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Slide Size Differences in PowerPoint

Find out how an additional decimal digit makes a big difference in setting custom file sizes in different versions of PowerPoint. This sort of information will help you avoid a tricky situation.

Have you ever wanted to use PowerPoint as a graphic program to create posters, digital scrapbooks, web-banner ads, YouTube cover art, etc.? You will then have run into some limitations, especially when you try to export a PowerPoint slide to a picture with exact size dimensions. In this tutorial, we will explore how a small improvement that Microsoft added in PowerPoint 2013 and newer versions is providing significant returns.

In older versions of PowerPoint, you could only use two decimal points after a number unit, such as 13.67 inches. However, in recent versions, you can use three decimal points, as in 13.666 inches. You may wonder why so much fuss about an extra decimal point? Why is this so important?

There is a big reason for this fuss. It is important that the graphic file that you export from the PowerPoint slide needs to be an exact, accurate size. This “exact size” part worked a little flaky for PowerPoint 2010 users.

Let’s use YouTube’s cover art as an analogy to explain this better. YouTube cover art is what you see before you play the video. This sort of cover art is also called custom thumbnail, poster frame, and some other names. The moot point here is that YouTube specifies that the dimensions need to be 1280x720. How will you create a graphic of those exact dimensions in PowerPoint?



Unfortunately, you need to be a math geek to get this right. But we are here to help you, and this is easier than many believe it to be.

So how does 1280x720 pixels translate in terms of inches or centimeters that PowerPoint uses to define slide aspect ratios?

  • To change the pixel value to inches, you need to divide the actual pixel value by 96.
  • To change the pixel value to centimeters, you need to divide the actual pixel value by 37.79.

Why do you need inches and/or centimeters? It depends upon the Regional Settings in your version of Windows. Depending upon what is set, you will see only inches or centimeters in your PowerPoint dialog boxes.

Anyway, we have made it simple for you to determine the actual size you want your slide to be, via this online calculator. Enter the pixel width and height of the graphic you want to create in PowerPoint (cells are colored yellow), and you can find out the results in inches (cells colored orange) and/or centimeters (cells colored blue). Make a note of these dimensions.

If we entered 1280 and 720 for the Width and Height values, our inch dimensions would be 13.333 and 7.500.

Now let us explore how this works in both PowerPoint 2010 and 2013 for Windows. Let us begin with PowerPoint 2010 for Windows.

  1. Create a new blank presentation, and then access the Design tab of the Ribbon. Click the Page Setup button to bring up a dialog box of the same name, as shown in Figure 1, below.

  2. Figure 1: Page Setup in PowerPoint 2010
  3. You will notice that we changed the value to Custom in the Slides sized for box, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 1, above. Also do note that PowerPoint 2010 does allow adding a value like 13.333 with three decimal places (highlighted in blue). For now, we will click the OK button.
  4. Next, access the Page Setup dialog box again, as shown in Figure 2, below. Notice that the number 13.333 is now changed to 13.33 (area highlighted in blue). You might think that this will not make a difference, but it does because if you export any slide from this presentation as a picture, you will end up with 1279x720 pixels rather than 1280x720 pixels!

  5. Figure 2: Three decimal digits changed to two

Let us now replicate the above steps in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows and higher:

  1. Create a new blank presentation, and then access the Design tab of the Ribbon. Click the Slide Size button to bring up a drop-down menu. Within this menu, choose the Custom Slide Size option, as shown in Figure 3, below.

  2. Figure 3: Use the Custom Slide Size option
  3. This will bring up the Slide Size dialog box, shown in Figure 4, below.

  4. Figure 4: Slide Size in PowerPoint 2013
  5. You will notice that we changed the value to Custom in the Slides sized for box, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 4, above. Also do note that PowerPoint 2013 does allow adding a value like 13.333 with three decimal places (highlighted in blue). For now, we will click the OK button.
  6. Now even if you access the same Slide Size dialog box again, your three decimal digits will be preserved. This in itself is a big difference between PowerPoint 2013 or newer versions such as 365, 2019, and 2016 and older versions such as PowerPoint 2010. Also, if you now export your slides to a graphic file format in newer versions of PowerPoint, the resultant slide will be an exact 1280x720 pixels!

Slides: Slide Size Differences in PowerPoint (Glossary Page)