:
- Aren't text boxes and text placeholders the same?
- Are they really different?
- And why should anyone bother even if they are different?
All these are valid questions, and the answers to them form one of the most important foundations in learning to create more structured presentations in PowerPoint.
In PowerPoint slides, text can be found in many places: text placeholders, text boxes, tables, charts, the Notes pane, and more places. However, the text within a text placeholder has characteristics that set it a class apart from all other text. So what exactly is a text placeholder, and how is it different from text within a text box or anywhere else?
Look at Figure 1, which shows you what exactly a text placeholder is within a PowerPoint slide. Some placeholders in PowerPoint allow you to add text, or also other content types. It's important to note that only text content within the placeholders is part of the presentation's outline.
Figure 1: Text Placeholders
Let's explore which text shows up as a part of the outline in various Slide Layouts, as marked in Figure 1, above:
A. In a slide that contains a title and subtitle, text content of both these placeholders is contained within the outline.
B. In a slide that contains a title and text (as in bulleted or non-bulleted content), text content of both placeholders is contained within the outline.
C. In a slide that has a title with something else such as a chart or a picture, the outline comprises just the title text.
D. In a slide that has only a title, the outline comprises just the title.
To follow this more clearly, try this small exercise using PowerPoint 365 for Mac:
- Launch PowerPoint 365 for Mac to start with a single slide as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: PowerPoint 365 for Mac interface
- Type some text into the boxes that say: Click to add title, Click to add subtitle, or even Tap to add title, or Tap to add subtitle (see Figure 3). These boxes are Text Placeholders that PowerPoint provides as boilerplates to fill in. All the text you place within these placeholders is part of the presentation's outline.
Figure 3: Text typed within the Text Placeholders
- Now, access the View tab of the Ribbon (highlighted in blue within Figure 4) and click the Outline View button, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 4.
Figure 4: Outline View button
- You'll notice that the text you type within both the placeholders showed up within the Outline View, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 5.
Figure 5: Outline view shows the text content of both the placeholders
- Access the Insert tab of the Ribbon (highlighted in blue within Figure 6), and click the Text Box button (highlighted in red within Figure 6).
Figure 6: Text Box button
- Now, drag and draw a Text Box on the slide, and type something in this Text Box. Notice that anything you type within the Text Box does not show within the Outline view (see Figure 7). Only the text typed within the placeholders can be seen in Outline view. The text within the Text Boxes doesn't shows up in the Outline view.
Figure 7: Text typed within Text Boxes does not show in the Outline view
Also, when you delete all text in a Text placeholder, you will see the original prompt text, shown in Figure 2. On the other hand, delete all text in a Text box, and you kill that object forever unless you press ⌘+Z quickly to undo!
Although this differentiation between Text Placeholders and Text Boxes may not sound very significant at first, the more structured you get in your approach in creating better PowerPoint presentations, the more important this foundation concept will appear.
So, do remember this important rule: always try to put your text content in placeholders rather than mere Text Boxes as far as you can. Remember that PowerPoint has Slide Layouts that have at least two Text Placeholders, some layouts have even more. Also, if you want, you can even create Slide Layouts with as many Text Placeholders you need.
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