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Jan's Working with Presentations

   Advanced: Outline: Text

PowerPoint is perfectly willing to create slides from a plain text outline. But, each normal paragraph will be turned into a slide title. Not usually what you want!

Slider Sorter view of slides created from nz-tabbed.txtIf you indent your outline levels using tabs, PowerPoint will follow along and treat those items as bullet points. Better!

Creating a plain text outline for your presentation first can help you organize your thoughts and the flow of ideas on the slides. In a text editor or word processor, you can more easily see the whole outline than in PowerPoint.

Icon Step-by-Step 

Step-by-Step: Text Outline

 Icon Step-by-Step

What you will learn: to create a text outline
to create a presentation from a text outline
to demote text in outline
to remove a bullet
to create a tabbed text outline
to create a presentation from a tabbed text outline

Start with: Icon: Class flash drive, Icon: PowerPoint with blank presentation (PowerPoint open to a blank document), resource files

The Story behind this presentation:

World Travel Inc. has a set a brochures about vacation destinations. They want to transform these into PowerPoint presentations to run unattended on a monitor at their booth at a Travel Fair.

What you will create:

An on-screen presentation based on an outline of a brochure about New Zealand. This brochure is also used in Working with the Web: HTML.

Original NZ brochure

Create a Plain Text Outline

  1. Select and copy the text below.

    What to See and Do in New Zealand


      New Zealand is an active, growing place!

        Hot springs


        Boiling mud


    Rain Forests

      Warm, temperate rainforests, teeming with evergreens and giant tree ferns

      Unique wildlife:

        Giant snails

        Giant weta - a cricket-like insect the size of a mouse. Guaranteed harmless!

    Ocean and Beaches

      North Island's beaches match any you've seen.




        Sand yachts

        Hang gliders

        Jet skis


      While New Zealand may be "down under", it is not "behind the times." Her cities feature all of the advantages of civilization –

        Fine restaurants

        Modern architecture


    Other Recreation

        Snow Skiing


        Hang gliding

        Bungee jumping


        Wine tasting - 3 world prize winners

    General Information

      Weather Seasons are reversed from the Northern Hemisphere. New Zealand's climate ranges from subtropical in the north to temperate in the South.

      Time New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT. The sun rises first in New Zealand.

      Driving Cars drive down the left of the road, like in the UK and opposite of the USA.

    World Travel Inc.

      Call 54 (1) 821-6543

      We work to help you see the world. 

    This text is formatted with leading spaces to create the indentions in the outline. The levels are not numbered because we don't want to see outline numbers and letters on the slides!  

  2. Notepad with pasted text. Spaces provide the indention that PowerPoint needs to understand the outline. (Windows 7)Open Notepad or another plain text editor.
    (Start button > type notepad in the Search box > Press the ENTER key when Notepad shows up in the search results list and is selected.)

  3. Paste into the blank Notepad document. 
    The outline levels are shown by the indentions.

    TipDifferent fonts created different spacing: The indentions are deeper in Notepad than in the text you copied. The default font for Notepad is a fixed-width font, also called monospaced. All characters have the same width. The text that you copied used a proportional font, where blank spaces and narrow characters like i and l are allowed less space than wide characters like w.

  4. From Notepad's menu select  File  >  Page Setup .

  5. In the Header text box, delete the code &f (which adds the file name to the header.)

  6. Dialog: Page Setup ( Notepad on Win8.1) Add your name and the code &d, which prints the day and date, like 'Tuesday, August 23, 2011'.
  7. Click on OK to close the Page Setup dialog.  
  8. Icon: Class flash drive Save to your Class disk in the folder powerpoint project3 with the file name nz-Lastname-Firstname.txt.
    (Create the folder if you do not have one yet.)

  9. Icon: Print Print.
    There is no print preview in Notepad.

  10. Close Notepad.

Open a Plain Text Outline in PowerPoint

Let's see what PowerPoint does with a plain text outline and then how to fix what it does.

  1. Open PowerPoint.

  2. Open the Open dialog:

    Icon: PowerPoint 2007PowerPoint 2007: Select the Office button Button: Office and then Open.
    Icon: PowerPoint 2010 Icon: PowerPoint 2013 Icon: PowerPoint 2016 PowerPoint 2010, 2013: Select  File > Open

    The Open dialog appears.

  3. Dialog:Open > nz-Firstname-Lastname.txt (PowerPoint 2010)Browse to your Class disk to the text file you just saved.

  4. If necessary, change the file type box to All Outlines.
    The file nz-Lastname-Firstname.txt should be the only file showing.

    Icon: TroubleProblem: No text file shows
    The Files of type: box still shows Presentations, which is the default or you are in the wrong location.
    Solution 1: Change the file type box to All Outlines.
    Solution 2:
    Navigate to the folder where you saved the file.
    Solution 3: If you do not know where you saved the file, type the start of the file name in the Start button Search box (Win8, 8.1) while on the Start screen or in the Search box on the Taskbar (Win10). It should eventually show up in the results... if you named it correctly
    Solution 4: If it seems like you mis-typed the file name, use a Windows Explorer search for files saved Today.
    Solution 5: If all else fails or you just don't want to hunt around, create the document again and save with the correct name to the correct folder.

