Work faster in PowerPoint

When I work with clients in 1-on-1 coaching, I use webinar software so we can work together on a presentation. Sometimes I wield the mouse and sometimes my client does.  Because I work in PowerPoint so much, I use the fastest way possible — at least as far as I know. But when my clients take over, I often see them use slower ways of accomplishing a task.

So, here are my best tips for working faster in PowerPoint.

The ribbon is often the slowest way

For many tasks, the ribbon isn’t the way to go. Take font changes, for example.

To change the font or its color or size, use the mini toolbar. When you select text, the mini toolbar appears. At first it’s semi-transparent but if you move your cursor over it, you’ll find tools for quickly changing the font and its properties. Because the mini toolbar is close to the text, you’ll find it faster to make common changes there than to go all the way up to the ribbon. And if you aren’t on the Home tab, using the ribbon is especially slow.

The ribbon has more tools than the mini toolbar, so sometimes you have to use it, but avoid it when possible.

Right-click is your friend

Right-clicking is often the fastest was to get the result you want.powerpoint-tips-work-faster-2

  • To change a slide’s layout, instead of going to the Home tab and choosing an option from the Layout button, just right-click off the slide and choose Layout, then the option you want.
  • To reset a slide’s layout, right click off the slide and choose Reset Slide.
  • To open the Format Shape task pane or dialog box, right-click the object and choose Format Shape.

Love your keyboard shortcuts

The fastest way to get the job done is often a keyboard shortcut.

To save your presentation, don’t use the ribbon. Better than that is the Quick Access toolbar at the top of the PowerPoint window. But by far the fastest way is to press Ctrl + S.

To copy any object and paste it, I see many people right-click and choose from the shortcut menu. But it’s much faster to use Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V.

We all make mistakes. When you do, press Ctrl + Z to undo your last action. You can do this any number of times.

powerpoint-tips-work-faster-3On the other hand, you often want to repeat an action. You can’t repeat every type of action, but when this works, it’s amazingly fast. Press F4 or Ctrl + Y to repeat your last action. For example, you can change the color of a shape to blue and then select other shapes and press F4 to change their color to blue, too.

Of course, to delete anything on a slide, select it and press the Delete key. If that object contains text, you need to click the border so that you delete the object and not just some of the text in it.

I see many people spend a lot of time dragging objects to move them a small distance. They move it too far, then try to move it back a little bit. Instead, use the 4 arrow keys; you’ll have a lot more control. To move an object an even smaller distance, press Ctrl while you tap the arrow keys.

Customize the Quick Access toolbar

powerpoint-tips-work-faster-4The Quick Access toolbar is at the upper-left of your screen. It comes with a few buttons on it but you can add more. The advantage of doing this is that these buttons are available all the time, no matter which ribbon tab is active.

To customize the Quick Access toolbar, click the arrow at its right end, shown by the red arrow at the right. You can quickly choose from some common options. To find more, choose More Commands.

Note that you can also choose the Show Below the Ribbon option which is helpful when you add so many buttons that they run into the part of the title bar that says the name of the presentation.

When you choose More Commands, the Options dialog box opens with the Quick Access Toolbar category active. You can choose commands from the left side and click the Add button to add them to the toolbar. Then, you can use the Up and Down arrows on the right to move the buttons around so that they’re in the order you want. I always want a New, Open and Save button there and also add a couple of commands that aren’t on the ribbon at all. I’ve seen professional designers with buttons going clear across the screen.


What techniques do you use to make your work quicker? Leave a comment and share them with your fellow PowerPoint users!

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5 comments to Work faster in PowerPoint

  • John Walsh

    I use all of the tips you suggest, but I particularly like the Quick access toolbar. I customize it for those actions that don’t have shortcut keys but I use a lot.

  • One that few people use is F5 to begin the show.
    On the ribbon I use to set (almost) all formating icons.
    I usually hide the ribbon, to have more space to edit the slides.
    Thank for your advices…

  • I also love shortcuts, Ellen. I tell clients/students the fewer clicks the better. And one of my favorite techniques even eliminates clicking all together! When you start a new slide and see “Click to add title” I say “Ha! You can’t fool me into doing an extra click.” You merely need to type and your text will automatically go into the title text box.

  • Thanks so much, Ellen, for all you do.

    I have some more favorites. Shift+F5 will start the slide show with the slide you’re on at the moment–a quick way to check a new transition/animation at full size.

    Also, once you have the Quick Access Toolbar and Ribbon the way you want them, get into a populated slide and hit the Alt key. All the keyboard shortcuts light up! All you need to do is choose one. You don’t even have to hit the keys simultaneously or quickly. Just hit them in the order shown.

    A great keyboard shortcut trick is to put your favorite or most often-used 9 toolbar buttons at the beginning of the Quick Access Toolbar. They’re the easiest keyboard shortcuts to memorize: Alt+1 through Alt+9. It doesn’t get faster than that!

  • byron wolt

    As ALWAYS great and helpful techniques! A couple of other tips i like to share with my students to help them work more quickly in PPT: Ctrl + W to close just the presentation and not PPT itself saving time waiting for PPT to re open. Ctrl + D to duplicate (not that it is so much time saving from Ctrl + C then Ctrl + V). I also like Shift + F5 to start the slide show from the current slide v the beginning. And finally, for those like me who often forget keyboard shortcuts, hitting the alt key will show you hot keys to get you where you want to go without using the ribbon. Thanks for sharing!!!

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