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.

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