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Creating PowerPoint Outlines in Microsoft Excel

Create outlines in Microsoft Excel, formatted for failsafe import into Microsoft PowerPoint.

Typically, the last thing I would want to do is create my presentation outline in a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel. In one of my training sessions, I was showing participants how they could create presentation outlines for PowerPoint in Notepad or Microsoft Word, and one of the attendees wanted to know how he could create an outline in Excel! To understand why anyone would want to create an outline in Excel, you probably need to be an Excel junkie. Rather than go and discuss what an Excel junkie means, I'll show you how an outline can indeed be created in Excel. This technique works on all versions of Excel for Windows and Mac OS X.

  1. Launch a new Excel workbook (see Figure 1).

  2. Figure 1: Excel workbook
  3. Now type in all the text content you want using these guidelines (refer to Figure 2):
  4. For slide titles, use column A.
  5. For first level bullets (or subtitles in a title slide), use column B on a different row.
  6. For the second level bullets, use column C on a different row.
  7. All text you type in the different column cells will end up being placed as text placeholders in PowerPoint. If you don't know what a text placeholder in PowerPoint is, look here.

  8. Figure 2: Text content for your slides
  9. As you can see in Figure 2, the text is placed so that PowerPoint can understand which line of text is a slide title, the first level bullet, the second level bullet, etc.
  10. Once you are done, save your workbook as text (tab delimited) file with a .txt file extension, as shown in Figure 3.

  11. Figure 3: Save workbook
  12. Thereafter you might see one or two warning windows from Excel that scare you about dire consequences, as shown in Figure 4. Click OK and No buttons in these dialog boxes.

  13. Figure 4: Warning windows
  14. Your outline for a PowerPoint presentation is now ready. To learn how to import this outline into various versions of PowerPoint look here: Outlines: Import.