How to Use PowerPoint Templates

January 11, 2022

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You just received this spangly new template from your favourite presentation agency (us obviously). You then realise not all is zen and as straightforward as just creating a PowerPoint from scratch. You feel your path to presentation enlightenment is riddled with obstacles and you aren’t sure which way to go.

Maybe you are copying the text from your old presentation to the new one, just to realise that the text does not take on the formatting of the new template. 

You want to change an image, yet, regardless of your best efforts, it won’t see the error of its ways.

And where are all the layouts that you saw when you first received the template, where did they all go? Did they all abandon the path to order and stillness?

Worry you not, Elisabetta, our Studio Manager, will come to the rescue with some PowerPoint wisdom.

Change Your Flow

Like an old friend of mine said, ‘If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.’ Oh yes, Lao Tsu and I go a long way back. Kind of. I mean, I am not THAT old.

When you work with a template you need to change your mindset a little. There are some elusive PowerPoint features that will make your job easier.

These are the common hurdles we see our clients face when working with a template:

  1. A lot of people know that Master Slides exist, but aren’t familiar with how to use them
  2. There are several ways to copy and paste content, and the default ctrl+c and ctrl+v doesn’t cut it with a template
  3. Your template might not look right because the fonts might not be installed on your computer
  4. You are under the assumption that templates ‘lock everything’ but then your presentation doesn’t look like the example layouts you were given

Let’s unpack this.

How to Use Slide Masters

For those who don’t know, Slide Masters are the place where we save all the layouts. They are in a separate section from where you edit the slides, as you can see in the screenshot below.

As a user, you will edit the slides in ‘Normal’ view. Whilst you might see a lot of example layouts in Normal mode, those are NOT the master slides. In the screenshot below you will see a number of slides already designed in Normal view. You might get something similar from your design agency. These are meant to be examples to show you how the Master Slides work, and they are not supposed to replace the Masters.

This means that you can delete all of these pages if you wish and start over. When you create a new page that uses any of the Master Layouts, you just need to go to New Slides, click on the little arrow next to the Slide button and then pick the layout of choice.

If you realise that the layout you picked doesn’t work for you, you can always change the layout later by right clicking on the slide thumbnail, then choosing Layout.

We recommend using either method to create your new slide, and then populate the master, rather than just copying and pasting slides from your old presentation. If you do the latter, the slide will never look like the template. Some colours might change, but you are not using the layouts that were created for the template, so it will look disjointed. 

Remember that a template is not meant to do the design work for you. A template is supposed to give you guidance and tell you where the text goes, where the image goes, what colour the heading is, etc. You still need to put in some work. But once you have done it, you are set. And if you still need an extra touch, drop us an email and we will be happy to assist with the design.

Onto the next bit of template wisdom.

How to Copy and Paste

Yes, Elisabetta, I get all that, but I still need to copy and paste the text from my old presentation into that lovely box you created, and it doesn’t look right! I am not going to retype everything! Why didn’t you lock the fonts?

The truth is that we cannot prevent people from using fonts that are not in the template. If your template uses Calibri, but your previous presentation uses Garamond, and you just copy and paste the ‘normal way’ your text will still be in Garamond in the new template.

Luckily there is a way to make this work properly. First copy the text from your old presentation. Then place your cursor in the text box of your template and right click. You will get a contextual window with a lot of options, you want to go to Paste Options and choose Use Destination Theme as shown below. That’s it!

‘Ordinary people left click, enlightened ones right click’

How to Add and Change an Image

This is one of those things that seems obvious, but when you start dealing with PowerPoint templates, you have to think about it a bit differently. First of all pick a layout that has a picture placeholder (don’t just create one or import it from another presentation, see previous tips).

A picture placeholder box will have an icon in the middle. You just need to click on that icon and then choose the image you want.

That’s all you need to do. Now let’s say you want to change the picture, but now that you have one in place, the icon in the middle has disappeared. How do you change it? Rather than deleting the current picture and placing another one instead… yes, right click again, this time on the picture. Another handy menu will appear. Go to Change Picture and pick your option.

