Two ways to consolidate PowerPoint slides and save time

You can reuse slides and combine presentations to save a bit of time and trouble. Susan Harkins explains.


Trying to create a presentation quickly is unpleasant, because they take time! If you're lucky, you can piece together parts of other presentations, add a few new slides, and save the day. In this article, I'll show you two ways to use what already exists to create new presentations. Even when you're not pressed for time, you'll want to use these time-saving features:

  • Reuse Slides
  • Custom Slide Show

PowerPoint's Reuse Slides feature lets you quickly add slides from one presentation into another. In addition, you can use the Custom Slide Show to define multiple shows within the same presentation file.

There's no demonstration file for this article; I'll be working with two templates, Open House and Classroom Expectations. You can work with these two templates or existing presentations of your own. In addition, I'm working with PowerPoint 2013, but PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 support both features.

Reuse Slides

Repurposing content is an efficient way to work by reusing what you already have. Why recreate what you already have? You could cut and paste slides from one presentation into another, but that's a bit awkward at best. Fortunately, there's an easier way—Reuse Slides. I'll illustrate this feature's value by adding a slide from the PowerPoint template Classroom Expectations.pptx into the Open House.pptx template as follows:

  1. Open Open House.pptx (or any presentation) in Normal view.
  2. In the slide pane to the left, click in the space between the slides where you want to insert a new slide or slides. In this case, click between slides 6 and 7. PowerPoint will display a line guide (Figure A) between the two slides.
    Figure A
    Figure A
  3. On the Home tab, click the New Slide drop-down (in the Slides group) and choose Reuse Slides from the bottom of the list (Figure B). Doing so will open the Reuse Slides pane (to the right).
    Figure B
    Figure B
  4. Click the Open A PowerPoint File link.
  5. Use the resulting Browse dialog to locate the presentation file that contains the slides you want to insert. Select it and click Open. PowerPoint will display all the slides from that presentation in the Reuse Slides pane (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C
  6. At this point, you must decide if you want to retain the source formatting or have the slide adopt the target presentation's formatting. If you decide to retain a slide's formatting, click the Keep source formatting option at the bottom of the pane. Double-click a slide to insert it (Figure D). To insert all of a presentation's slide into another, right-click any slide and choose Insert All Slides.
    Figure D
    Figure D

I kept the original formatting so you could more easily see the inserted slide. If you enable the Keep source formatting option and change your mind, do the following:

  1. Click the Design tab.
  2. Click the appropriate theme in the gallery.

That's it! Next, I'll show you how to turn one presentation file into many presentations.

Custom Slide Show

You can create several presentations, but if you're reusing many of the same slides, you might consider consolidating all of your slides into one presentation. Then, you can use the Custom Slide Show feature to run different shows. Working with one file is certainly easier than working with several.

Once you have all the slides you need in one presentation file, you're ready to start building your custom shows. Fortunately, the process is simple, as you'll see:

  1. I added the remaining slides from the Class Expectations template to the Open House template using Reuse Slides, but you can work with any presentation. With the Open House.pptx (or any) presentation open, click the Slide Show tab.
  2. In the Start Slide Show group, click Custom Slide Show and choose Custom Shows.
  3. In the resulting dialog, click New.
  4. In the Slide show name control, enter a meaningful name, such as Open House Custom Show.
  5. Start checking the slides that you want to add to this custom show and click Add (Figure E).
    Figure E
    Figure E
  6. Click OK.

This custom slide show contains all of the original Open House.pptx slides plus the Student Behaviors slide from the Class Expectations.pptx presentation file. Repeat this same process to create a second slide show for students, as shown in Figure F. Notice that this show contains only the slides that were in the original Class Expectations.pptx presentation file. After adding the appropriate slides, I used the Up button (to the right) to reposition the first and second slides. To run a custom show, choose the show from the Custom Slide Show drop-down.

Figure F

Figure F

Create a second custom slide show.

Working smarter

The examples are simple on purpose, but you can see how convenient both of these features are. With just a few clicks, you can add existing slides into another presentation. The alternatives would be to recreate slides or to open multiple presentations and cut and paste. In addition, maintaining a single presentation for different groups is certainly easier than maintaining multiple files. Be careful when creating custom shows that contain confidential or proprietary information—you don't want to accidentally display information to the wrong audience!

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About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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