Add slide numbers to your slides

Slide numbers are like page numbers. They show the number of the current slide. Slide numbers are easy to add, but they can be frustrating, as well. Sometimes they just don’t appear! In this tip, I’ll show you how to insert page numbers and also give you some troubleshooting techniques.

Slide numbers can be helpful for several reasons:

  • They’re great during the authoring process, especially if you’re collaborating with others. (“On Slide 4, I think we should mention costs.”)
  • They help you when you deliver, if you need to navigate back and forth in your presentation. To do so, just enter the slide number and press Enter. Create a slide list for this purpose. When you get to the slide, the slide number confirms that you got to the right place.
  • Slide numbers are also helpful when you’re working from a script that tells you when to go to the next slide, (“Display Slide 4) again confirming that you’re on the right slide.

To insert slide numbers, choose Insert> Slide Number. In the Header and Footer dialog box, check the Slide Number check box, and click Apply to All.

This should put slide numbers on every slide, but in a sample presentation that I used, the slide number appeared on only one slide!

This isn’t an example of good presentation design, mind you, but it’s great for illustrating the point.

I found 3 reasons that page numbers might not appear.

1. The slide master doesn’t have a slide number box

In this situation, no slide number will appear.

To add a slide number box, go into the slide master, and click the master slide (the top thumbnail in the left -hand panel). Then  click the Master Layout button.

Check the Slide Number check box and click OK. Now, slides using that slide master will display slide numbers.

2. An image or other object covers the slide number

Here are some possible solutions for this situation:

  1. My solution for this  photo was to make the background transparent. To do this, select the image. On the Picture toolbar, choose Set Transparent Color and click the background. (In 2007, choose Format tab> Adjust group> Recolor> Set Transparent Color.)
  2. You could make the image smaller so that it doesn’t cover the lower-right corner of the slide. But this wouldn’t look as good.
  3. Another option would be to put the image on the left and the text on the right. (The slide number is usually on the right.)
  4. Finally, you could move the image to the back. Right-click it and choose (Order)/Send to Back.

Note: The image could be on the slide master! In that situation, open the Slide Master, select the image and use one of the above techniques.

3. The slide number is not visible due to lack of contrast with the background

The slide number is there, but the background is light and its slide master uses white text for the slide number. In this case, the slide’s master has a dark background, but I had changed the background for the individual slide. (Right-click the background and choose Format Background.)

This result illustrates why changing the background of an individual slide can cause unexpected problems. If you want to keep the background, you could change it. For example, here I simply switched the gradient so that the darker section was at the bottom. This allowed the white slide number to be visible.


If you’re having trouble with slide numbers, one of these techniques should solve your problem.


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11 comments to Add slide numbers to your slides

  • Thank you so much. Your advice about making sure the page box is in the master was priceless. You think MSFT would spell this out better.

  • Tatenda

    thanks a lot. this was succinct and easy to follow :)
    God bless you

  • treina

    I have a question about powerpoint 2010
    how can i change the presentation so that the slide number is not on the title slide

  • When you go to Insert tab, Text group, Slide number, the Header and Footer dialog box that opens has a checkbox at the bottom that says, “Don’t show on title slide.”

  • Timothy

    A colleague of mine opened her saved ppt presenation and attempted to correct page numbers via Slide Master and when saving, she saved a blank template and lost her draft ppt. Is there a way to retrieve her work. That was her first and only version.

  • Timothy, if she overwrote the file, then she can’t get it back in PowerPoint. Depending on where it was saved and the version of Windows, there might be an earlier version saved. See if this helps: It’s about Windows Vista, but later versions also save older versions of files. I’m not too familiar with this feature of Windows myself.

  • Julie Yozamp

    Ellen, is it possible to create slide numbers similar to Word page numbers…I’d like the first 5 slides to be numbered 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, and I’d like the next 10 slides to be numbered 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, etc., and then 3-1, 3-2, etc. Thanks, Julie

  • Hey Ellen, Duh! How many times have I wished for a clock on the wall during a presentation…!? Took a few minutes this afternoon and added this to all my presentations. Thanks for being so thorough with the explanation.

  • Hosein

    if i need to add slide numbers after for example first five slides,
    i mean, first 5 slides without slide number then the sixth one starts with 1 and then 2 and so on…
    is there any way?

  • Linda Waddell

    How do I get the tag off the top right hand corner of each slide?

  • I’m not sure what you mean but there is a PowerPoint theme that puts a shape on the slide and then the slide number on that shape. You would remove that in the slide master.

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