  5. Text outline opened (PowerPoint 2010)Select nz-Lastname-Firstname.txt and click on the Open button.

    PowerPoint is happy to open the file and create slides, but look at the thumbnails! Each paragraph is now a slide title. Whoops. This is not what you want at all. Happily, it is easy to fix - without having to move any text!  

  6. Icon: Class flash driveClick the Save button Button: Save - on Quick Access Toolbar (PowerPoint 2010) Button: Save - on Quick Access Toolbar (PowerPoint 2013) Button: Save - on Quick Access Toolbar (PowerPoint 2016) on the Quick Access Toolbar.
    The Save As dialog appears since this presentation has not been saved before. What you saved before was the text file.

  7. Icon: Class flash drive Save with the name  nz-text-Lastname-Firstname.pptx .

Use Increase/Decrease Indent to Promote/Demote

The Home ribbon tab has two buttons Button: Decrease List Level (PowerPoint 2010) Button: Increase List Level (PowerPoint 2010) that make it easy to manage the outline levels. These look like the Decrease Indent and Increase Indent buttons you may be familiar with from Word. In PowerPoint the indention is a side-effect of changing the outline list level. You will use these buttons to Decrease List Level or Increase List Level for the lines that should be bullet points.

Icon: ConfusionPoint of Confusion: When you increase a paragraph's list level, you push it into a less important spot in the outline. You demote it in importance. You are going from level 1 to level 2 or level 2 to level 3. Increasing the list level therefore also increases the indention. Level 1 has no indention. Level 2 has some indention but less than Level 3. The reverse happens when you decrease a paragraph's list level. You promote it, making it more important.

  1. Presentation - Outline tabShow the outline in the Navigation pane.
    [Click the Outline tab in the Navigation pane or click the Outline View button on the View ribbon tab, depending on your version of PowerPoint.]

    Each paragraph from the text outline has a slide icon - 39 slides! You must fix this mess!

  2. Switch to the Home ribbon tab, if necessary.  

  3. Slide 3 selected in Outline tab (PowerPoint 2010)Click on the slide icon for Slide #3: New Zealand is.... The whole line is selected.

  4. New Zealand... text is changed to bullet text on Slide 2.On the Home ribbon tab, click Increase List Level button Button: Increase List Level (PowerPoint 2010).
    The title text from Slide 3 is now a bullet item on Slide 2 and the slides are renumbered. Better!

  5. Slide 2 - Volcanoes - bullet list created (PowerPoint 2010)Continue by selecting slides 3, 4, 5, and 6 together and then increasing the list level.

    Hmmm. That first bullet on Slide 2 is not really a member of the list. It is a comment. You need to remove the bullet.

  6. In the outline, click in the first text line, New Zealand is..., of Slide 2 .

  7. On the Home ribbon tab, click the Bullets button Button: Bullets (PowerPoint 2010) .
    The bullet is toggled off. Simple enough.

    These steps could be repeated for the remaining slides to gather the text onto the slides with the titles. Instead we will stop here and look an another variety of plain text outline, the tabbed text outline.

  8. Icon: Class flash drive Save.

  9. Close the presentation.

Create a Tabbed Text Outline

PowerPoint recognizes tabbed text when it creates slides. If the outline uses tabs instead of spaces to indent the outline parts, the slides will turn out better!

  1. nz-tabbed.txt after replacing spaces with tabsOpen Notepad again and open nz-Lastname-Firstname.txt from your Class disk.

  2. For lines that have 2 spaces to the left, replace the spaces with one tab.
    (Select the spaces and press the TAB key.)
    The indention will be larger than before.

  3. For lines that have 4 spaces to the left, replace the spaces with 2 tabs.
    (Select the spaces and press the TAB key twice.)

  4. Open Page Setup from the File menu and verify that your name and the date are still in the Header box.

  5. Click on OK to close the dialog.

  6. Icon: Class flash driveFrom Notepad's File menu select Save As.
    Use the name  nz-tabbed-Lastname-Firstname.txt  to save your revised outline to your Class disk in the powerpoint project3 folder.

  7. Icon: Print Print

  8. Close Notepad.

Open Tabbed Text Outline in PowerPoint

  1. Slider Sorter view of slides created from nz-tabbed.txtSwitch to PowerPoint.
  2. Open nz-tabbed-Lastname-Firstname.txt on your Class disk.
  3. Switch to Slide Sorter View by clicking Button: Slide Sorter Button: Slide Sorter (PowerPoint 2013) Button: Slide Sorter (PowerPoint 2016) the Slide Sorter button in the View bar on the Status bar.

    Ah! These slides are in much better form that the ones from the first text outline. It pays to TAB!

  4. Icon: Class flash driveClick the Save button Button: Save - on Quick Access Toolbar (PowerPoint 2010) Button: Save - on Quick Access Toolbar (PowerPoint 2013) Button: Save - on Quick Access Toolbar (PowerPoint 2016) on the Quick Access Toolbar.
    The Save As dialog appears since this presentation has not been saved before.
    Use the name  nz-tabbed-Lastname-Firstname.pptx .

There are still formatting and layout issues with this presentation. Rather than fight it out manually, let's move on to see how PowerPoint works with a Word outline.