Google Apps

Quick Tip: Update your Slides to the new default 16x9 standard

Update your slides to the new default widescreen standard and enhance your next presentation.

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In October 2013, Google changed the default page setup for new Google Apps Slide presentations from "Standard 4:3" to "Widescreen 16:9". You'll notice: slides appear shorter and wider than before. (The numbers 4:3 and 16:9 indicate the screen's aspect ratio: the number of horizontal pixels for every vertical pixel. For example, the 1024 x 768 resolution has a 4:3 aspect ratio.)

With the new setting, you'll create widescreen slides for widescreen displays.

Widescreen

The setting acknowledges that widescreen displays are, umm - widely used. Apple's smallest MacBook Air, Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 devices, new Chromebooks (October 2013) all sport displays with 16:9 aspect ratios. The iPhone 5s, 5c and most high-end Android phones have 16:9 screens. The new Nexus 7 (2013) and Apple's 13" MacBook Air have screens with 16:10 aspect ratios. As you would expect, 16:10 devices appear a bit taller than their 16:9 counterparts. Regardless, widescreens are the new standard.

So what happens when you show your widescreen slides on that ancient conference room projector from 2003? Your slides will display just fine. You will, however, notice black bars above and below the viewing area. That's because the aspect ratios of the slides and screen don't match. You're showing widescreen (16:9) slides on a standard (4:3) screen.

Black bars around your content indicate that the aspect ratios of the content and the screen don't match. The bars typically appear on the left and right when you display standard content on a widescreen, and above and below the slides when you display widescreen content on a standard screen.

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Here's what happens when aspect ratios don't match

Slides look best when the aspect ratios of the slides and screen match.

Update existing

You also may want to update existing presentations to widescreen format. To do this, open your Google Slides from your Google Drive, and then go to File | Page Setup. Google provides four choices:

  • Standard 4:3,
  • Widescreen 16:9,
  • Widescreen 16:10, and
  • Custom (enter your own)

b-PageSetupOptions.png

Google provides four Slide page setup options

I suggest you test the 16:9 option first. Note that the aspect ratio of all of the slides in the presentation changes when you modify this setting.

After making the change, review your slides. Some images or diagrams may look "stretched". You will likely need to re-size and re-center text and images on some of your slides. The process typically takes a minute or two (at most) per slide.

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Slides in 16:9 format display differently than slides in 4:3 format

Almost anywhere

Once you're finished, you'll have a deck of widescreen slides that will completely fill the screen on widescreen displays.

Your content will look great anywhere.

(Except on an iPad, where you'll see your content surrounded by black bands at the top and bottom. That's not Google's fault: it's because Apple chose a 4:3 aspect ratio for the iPad display. The fix, ultimately, is for our presentation tools to support responsive design: presentation content and slides that fluidly scale to fill any dimension screen - maybe in 2014?)

About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

2 comments
jdos
jdos

It makes no difference to me what aspect ratio an originator might choose. 

But what does make a serious difference to me is the incredibly slovenly approach that most presenters -- TV stations especially included! -- have to passing on the originator's work.  No one pays any attention to your second step of correcting the images, and Google's making this tool available will only make a bad condition worse.  How about some software that LOCKS aspect ratios.

I wouldn't be surprised if a major reason for American obesity is that too many 4:3 originals are broadcast at 16:9, leading viewers to believe, "I can't be fat because I'm thinner than them."

Distortion of any kind is an insult to the human eye and intelligence.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Do you prefer the 16x9 standard over the 4x3?

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