We are doing it this way so that if the picture has some animation, you are keeping it. If you just delete the previous picture and insert a new one you will lose any animation that the template might have had.

Displaying the Right Fonts

Elisabetta, your template looks different on Jo’s computer compared to mine. Why are there overlapping lines of text?

This is likely due to the fact that either you or Jo don’t have the template’s font installed on the computer. Even if your template says that you are looking at Museo, your PowerPoint might still be displaying Calibri; the template still says you are looking at Museo because that’s what the font was set to when the template was created.

On the other hand, Jo actually has Museo on their system, so the text is displayed correctly when they present.

When commissioning a template, there are a few things to consider:

  1. Are you the only one using it, or is your company of 300 staff members going to use it?
  2. Are all the 300 people going to have your brand font?
  3. Can you ensure that the brand font will be installed on all 300 computers?
  4. Are you going to send this PowerPoint to someone outside of your company to view?

This part is more complex than the previous sections of this article, so be prepared.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

You Are the Only Person Using the Template

In this case, if you know how to install fonts, then you are pretty much free to use any font you like. Bear in mind that if you send it to someone else, you’ll need to either send a PDF or embed the fonts into PowerPoint when you save it. To do that, you need to go to File > Options. That will open the window below:

Click on Save as shown, and then check the box next to Embed fonts in the file. If the presentation only needs to be viewed by someone without your fonts, select the first option: ‘Embed only the characters used in the presentation’. If the presentation needs to be edited by the other person, you can choose the second option but there are a number of reasons why we don’t advise that and we always tell people to install fonts. We’ll get to that later.

Many People Will Use the Template

In this case, you have two choices. If you can ensure that everyone has your fonts, you can commission a template that uses them. If you cannot enforce the installation of your particular font, then you need to consider ‘safe fonts’. Those are fonts that are on everyone’s computer by default, e.g., Arial, Calibri, etc.

If you have the latest version of Office 365 you are in luck, because your choice is much larger; but that also means that the receiving computer needs to have it. Office 365 has access to cloud fonts – in your font list they will have a little cloud icon next to them:

These fonts are provided by Microsoft and can be downloaded when you click on the icon. If the other people editing your presentation have Office 365 they will also be able to use these fonts. It is very likely that everyone in your organisation will have the same version of Office.

One small caveat is that your IT might have decided to disable the cloud fonts. In that case you need to ask them to enable them. Usually this is done for security reasons, but given that these fonts are provided by Microsoft they are safe and there shouldn’t be any security concerns.

Why Embedding Fonts Can Do More Harm Than Good

Like another good friend of mine says:

Yes, I may have an imaginary friend problem here. Moving swiftly along…

On the surface, embedding fonts might seem like the silver bullet that fixes all the font issues. Yet some fonts might have restrictions that will make your life hell. Fonts are created by artists who also add code that tells computers how they can be used. To protect their own interests, font artists might put in restrictions. These can be:

  1. The font might not show up in PDFs
  2. The font might not print
  3. Once you save and close the PowerPoint, the font will not allow the editing of the presentation at all next time someone opens it unless they remove it, which defeats the purpose of embedding
  4. Some or all of the above might happen

You might not see any issues when you create the document, because you will have the font on your computer. But once the presentation goes on someone else’s computer and the font is not installed there, the problems might raise their ugly head.

Some fonts are openly free to use and don’t have any of these restrictions.

You can’t be sure however, because even fonts you download from Google Fonts might have some restrictions so you will have to do some testing to find out.

Once you have done your tests and you find that your brand font can be embedded without issues, you are good, right? Well, not necessarily.

Remember the tip I gave you about copying and pasting text into a template? Do you expect that all 300 of your staff members will remember it? Or do you think there will be a few times where they will just paste from somewhere else without choosing ‘destination theme’? They will then introduce a new font, save it, PowerPoint will embed it, and then all the issues I listed previously show up. Nightmare.

Unless some PowerPoint update changes this, the best solution will always be to either install the fonts or use the safe fonts.


Template Zen is reached with knowledge and practice. Once you learn these life-saving techniques, you will reach inner peace and your desire to throw your computer through the window will wane.

I will leave you with this one last bit of wisdom:

Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it.

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