Use styles for quick Word to PowerPoint exchange

If you're lucky enough to have presentation information in a Word document, you don't need to start from scratch to build your presentation. Start with Word.

Some users refuse to use styles because they're a bit confusing and users don't readily see the payoff. The truth is, even the most basic user can benefit from styles, but often, styles come in handy when you least expect them to. For instance, did you know that PowerPoint can use Word styles to create a presentation? This time-saving behavior alone is worth the time it takes to learn more about Word styles.

Preparing the Word document before opening it in PowerPoint is the key to success. PowerPoint will only use text formatted with the default heading styles. For this reason, I recommend that you work with a copy of the document, as it's unlikely that you'd actually use all of the heading styles in your document. To prepare your Word document, do the following:

  1. Create a copy.
  2. Apply Heading 1 to slide titles.
  3. Apply Heading 2 to bullet points.
  4. Apply Heading 3 to text you want included with each bullet point. Don't add bullets in Word; PowerPoint will do that for you.
  5. Save the Word document and close it.

When you open the Word document in PowerPoint (using the Open command),  PowerPoint will create slides automatically, based on the heading styles in the Word document. Most likely, you won't get it just right the first time, but don't worry. Most adjustments will be obvious to you:

  • PowerPoint created three slides based on two styles: TOC Heading (Contents) and Heading 1 (Galleries and Using Galleries). The formatted text is also the slides' titles. If you want to keep the Contents slide, you might want to adjust its style to match the other two slides. Or, you might want to remove the heading style to exclude it from the presentation. If you want to include the table of contents text, apply the appropriate heading style.
  • PowerPoint used the Heading 2 text under each Heading 1 text as bullet points for each slide. With a bit of preparation, those are correct as is.
  • PowerPoint used the Heading 3 text to create a second bulleted layer. You might want to leave as is, or reformat in Word by including a hard return to reposition each specific bullet. In addition, you'd probably want to shorten each statement.

After shortening the text and adding hard returns to the Heading 3 text, PowerPoint does a better job of automatically creating a slide from the Word document. Remember, work from a copy of the document if possible, so you can make these adjustments freely. In addition, PowerPoint won't import graphic files from a Word document; you'll have to insert those separately.


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.


I could not get this to work, I'm using office 2007 does this only work in office 2010? Do I have to save the word file as anything other than a word file?


You don't have to apply styles to do this, you can use tab stops in a Word document or even a text file and then use the Insert Slides from Outline feature in PowerPoint (this can also be used to add extra slides from a Word or text file outline to an existing presentation).


This seems to be a sure-fire way to end up with slides that are far too wordy. When presenting from such slides the audience reads from the slide instead of paying attention to the presenter. It also facilitates using the slides as a crutch instead of preparing for the presentation. Inexperienced presenters often read straight from the slide instead of elaborating on what the slide offers. I prefer to keep the slides simple but prepare a detailed handout. One recent presentation that I delivered had only 8 slides but the attendees received a 34-page handout. I like for the attention to be on me when I present, not on overly wordy slides.


I've been using this feature for years, and it's a good one---but two things are lacking. You said, '...PowerPoint will only use text formatted with the default heading styles.' That's not completely correct. It's the outline level in the syles that matters. Any style that uses an outline level of 1 makes a new slide, outline level 2 a bullet, etc. Second be sure to change the file type in the Open dialogue box in Word to 'all outline files' or PowerPoint won't see the Word doc


I mentioned that problem -- you have to work with a copy of the original and reduce the content -- no doubt about it!

Editor's Picks