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PowerPoint and Sound

Learn about the use of sound within PowerPoint.


Product/Version: PowerPoint

Learn PowerPoint

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See Also:

PowerPoint and Narration
PowerPoint: Sound Across Slides
Sound Fades in Sony Sound Forge

PowerPoint and Narration
Playing Sounds Optimally
Playing Sound Across Slides
Sound Editors
Sound Formats


The terms, PowerPoint and sound are about fabulous introductions, gentle background scores, or finishing masterpieces. Sound is sensual—it is the most important, yet most neglected aspect of multimedia. And of PowerPoint.

PowerPoint was perhaps never intended to become a multimedia tool, nor were presentations ever imagined to reach the sophistication levels they have attained presently. Microsoft, over successful versions, has tried to keep PowerPoint more contemporary by adding newer sound abilities with every release. However, this has meant indulging in compromises, because most sound options are almost inaccessible to the everyday PowerPoint user, buried as they are under realms of dialog boxes and options.

This article attempts to unravel the sound mysteries of PowerPoint. It also adds to those findings with tricks and ideas uncovered and learned from many sources.

First of all, there are fundamental differences between how both PowerPoint 97 and 2000 treat sound. We should not forget the PowerPoint 97 Viewer, which has even lesser abilities. The new PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 versions bring even more subtle changes. We'll explain the differences as we encounter them.


PowerPoint and Narration

Since there are so many facets to this aspect, this topic has been covered on a separate page called PowerPoint and Narration.


Playing Sound Optimally in PowerPoint

Since sound does put an extra load on PowerPoint and also the operating system's resources, it can be helpful if you make a note of these points:

  • Try to close down all avoidable applications in the background.
  • A high-end system will perform better during a presentation showing. You could also try increasing your RAM or get a better sound card.
  • Try to optimize sound before inserting it in PowerPoint.
  • Run both the ScanDisk and Disk Defragmenter programs regularly, and definitely, a day before an important showing.
  • Try to view a presentation a few times before the showing. Also, run it continuously for a while, so that it is stored in your system cache.


Playing Sounds Across Slides

Ideally, copy the sound file from its original location to the same folder as your actual presentation. There are two ways to make a sound file run automatically while a presentation plays:

  1. Go to the first slide and insert your sound using the Insert | Movies & Sounds | Sound From File... option. Select your sound file and click OK.
  2. If PowerPoint asks you if you want the sound to play automatically, click the Yes button.
  3. Thereafter, you can right-click the sound icon, and choose Custom Animation from the resultant menu. You'll find many options here to choose from.

The easier way is to:

  1. Right-click the first slide in Slide Sorter view, and then choose Transition from the resultant menu.
  2. In the Transitions dialog box or task pane, locate the Transition Sounds option, and choose your WAV file. This trick works only with WAV files, and you cannot use MIDI or MP3 files here.
  3. Be sure to select the Loop option. Whenever you need to stop this sound, right-click the respective slide, choose Transition and under Transition Sounds, choose the Stop Playing Sound option.


Sound Editors

PowerPoint sound editing abilities are non-existent, and you cannot even perform basic fades. So, you are left with no other option than to look at other alternatives. This may be a good thing since other specialized alternatives allow many ways to edit your sound, and also convert the codec or format of your sound.

To convert a codec, you will need to have a particular codec installed in your system. For more information, view the Sound Codecs page.

There are many commercial sound programs loaded with features. These include the likes of Sony Sound Forge, Adobe Audition, and GoldWave.

Alternative sound editing software includes whatever came free with your sound card. Creative ships its excellent Wave Studio program. Higher end Creative models include Cakewalk and Sound Forge as well.

Windows ships with Sound Recorder. Though it's a very basic recording and editing module, it's good enough to change volumes, compression levels, and codecs.

Newer versions of Windows ship with Windows Media Player, also available as a free download. This allows you to convert your CD tracks to ASF files.


Sound Formats

PowerPoint can import and use many sound formats. However, it can use only .WAV files for transition sounds.


This format consumes the least resources—in fact even lesser than a small picture. These sound anything from fabulous to mediocre depending on your sound card. If you are using a basic sound card, it does sound fine, although to hear as it was intended, you'll need a top-of-the-line sound card like Creative SoundBlaster Live or similar.

MIDI (or it's RMI incarnation) works across both PowerPoint versions and the viewer and is best suited to background scores. PowerPoint 97 shipped with the Music Tracks add-in which created background midi scores on the fly. In fact, the Music Tracks engine was also available as a separate program called Microsoft Music Producer, which shipped with Microsoft Visual Interdev 1. Sadly, Microsoft has discontinued this product.

If you are not sure about the fidelity of the sound card in a delivery machine, you could always convert your MIDI file into a WAV file. To learn more about implications and ways, visit the MIDI to WAV Realizers page.


The most ubiquitous of sounds is also the easiest to use in PowerPoint, and you can use it anywhere—in transitions, in events and in animations too. But don't drag-and-drop your WAV files into a particular slide, because you'll end up with a hyperlinked sound!

WAV has its disadvantages such as a huge file size and so many codecs. If you want to learn more about codecs, visit the Sound Codecs page.


There's no doubt that MP3 is a mainstream format. Its advantages are many—it's small in size, it sounds nearly as good as a WAV file, and is easily transportable along with your presentation.

If you want to convert your MIDI or CD audio tracks to MP3, you will have to convert them to WAV first. See our Sound Conversion page for details.

CD Audio

Although PowerPoint can run CD tracks along with a presentation, you'll have to ensure that the same Audio CD is in the drive when you playback the presentation. If by mistake, you pop in another Audio CD, then PowerPoint will start playing that other CD - PowerPoint only remembers the music on an Audio CD as a track, so Track 2 in one CD is as good as Track 2 on another CD! Also, if you have multiple CD drives, remember which CD drive you need to place your Audio CD in.

You may want to rip the tracks off the CD to encode them in WAV, ASF, or MP3 formats. Learn more information on our Sound Conversion page.

WMA (Windows Media Audio)

At an audio level, WMA is Microsoft's alternative to MP3, and it sounds great too. Earlier Microsoft was promoting ASF, which was an almost identical format.

To convert your CD tracks to WMA, you can use Windows Media Player. For any other conversion, you can use Windows On Demand Producer or Windows Media Encoder. Earlier versions of Windows Media Player (such as 6.4) used the ASF format.


AIFF is an Apple Macintosh standard that is sometimes used in Windows too. PowerPoint can use this format if you have a newer release of Windows Media Player installed.


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