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Home > Jan's CompLit 101 > Working with Presentations > Advanced > Tables & Charts > External Data
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Jan's Working with Presentations

   Advanced: Tables & Charts: External Data

When you want to use data from an existing spreadsheet or document, you certainly don't want to have to type it in all over again. There are a few decisions you must make.

What Do You Want?

  • Part of a document or the whole document?
  • Static copy or one that can update to show changes in the original file
  • Edit in the original program or as PowerPoint text or object

How to Insert the Data

You have two methods to get external data onto a slide:

  1. Copy and Paste
    Depending on what you copied, you may have several Paste Options.


    Cells in a spreadsheet:

    Paste Options (PowerPoint 2013)

    • Use Destination Styles
    • Keep Source Formatting
    • Embed
    • Picture
    • Keep Text Only

    Chart in a spreadsheet:

    Paste Options - chart (PowerPoint 2013)

    • Use Destination Theme and Embed
    • Keep Source formatting and Embed
    • Use Destination Theme and Link Data
    • Keep Source formatting and Link Data
  2. Insert Object Button: Insert Object (PowerPoint 2010) Button: Insert Object (PowerPoint 2013)
    Insert ribbon tab > Object > Dialog Insert Object

    Dialog: Insert Object > Create new (PowerPoint 2013)

    The file is embedded on the slide unless you check one of the boxes.

    'Link' puts a picture of the file on the slide.

    'Display as icon' put an icon on the slide. While running the slide show, clicking the icon opens the object. The icon is most often used to open another presentation.

Consequences of your choices:

Simple Paste: The pasted data is on the slide, just as if you had typed it.


  • External data is now included in the presentation file and is not connected to the original file any more.
  • Changes on the slide will not affect the original file.
  • Changes to the original file will not affect the presentation, including moving, renaming, or deleting the original file.
  • Editing what was embedded uses the original program.


  • Changes to the original file will show up on the slide, after you Update Link.
  • Changes while in PowerPoint are actually changes to the original file.
    Be warned!
  • Moving, renaming or deleting the original file breaks the link. You will not be able to edit what shows in PowerPoint

Working with Objects

The context menu for an inserted object will have different commands depending on exactly what kind of object it is. For example, your object could be a spreadsheet, a word processing document, another presentation, or a PDF document. For images it is better to use the Picture button on the Insert ribbon tab.

Example: Excel Spreadsheet

Right Click Menu: Worksheet Object  (PowerPoint 2010)An Excel spreadsheet is called a Worksheet Object. The context menu for this object has a submenu with three choices:

  • Edit        = Edit in place inside the PowerPoint window.
                    The ribbon changes to show to Excel's ribbon tabs.
  • Open      = Open in a new Excel window
  • Convert = Change to another format
                   (requires filters to be installed)

Icon: Warning Must have program to edit: For Edit or Open to work, the computer must have a program installed that can edit the object! For a spreadsheet that would probably be Excel.

Icon Step-by-Step 

Step-by-Step: External Data

 Icon Step-by-Step

What you will learn: to add external data from a spreadsheet as an object
to select a sheet to display in the spreadsheet object
to resize and move the object
to edit spreadsheet object while still in PowerPoint
to add and format a text box

Start with: Icon: Class flash drive,  nz-chartdesign-Lastname-Firstname.pptx from previous lesson, nz-languages.xls from your resource files

This lesson assumes that you have some experience with Excel already.

The Story So Far:
You are creating a presentation on New Zealand for World Travel Inc.

You will add a information about what languages are spoken in New Zealand. The main language of New Zealand is English and most World Travel Inc. customers speak some English, but English is not the native language for many customers.

A co-worker has found some tables from the census office in New Zealand about the languages spoken, but there is more there than anyone probably wants to know! She created an Excel file, nz-languages.xls, using some of that data. You will import that spreadsheet as an object and then pick a sheet to show.

