How to use PowerPoint 2016's Zoom feature to add flexibility to your presentations

You don't have to click through your presentation in a linear fashion. PowerPoint 2016's new Zoom feature lets you and your audience choose what comes next.


Image: iStock/maxsattana

Presentations are more audience driven than ever, and the traditional first-to-last linear sequence is often inadequate. You need the flexibility to display slides in any order you please. Thanks to PowerPoint 2016's new Zoom feature, you can do so by customizing your presentation to achieve a more flexible flow. Move from one slide to any other, wherever the conversation takes you. In this article, I'll show you how Zoom allows you and your audience, not the order of the slides, to decide where to zoom to next.

I'm using PowerPoint 2016. Office 365 started updating users with this feature last year, and everyone should have it by now. There's no downloadable demonstration file. Instead, we'll use a presentation template you can quickly access.

The demo file

You can use any presentation file that contains several slides. This feature relies heavily on sections, but you don't need them to use it. If you want to use the demo file I'm working with, click the File tab and then click New. Next, click the Presentations link and enter the search string Multimedia in the New Search control to find the Contoso Corporation template (Figure A). If that doesn't work, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and then click New.
  2. Click Presentations in the Suggested Searches options (under the Search control).
  3. In the Category list to the right, double-click Nature.
  4. Browse down and double-click Multimedia choreograph presentation and then click Create.

Figure A

Choose a presentation template.

I purposely chose a presentation with no sections and several slides, so you can experience Zoom with and without sections.

SEE: Microsoft delivers "AI-powered" Presentation Translator add-in for PowerPoint (ZDNet)

The Zoom options

There are three zooming options:

  • Summary Zoom populates a new slide with thumbnails that link to the slides and sections you choose. By default, this option will add a thumbnail for the first slide in each section if your presentation has sections.
  • Section Zoom adds links to sections on the current slide. Click the thumbnail to jump to that section. PowerPoint disables this option if the presentation has no sections.
  • Slide Zoom creates a link to any slide on the current slide.

Slide Zoom

Slide Zoom adds a link on the current slide to any slide in the presentation. To demonstrate, we'll start in Normal view and add a link to slides 3, 8, and 12 as follows:

  1. Select slide 1 and then click the Insert tab. (You can select any slide.)
  2. In the Links group, choose Slide Zoom from the Zoom dropdown. Notice that Section Zoom is disabled because there are no sections in this presentation. If you're using a presentation with sections, this option won't be disabled.
  3. By default, PowerPoint selects no slides. Check slides 3, 8, and 12 (Figure B) and click Insert.

Figure B

Select the slides you want to link to.

PowerPoint adds three linked thumbnails to the current slide. Initially, the thumbnails are stacked as a group. Click anywhere else on the slide to quickly upgroup them and then drag to position them individually. You can also resize them.

To see how they work, press F5. Figure C shows the linked thumbnails arranged at the bottom left, where I moved them. Click any of the linked thumbnails to move directly to that slide. Clicking will continue to the end of the presentation. You'll use this feature when you want quick access to related details or a quick exit.

Figure C

Click a slide thumbnail.

Summary Zoom

The Summary Zoom option generates a new slide with thumbnails. From the Zoom dropdown, choose Summary Zoom. As before, check the slides that you want quick access to. For this example, select slides 1, 3, 6, 8, and 12 as shown in Figure D and then click Insert. Figure E shows the resulting slide.

Figure D

Check the slides.

Figure E

Summary Zoom creates a navigation slide.

PowerPoint adjusts slide numbers automatically, depending on where you put the summary slide. I moved mine to the beginning so all slide numbers are increased by 1.

SEE: How to avoid and overcome presentation glitches (TechRepublic ebook)

Press F5 to run the presentation. As you can see in Figure F, PowerPoint displays the summary slide because it's the first slide in the presentation. Click any thumbnail to go directly to that slide. For instance, clicking The Core Values thumbnail takes you to slide 4 (which was slide 3 before adding the summary slide). Click through slides 5 and 6 (formerly slides 4 and 5) and PowerPoint will return to the summary slide.

Figure F

The summary slide provides quick access to other slides and sections.

You might be wondering why PowerPoint returns you to the summary slide after viewing slide 6. When you added the summary slide, PowerPoint created sections for you, as shown in Figure G. PowerPoint uses the slide titles as the section names (but you can change the names). By default, PowerPoint returns you to the summary slide when you reach the last slide in a section.

Figure G

You can see the sections in Slide Sorter.

Section Zoom

When we began, PowerPoint disabled the Section Zoom option because the presentation had no sections. PowerPoint created sections when you used the Summary Zoom option. Consequently, the Section Zoom option is now available. You'll use it the same way you use Slide Zoom. Begin by selecting the slide where you want to add the linked thumbnails. Then, click the Insert tab and choose Section Zoom from the Zoom dropdown. Instead of displaying all slides, this option displays the first slide in each section, as shown in Figure H. Check the sections you want quick access to and then click Insert to add a linked thumbnail.

Figure H

Section Zoom displays the first slide in each section.


A traditional presentation starts with the first slide and ends with the last slide. In contrast, Zoom lets you take control of where you go next. You can add section and slide links to any slide or you can create a summary slide with several links. Zoom won't improve your presentation, but it will enhance your delivery. Next month, I'll show you several ways to customize Zoom.

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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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