Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

In the past several months, Google refined a few key features of Google Slides. On the web, these changes minimize presentation controls and provide three video playback options. Mobile app tweaks include a new presentation overview on Android and a modified comments interface on both Android and iOS. Learn the key details about each of these changes below.

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1. Streamlined presenter tool

Currently, Google Slides on the web provides a streamlined presenter tool. The presenter bar now features four options: next slide (right-facing arrow), previous slide (left-facing arrow), current slide number–with the option to enter directly the number of any other slide in the presentation, and the three-vertical dot menu. This last option gives you access to speaker notes, a laser pointer, full screen controls, autoplay options, captions preferences as well as download options, among other controls (Figure A).

Figure A

A streamlined presentation tool minimizes distractions for Google Slides presenters and participants.

2. Improved video controls

Google Slides on the web also includes three distinct choices for video playback. By default, videos will only play when you advance the slide (Figure B).

Figure B

Videos inserted into Google Slides now, by default, play on click, but additional options are available.

That means that when you’re in presentation mode, the slide with your video will display, which gives you the chance to speak, then when you press the right-facing arrow to advance the slide, playback begins. You also have two other video playback options: Play Automatically, which eliminates the need to advance and starts playback as soon as the slide displays, or Play Manually, which requires you to click on the playback button in the video for it to play. The manual option makes it possible for the presenter to skip over a video, which is useful for videos you’re not sure you will want to show every time.

To modify playback settings for videos within Google Slides on the web, click on a video to select it, then choose File | Format Options and adjust settings under Video Playback (found on the right-side of the screen).

For videos inserted into Slides from Google Drive, you may now locate the source video file. While editing a slide on the web, click on a video to select it. If it has been inserted from Google Drive, a small icon with an arrow will display in the upper-right corner of the video (Figure C).

Figure C

When editing Google Slides on the web, video files inserted from Google Drive display a link to the source file.

Click on that glyph to open the video in Google Drive, which also displays the full name of the source file, in the upper-left portion of the screen. Videos inserted from YouTube won’t have this option available, and instead will display a link to the source YouTube file when playing.

3. Mobile enhancements

The Google Slides Android app displays slides in a vertical sequence you may scroll through. Open the app, then tap a presentation and the first couple of slides display (Figure D). Tap-and-drag vertically on the screen to move through the presentation: swipe up to advance, or swipe down for previous slides. Pinch-out to zoom in on details, pinch-in to return to the overview. Tap-and-hold on a slide for options such as Add Comment, View Comments or Edit Slide. Or, double-tap on a slide to immediately enter edit mode.

Figure D

The Google Slides Android app displays slides that you may tap-and-drag to scroll through.

Comment on slides in both the Android and iOS Google Slides apps now display more distinctly (Figure E). Comments are now larger, and the reply screen also features a prominent @ symbol, which, when tapped, displays a few recent collaborators that you may tap. Alternatively, you may continue and type a name or email address of the person you wish to mention in your comment.

Figure E

On both Android and iOS, comments on Slides are now larger, and include a prominent @ button that brings up a menu of recent collaborators for fast access when you want to mention a colleague in a comment.

Finally, Google Slides on Android and iOS supports dark mode, as shown in the Google Slides iOS app in (Figure E). Only the interface and background are affected when you select this option. Your slides display with whatever themes and colors you’ve selected, so as to ensure an accurate display on every system. As of now, though, dark mode is only available in the mobile apps, not in Google Slides on the web.

What’s your experience?

What do you think of the streamlined presenter toolbar? If you insert videos in Google Slides, do you tend to use the default playback option, or do you more often select a different setting? And, if you use the Google Slides Android app, what do you think of the scrolling overview interface? Let me know what you think of any of the above Google Slides refinements, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).