  1. New Slide: LanguagesIf necessary,  open nz-chartdesign-Lastname-Firstname.pptx from your Class disk.

  2. Add a new slide to follow Rainy Days.

  3. Type as the new slide's title  Languages .

  4. Icon: Class flash driveSave As  nz-externaldata-Lastname-Firstname.pptx  to your Class disk in the powerpoint project3 folder.

Add External Data

You can place a whole file on the slide. For Excel files, the sheet you see in the editing window is the sheet that is displayed on the slide.

  1. Dialog: Insert Object > Create new (PowerPoint 2013)On the Insert ribbon tab, click on the Object button Button: Object (PowerPoint 2010) Button: Object (PowerPoint 2016).
    The Insert Object dialog appears with the option 'Create new' selected.
  2. Scroll the list of Object types.
    These are items for which PowerPoint can open a program for you to create a brand new document that will appear in your slide.
  3. Dialog: Insert Object > Create from file (PowerPoint 2013)Click on the radio button (circle) for Create from file.
    The dialog changes! You need the path to the file you want to import.
  4. Click the Browse Button.
    The Browse dialog opens.  
  5. Dialog: Browse (PowerPoint 2013)Navigate to the resource files on your hard disk and select

    If you have not yet downloaded the resource files, you can download the file from this link:
    nz-languages.xls Icon: In site. Save it to a folder that you can find again and then navigate to it when you browse for the file.

  6. Dialog: Insert Object - path to file (PowerPoint 2013)Click on Open or OK
    After a brief wait, the Insert Object dialog changes to show the path to the file you selected.  
    The whole path is there, even if it is too long to fit in the text box.
  7. Languages slide after Insert Object = long, tall table with tiny letters (PowerPoint 2013) Click on OK.
    The sheet that was showing when the spreadsheet file was last saved is displayed on the slide, centered in a placeholder that is now just wide enough to show the data.

    What a horrible table for a slide! Far too many table entries, text is far too small, too much wasted space on the slide.

    Before making any formatting changes, let's look at this file in Excel and see if there is something else there that you can use instead!

    TipThe spreadsheet went into that placeholder because that placeholder was blank.

  8. Icon: Class flash driveSave.

Edit Mode: Resize Object and Navigate

One of the advantages of importing your data as an object is that you can edit it in place with the original program controls. It's as easy as a double-click!

Icon: WarningNo program = No Edit: The program that you want to work with must be already installed on the computer!

Icon: WarningUndo: Using Undo while in Edit mode for an object will often take you back further than you meant - to before the object was inserted!

  1. Double-click the table on the Language slide. 
    The screen blinks and squiggles a few times and some important things change!
    • PowerPoint window with object open in Excel shows Excel's ribbon. (PowerPoint 2013)A window appears on top of the slide object, showing the spreadsheet with navigation buttons at the bottom of the window.
    • The ribbon changes to Excel's ribbon.


    These changes happen only if you have Microsoft Excel installed on the computer. 

    The editing window is too narrow to show the navigation controls well.

    Right Click Menu: Worksheet Object - Edit (PowerPoint 2013)Alternate method: Right click the table. From the context menu choose Worksheet Object and then Edit.

  2. Resize the editing window on the slide by dragging the handle in the middle of its right side further to the right.
    There is more room for the navigation controls at the bottom now. If you are editing with Excel 2013 or 2016, the editing window must be wider than with other versions for the sheet tabs to show.

    Wider Excel 'window' on slide Wider Excel 'window' on slide

    If you click on the slide outside the editing window, the window closes and you are back to your slide.

    Icon: WarningOdd effects:

    • Edit Mode window and slide underneath (PowerPoint 2013)Two copies? If you move or resize the editing window, you may see the placeholder underneath. Remember that Edit Mode opens a new window on top of the slide.
    • Stale data on slide? If you change something in the Edit Mode window, the slide underneath will not show the change until you leave Edit Mode.

