In October 2013, Google
changed the default page setup for new Google Apps Slide presentations
“Standard 4:3” to “Widescreen 16:9”. You’ll notice: slides
appear shorter and wider than before. (The numbers 4:3 and 16:9 indicate the
screen’s aspect ratio: the number of horizontal pixels for every vertical
pixel. For example, the 1024 x 768 resolution has a 4:3 aspect ratio.)

With the new setting, you’ll create widescreen slides for
widescreen displays.


The setting acknowledges that widescreen displays are, umm –
widely used. Apple’s smallest MacBook Air, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 devices,
new Chromebooks (October 2013) all sport displays with 16:9 aspect ratios. The
iPhone 5s, 5c and most high-end Android phones have 16:9 screens. The new Nexus
7 (2013) and Apple’s 13″ MacBook Air have screens with 16:10 aspect
ratios. As you would expect, 16:10 devices appear a bit taller than their 16:9
counterparts. Regardless, widescreens are the new standard.

So what happens when you show your widescreen slides on that
ancient conference room projector from 2003? Your slides will display just
fine. You will, however, notice black bars above and below the viewing area.
That’s because the aspect ratios of the slides and screen don’t match. You’re
showing widescreen (16:9) slides on a standard (4:3) screen.

Black bars around your content indicate that the aspect
ratios of the content and the screen don’t match. The bars typically appear on
the left and right when you display standard content on a widescreen, and above
and below the slides when you display widescreen content on a standard screen.

Here’s what happens when aspect ratios don’t match

Slides look best when the aspect ratios of the slides and
screen match.

Update existing

You also may want to update existing presentations to
widescreen format. To do this, open your Google Slides from your Google Drive,
and then go to File | Page Setup. Google provides four choices:

  • Standard 4:3,
  • Widescreen 16:9,
  • Widescreen 16:10, and
  • Custom (enter your own)
Google provides four Slide page setup options

I suggest you test the 16:9 option first. Note that the
aspect ratio of all of the slides in the presentation changes when you modify
this setting.

After making the change, review your slides. Some images or
diagrams may look “stretched”. You will likely need to re-size and
re-center text and images on some of your slides. The process typically takes a
minute or two (at most) per slide.

Slides in 16:9 format display differently than slides in 4:3

Almost anywhere

Once you’re finished, you’ll have a deck of widescreen
slides that will completely fill the screen on widescreen displays.

Your content will look great anywhere.

(Except on an iPad, where you’ll see your content surrounded
by black bands at the top and bottom. That’s not Google’s fault: it’s because
Apple chose a 4:3 aspect ratio for the iPad display. The fix, ultimately, is for
our presentation tools to support responsive design: presentation content and
slides that fluidly scale to fill any dimension screen – maybe in 2014?)