episode 8: Faster & Better Design with PowerPoint Add-ins


  • PowerPoint desktop has always had the ability to run 3rd party add-ins to expand its tool set and capabilities. Nolan, Troy and Sandy talk about what add-ins they have installed, real-world examples of when they are used and give tips & tricks for better and faster presentation design.


What add-ins do you have installed on your main design computer?

  • Nolan: Well, believe it or not: none, because I’m currently on a Mac where I do 95% of my work. This episode is going to be mainly geared towards PC users, as there are very few plug-ins or add-ins for the Mac. However, on my PC where I occasionally have to go: PPTXtreme, Text to Outline.
  • Sandy: NXPowerlite, Text to Outline, Motion Path Tool, Color Swatch, PPTTools and I’ve just added the Shutterstock & PickIt app.
  • Troy: I am a productivity junkie, and add-ins have long been my passion in PowerPoint. Anything that saves clicks, speeds up design and makes life easier is good with me. Currently, I have installed on virtually every design computer: 2 from PPT Tools – the starter set and Image Export. Then, ToolsToo, Zebra on Wheels, Shyam’s Motion Path add-in and NXPowerlite.


Give an example of one add-in, or a tool within an add-in, that makes you a faster designer

  • Nolan: Text to Outline – Gives me a great deal of control as I continue to edit, especially when a client isn’t going to have a custom font. I outline it, turning it into a vector PowerPoint shape.
  • Troy: ToolsToo straight line and also their “Make Same Rounded Corner” which is amazing! For example, there are 3 rounded rectangle shapes on a slide and they are different sizes, that means each has a different corner radius. PowerPoint does not have a way to get an exact number for the corner radius, so if you want everything to be balanced and equal, it is a frustrating manual guessing process. With this add-in, select the 3 rounded rectangles, go to the ToolsToo tab and click the button “Make Same Rounded Corner” and instantly all 3 shapes have the exact same radius for their rounded corners! It is magical.
  • Sandy: Shyam’s Color Swatch – I can add custom colors to PowerPoint’s color theme when I’m building a template.


Do we count the QAT as an add-in?

  • Troy: Yes, it is a customization of PPT and when setup, it can make your design much faster.
  • Nolan: Mac 2016 still doesn’t have a real QAT customization, biggest frustration with the release.


What do you have on your QAT that is not easily found in the PPT ribbon?

  • Nolan: Animation Pane to reveal or hide it. Also, Pick up/Apply style with Eyedropper.
  • Sandy: The alignment and rotation tools (less clicks than using the Ribbon)
  • Troy: Super and Sub scripting of text. These buttons do not exist on the Ribbon, unless you go and add them. So superscript and subscript are 2 buttons on my QAT.
  • Nolan: We should point out that when you do go to customize the QAT, there’s a whole category of functions called “Not in the Ribbon.” Many can be accessed through multiple level drop down menus, but there are a few that literally can’t be accessed unless you add it to the Ribbon, Combine/Merge shapes used to be one when it was first introduced.


How do you setup, or customize, the QAT?

  • Troy: At this point, the easiest option is to cheat. You can install a customized QAT .xml file on PowerPoint 2010, 2013, 2016 – for Windows. PowerPoint 2007 is limited to manually customizing it on that computer – so no shortcut for 2007 users. Both Nolan and I have downloadable custom QAT’s on our blogs – just go there, download and follow the instructions. It should take less than 5 minutes to have a custom QAT ready to use.
  • Sandy: And I’ve used both of them. Highly recommended.
  • Nolan: I have one for download on my PresentYourStory.com, if you subscribe.


How do you invoice a design project where you know it would take 2-3Xs longer with PowerPoint-only vs. using a specialty add-in?

  • Sandy: I bill actual hours, so if I come in below estimate, that’s my loss and client gain.
  • Troy: Projects are based on time, so estimates are based on our designers working with add-ins. But we are cautious to have estimates not set a bad precedent for future projects and turn around expectations.


So how much do add-ins cost? What is your budget?

  • Nolan: They seem to be fairly cheap. The most expensive set out there is probably PPTxtreme which is close to $400 for the whole set.
  • Sandy: Time is money, so I don’t have a budget, but I haven’t run into anything that I thought was outrageous.
  • Troy: I think the internet has changed things forever, and someone today can get a full set of add-ins for almost nothing. When I started designing slides, I used to half jokingly tell clients I was able to work faster than them because of experience – and the $800 in add-ins I was running. Now, there are more options, with many free or just a great value, it would be hard to spend more than a $150 for everything installed on our computers today.


What about add-ins on the Mac PowerPoint, mobile versions and web versions?

  • Nolan: As I said earlier, there are very few for the Mac. If you go to the App Store, there is one for Pickit which is a stock image house and a couple of others. There’s also a new-ish standalone app called Presentation Font Embedder which you can find on the App Store.
  • Troy: I have not used any on the Mac. The line is becoming blurred on what an add-in is. We have only talked about local installed add-ins – these are the ones found listed in PowerPoint Options and the Add-ins tab. There is a new class of add-in, and I am not sure “add-in” is the correct terminology, as even the Microsoft Dev teams are struggling with how to label these. But they are essentially web-based mini-apps that are accessed from within an Office app. They are found in PowerPoint by going to INSERT > My Add-ins. For example, I have a pretty cool word-cloud builder Office Store add-in and an interactive quiz builder that both work direct inside PowerPoint. They open the mini-app in a right action pane and both need internet access to function. The big thing is these mini-apps are available on the desktop PowerPoint AND PowerPoint Online. I am not certain about PowerPoint mobile for IOS or Android.


What about corporations with custom add-ins?

  • Sandy: I will often recommend custom add-ins, understanding that it’s not that easy for large corporations, but to demonstrate there are other solutions to specific problems. The real issue is not many IT departments are not willing to push out an add-in company-wide.
  • Troy: This is a big thing that a number of large corporate clients have had developed. We know several add-in developers that this is their primary focus. It is costly and completely custom to that client thing, but the result for corporate clients is amazing in the document creation process by their users.


Any other add-ins we have not covered?

  • Troy: The PPTXtreme add-ins were my go to for a long time, and I would say they are still the benchmark for what productivity can be with add-ins. They are more costly, and in the transition to the .pptx format they stopped working for quite a while. During that time, I reluctantly found other add-ins, and I know they have an updated suite of add-ins that do everything they used to and more. They are very high on my list of add-ins designers should check out.
  • Nolan: I actually wrote a review of the most recent release of PPTxtreme, but it hasn’t been published as I’m still waiting to hear back from the developer on a few questions and bugs.


Add-ins can be installed, but not active

  • Troy: I have several other add-ins installed on the computer, but not active in PowerPoint. Every add-in slows down PowerPoint starting up, so I install the add-ins that are rarely used, and then go into the options and turn off. If needed, I just go into the options, make them active and then they are instantly usable. For example, I have these add-ins installed, but not active: PPTools fixlinks Pro, Shyam’s Live Web, Tushar’s Randomize Slideshow.


  • Nolan: Mac PowerPoint 2016, first Office Insider Fast build update released.
  • Troy: PowerPoint is a top job skill – Read Article.
  • Sandy: Nancy Duarte just published a new blog post titled, “The Meeker Method.” In it, she justifies presenter Mary Meeker’s crammed slide style because of Mary’s delivery style. I get what she’s saying, but I’m afraid bad presenters who think they are good will leverage Nancy’s opinion to justify why they do not need professional slides. It seems to take things a step back.


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