    • Edit Mode window and slide underneath (PowerPoint 2013)Weird display: Dragging the placeholder larger while in Edit Mode may confuse the computer's display. You may see extra lines inside the editing window.
    • Off slide: Dragging the placeholder wider may also make it taller even if you used a handle in the middle of the side. It might fall off the bottom edge of the slide. This can put the navigation buttons out of reach.
      Use the Zoom slider in PowerPoint to reduce the size of the slide in the Slide Pane until you can see the Navigation bar.
    • Resize surprises: When switching back and forth between the slide and Edit Mode, the placeholder may resize unexpectedly, either surprisingly small or surprisingly large.
    • What you see is not what you get, quite: The size of the Edit window is NOT the size of the data on the slide.
  3. Scroll the Excel sheet up and down and also side to side using the button inside its window.
    There is more data at the bottom but not over to the side. 
  4. Navigation arrow at the bottom of the spreadsheetClick twice on the right arrow in the navigation bar at the bottom of the spreadsheet to see the third sheet tab.
    The spreadsheet is probably too narrow to read the full chart names.

  5. Languages slide showing sheet Chart - Non-English LanguagesClick on the last tab, Chart-Non-English Languages.
    The display changes to show the chart sheet. You need to resize and position this object!

    This chart shows the number of people in New Zealand who use the listed languages. English is not on the chart. It's column would be so tall that the others would be hard to see.

  6. Icon: Class flash driveSave.

    Icon: WarningYour chart may not look exactly like the illustrations on this page. It depends on exactly how wide you drag the Excel window.

Move and Resize Object

Moving an object around on the slide while still in Edit mode is tricky and often makes a mess. It is wiser to do the sizing and positioning outside of Edit mode for the object.

  1. The object window resizes and centers when you click out of the object.Click on the slide outside the spreadsheet object.
    Wow! The placeholder resizes and centers itself on the slide! That was a surprise! 
  2. Resized chart results in deformed text (PowerOPint 2013)Drag handles to resize the object to be about the size of the original placeholder.
    Whoops. The text deforms!
  3. Undo.
  4. Sheet chart resized (PowerPoint 2013)Resize the chart using the corner handles to as large as will fit.

    Your slide may not look quite like the illustration which has a wide screen slide size.

    Icon: Trouble Problem: Chart is more square than oblong
    Solution: Return to the editing window (Double-click the chart) and resize the window to a fairly large oblong. Then click out again. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't.

    The text is still far too small. It's time to start making changes.

  5. Icon: Class flash driveSave.

Edit Object

While your object (the spreadsheet) is in the editing window, you can make changes. Since you did not Link this object back to the original file, your changes don't affect the original at all. You are free to play!

When you are in Edit mode for the object, the ribbon changes to the ribbon for the original program. In this lesson that is Excel. Don't get confused when that ribbon looks different! The formatting choices are very similar to those in PowerPoint.

  1. Sheet chart in Edit Mode with Chart Title selected (PowerPoint 2013)Double-click the chart to return to Edit Mode for the object.
    The window for the sheet chart changes size and falls off the slide at the bottom.

    DO NOT try to resize the window at this time. The size on the slide is NOT the size in this window. Wait until you are finished editing to see if you really need to resize.   

  2. Click on the chart title, Non-English Languages in New Zealand,  to select it.
  3. Press the DELETE key.
    The Title text box vanishes.

    You can make the axes easier to read by changing the font and removing some of the numbers. 

  4. Dialog: Format Axis > Axis Options > major unit = 40000 (PowerPoint 2010)Right Click Menu: Format Axis (PowerPoint 2013)Right click on the number labels for the vertical axis.
    The Format Axis dialog or pane opens.
    There are many pages of options here but most are not that useful for this part of the chart.

