Slides highlight or emphasize information that the presenter elaborates on during the actual presentation. After all, you can’t put everything on slides. When you want to provide additional information, but you don’t want to include it in the actual slide show, use notes. In Normal view, you can enter notes in the small section just below the slide where it says Click to add notes.

To view all notes, choose Notes Page from the View menu (or choose Notes Page in the Presentation Views group on the View menu in PowerPoint 2007). Use the scroll bar to view individual slides and notes. You can enter and copy text in this view as well.

Although you can use these notes as handouts for the audience, many presenters use them to script their presentation. During the presentation, the presenter can see the notes, but the audience can’t. During the development stage, you can use Notes as reminders of things to add, change, or research further.

To print notes, choose Print from the File menu, select Notes Pages from the Print What control, and click OK. Doing so prints slides and notes — one page for each slide. In PowerPoint 2007, click the Office button to find the Print command.

I’ve yet to find a good way to print just notes without using another application, such as Word. PowerPoint will print just the notes, but the feature is troublesome:

  1. Choose Notes Page from the View menu.
  2. Select a slide and choose Notes Layout from the Format menu.
  3. In the resulting Notes Layout dialog box, deselect everything but Body and click OK.

PowerPoint will print a page for each slide and that page will contain only the note text. It’s awkward at best because PowerPoint also prints a page for slides with no notes — in other words, you get a blank sheet of paper with a page number in the bottom right corner. In addition, you must apply the format to every slide. Removing the slide placeholder from the Notes Page Master doesn’t do the trick. However, you can delete the page number by displaying the Page Master and deleting the default footer placeholder. At least that way, you can reuse the paper.

If you don’t want a single page per slide, you can send notes to Word, but you’ll have to tweak the content once it’s there. From the File menu, choose Send To, select Microsoft Office Word, then choose one of the many options, and click OK. In PowerPoint 2007, click the Office button, choose Publish, and select Create Handouts In Microsoft Office Word.

In Word, you’ll have to delete the slide content (text and graphics) or links and then format the notes to suit your needs. Publishing the notes below the slides seems to reduce the amount of tweaking in Word.

Printing just the notes in a reasonable format seems like such a useful feature that, for the life of me, I don’t understand why PowerPoint can’t do it.

It’s worth mentioning that notes aren’t the same as comments. A comment appears in a yellow box inside a slide. Most often, other people reviewing your presentation communicate their ideas, additions, mistakes, and so on, via comments, and you eventually delete them. In contrast, notes remain with the presentation as reference.