For print design, if a client says they need a letter size piece or a client in Europe says the project needs to be A1, we know exactly the dimensions. With PowerPoint, the page size is not always clear or consistent. Part of the issue is that aspect ratio does not equate to a physical dimension and another part is that PowerPoint has updated page sizes and has confusing options. In today’s episode, Troy, Nolan, and Sandy talk in-depth about page size options for presentation projects.
Let’s define aspect ratio vs page size.
- Nolan: In general, you want to be concerned mostly with aspect ratio (4:3, 16:9) as opposed to page size (7.5″ x 10″). But, because PPT often thinks in inches and centimeters, and we use PPT for print purposes, we need to consider both, depending on the situation.
- Troy: 16×9 is an aspect ratio, not a page size.
- Sandy: Exactly. In PowerPoint, 16:9 is known to have at least a couple of page sizes…
In the land of PPT, 16×9 has changed and the default sizing is now a new page size.
- Sandy: So the history is up through PPT 2010, Microsoft’s page size for 16×9 was 10″ wide by 5.63″ tall. It could not be the 13.333″ wide size option because only in PPT 2013 was the extra decimal to thousandths, or 3 decimal places added. Echo Swinford has a great explanation of these difference on your website. Link is in the notes.
- Troy: The switch to keeping the height the same between 4×3 and 16×9 is really important for updating content from one size to another. It means everything stays in the same height position and only needs the width position adjusted. But with the old 4×3 7.5″ to the 16×9 5.63″ setup, a logo at the bottom of a 4×3 slide would basically be positioned off the bottom of the slide on a 16×9 because that is where the 7″ element was positioned on a 5.63″ tall slide.
- Nolan: Keynote, on the other hand, has never thought in inches, but always in pixels, 800×600 or 1024×768. You would want to create your file according to the ultimate display it would be shown on – your computer, a monitor or a projector. For the less technically inclined, this can get confusing, and to be honest, I always think in inches. In Keynote, I don’t want to think about making a box 512 pixels high to take up half the slide.
4×3 has not changed.
- Nolan: The standard default. Translates to 10″ wide by 7.5″ high. Comes from the fact that most projectors and monitors were 4:3 when PPT was invented (35m slides were actually 3:2).
- Troy: Like any aspect ratio, 4×3 can be a variety of physical sizes. But the important thing is the physical size correlates to the aspect ratio. For 16×9, I see a variety of page sizes. But 4×3 projects are almost always setup with the Microsoft default of 10×7.5.
Starting with PPT 2013, 4×3 to 16×9 conversion became a great built in feature.
- Nolan: It used to be that when you changed page sizes, everything would get distorted. If you didn’t have a handy little plugin to fix that. Now, the only things that get distorted are items on the master, for some reason.
- Sandy: PowerPoint’s built in conversion tool is good, but can be confusing to use. Both are going to assure a circle stays a circle like Nolan mentioned, but the big difference is how big things are scaled and if they may be positioned off the slide. Ensure Fit keeps everything on the slide, but it may be smaller than you want. Maximize keeps things bigger, but some items may be positioned off the slide.
Do you use non-Microsoft page sizes for 4×3 or 16×9 projects?
- Nolan: All the time, but mostly for print. I do letter and tabloid size, even have done square. Occasionally 16:10
- Sandy: Yes. While many users are satisfied using the 4:3 page size for standard print documents, it’s not a true U.S. letter size (8.5 X 11) and a few problems can happen. Also, the 16:9 widescreen option is longer than the standard 11 X 8.5 paper that’s in our printers, the end may be cut off if you print. I don’t think I’ve ever used the 16:10.
- Troy: I am sure this was part of the MS thinking for including the 16×10 thing- the computer resolution of 1920×1200, not 1080, is 16×10. Lots of laptops have this resolution and I am certain it was an easy connection to see that PPT should coordinate with computer monitors. But it is not a size or aspect that became a standard, so just skip over it.
- On the question, what non-MS pages sizes? Yes, lots of times it is a literal 16″ x 9.”
- I just had a new one a few weeks ago. The client supplied 16×9 template was 26.66″x15″ (AI/Allergan).
Let’s discuss US Letter page size.
- Nolan: The pull down default which says “US Letter” actually gives you a 7.5″ x 10″ slide which is insane. If you want true 8.5×11, you have to manually input those numbers and make a custom size.
- Troy: I feel, and have mentioned this several times to the Microsoft team, that the drop down for US Letter should be the real dimensions 8.5″ wide by 11″ tall – AND the default should be in that portrait sizing as virtually every US letter document is going to be to emulate a print file.
- In addition, MS Word is setup exactly that way! 8.5 x 11.”
What are some non-16×9 or 4×3 page size scenarios?
- Nolan: Creating bleed for print (adding .125″ on all sides so a professional printer can trim down to bleed; I’ve done this a number of times.
- Sandy: I just created an ad for my hometown newspaper to announce our class reunion. I created that 3.58 X 3 inch ad, using PowerPoint.
- Troy: That gets tricky because now you are going to print, where resolution is a big factor. But PowerPoint only outputs at a low res, so not print quality.
We are nearing a time when non-standard aspect ratios (ultrawide presentations) are “standard,”4-6-10K aspect ratios. But these are not something PowerPoint has in its preset list.
- Nolan: I used to do that with Keynote a lot, but haven’t had to lately. But I remember it being fun to have an ultrawide file that would then get split up across three screens for example, so you could animate something from left to right and it would jump across screens. Or you could make the “center screen” different than what was on the 2 side screens by splitting your slide into thirds.
- Troy: These unique page sizes are based 100% on the projection setup. The goal of PowerPoint for these events is to 100% match the equipment setup. For example: we have 2 projects right now we are developing templates for:
- 1 is super wide at 5,460x1080px and our PPT page size is ###. This is a 3 projector blend, so 3 side-by-side 16×9 projectors, with a 250px blend region.
- Another is based on a 2 projector blend with a single 150 px blend. The page size is 30″x9.”
- There is a lot of math involved with creating Photoshop template and PPT template with page sizes that coordinate so content from one can seamlessly go into the other.
- I’m very much an amateur in design, but I present anywhere between four and eight times per month for nonprofits, corporate responsible companies and more. I always have such a struggle in convincing my clients to use the best of what I know in design (thanks to you all!). I get terrible slide decks to work with that don’t include brand guidelines and more. You know the drill. Do you have any tips on how to simply and effectively explain to clients that presenting is more than just putting text on a screen and into a (subpar) template? Your insights are always amazing. And a BIG shout out to Presentation Guild, Sandra, and Nolan who are helping to me to elevate the standard in presentations for the nonprofit sector!!!
- Emily Davis, of Emily Davis Consulting based in Boulder, CO
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