  5. In Axis options, change the major unit to 40000.
  6. Click on Close or OK to apply this change.  
  7. Languages slide after formatting text sizes (PowerPoint 2013) On the Home ribbon tab while the axis labels are still selected, change the Font Size to 20.
    Now you can read the numbers!  
  8. Click on the language names across the bottom (the horizontal axis) change the Font Size to 20.

    Icon: TroubleProblem: Cannot see the language names across the bottom
    If you cannot click on the horizontal axis labels, you cannot change the font size! If you try to scroll to see them, you will probably slip over to the next slide. So frustrating!
    Status Bar: Zoom control (PowerPint 2013)Solution: Change the PowerPoint Zoom setting (bottom right of the PowerPoint window) to make the slide smaller in the Slide Pane.

  9. Click on a column in the chart.
    The whole series shows resize handles on the corners, which means that the columns are selected. 
  10. Chart Style = Intense, Orange, Accent 6, applied to columns  (PowerPoint 2013)On the Chart Tools: Format ribbon tab, open the palette of Shape Styles and select the bottom right effect, Intense Effect, Orange, Accent 6. 

  11. Button: Shape Fill = Aqua, Accent 5, Lighter 80%Click in the Plot Area to select it.
  12. On the Chart Tools: Format ribbon tab, click on the Shape Fill button to open the palette of colors.
  13. Click on the color Aqua, Accent 5, Lighter 80%.
    The area behind the columns changes color.

  14. Languages slide: Both axes, columns, and plot area formatted (PowerPoint 20213)Click outside the chart object to return to PowerPoint.
    If you are paying close attention, you may catch a glimpse of the old chart still on the slide before it update to match the changes you made.

    The chart area resizes so that the axes labels will show at the new font size. The text is still on the small side but at least there is a chance your audience can read the language names now!

    Did the width change when you went back to PowerPoint? This is common. It is SO confusing when what you see while editing is not quite what you see on the slide!!

  15. If necessary, resize the chart to the largest that will keep the text on the slide and leave some space below the slide title.

    Your chart may be proportioned differently depending on exactly what you did and in what order.

  16. Icon: Class flash driveSave.

Add Text Box and Format

The chart does not include the number of people who speak English. The column for English would be so tall that the other columns would be impossible to read! You can add that information in a text box, as a kind of subtitle for the slide.

  1. Text in text box formattedCreate Text Box: On the Insert ribbon tab, click the Text Box button Button: Text Box (PowerPoint 2010).
    When you move your mouse over the slide, the pointer changes to Pointer:Text box vertical bar with a small crossbar near the bottom.
  2. Click underneath the Title placeholder. A small text box appears with the cursor in it, ready for your typing.
  3. Enter Text:  Type: English Speakers = 3,973,359

    TipWith this method, the text box will be exactly wide enough to hold your text.
  4. Format the text:  
      Font Size = 20
      Color = Dark Green (in the Recent Colors. Same color as the slide title)

    The text box is probably not centered under the title, depending on exactly where you clicked to create it.

  5. Text Box aligned with Title placeholder  (PowerPoint 2013)Alignment: While the new text box is selected...
    • Hold the SHIFT key down and then...
    • Click on the Title placeholder and then click on the chart.
      All three objects are now selected together.
    • Button: Align > Center (PowerPoint 2010)On the Drawing Tools: Format ribbon tab, click the Align button and then click on Align Center.
      The Title placeholder, the text box, and the chart line up neatly with their centers over each other.
  6. Click onto a blank area of the slide to deselect the objects.
  7. Icon: Class flash driveSave.
  8. Play the Slide Show starting with this slide.
    Hmmm. The title and chart are animated, using the Slide Master settings, and appear after the slide transition. But the text box appears when the slide shows up. Perhaps you can fix this unhappy state in the next lesson.


Icon: QuestionIs the chart working well on this slide? What was the purpose for this presentation? Will this slide help accomplish that purpose?

The font size 20 is OK for viewing on a monitor. It may be too small to do much good on a projection screen in a large room.