Whether you’re a student, in business, or a software pro, there’s little doubt that you’ve heard of Google Slides. As presentation enthusiasts (to say the least), we at BrightCarbon have had plenty of opportunity to get to know the ins and outs of Google’s browser-based presentation tool.
However, while the name may ring a bell, we know that many of you won’t have had the time to delve deep into Google Slides’ functionality. But never fear! This guide will cover everything you need to know about Google Slides – from the very basics to the most advanced features – and will provide you with the know-how to make brilliant slides, quickly and easily.
How to use this guide
Whether you’re an experienced presentation creator or a total beginner, this is the ultimate guide for you! Work your way through the sections from start to finish if you’re a newbie, or navigate to a section that interests you most by clicking the links below. This is a really in-depth guide, so bookmark the link and add it to your favourites to come back to. If you want more hands-on help, we also offer paid live Google Slides training.
Here we cover the basics of using Google Slides, from creating a brand new presentation all the way to setting up the slide master.
Is Google Slides free?
Yes. Google Slides is free to use (along with other G Suite offerings such as Docs, Drive, Sheets and more) as long as you have a Google account – which is also free. This includes the web, mobile and desktop apps. Whilst companies using G Suite can upgrade to a paid version with more business functionality, for the individual user the free version offers all the tools they’re likely to need.
Creating a new Slides presentation: To use Google Slides you need to have a Google account. You can create one here.
From Google Drive, click New at the top of the left-hand dashboard, then choose Google Slides > Blank presentation. There’s also an option to build your Slides deck from a template – we’ll cover that later.
If you’re working from the Slides homepage, simply click the blank template with the plus sign beneath Start a new presentation in the top left of the main page.
Once open, you can rename your new Slides doc any time by clicking the Untitled Presentation box in the top left. So can your collaborators – we’ll introduce them properly later.
To add a new blank slide, right click the slide thumbnail and select New slide. To create a slide that is identical to an existing slide, right click the slide thumbnail in the left-hand panel and select Duplicate slide.
To remove a slide click on the slide thumbnail that you wish to delete, and hit the DELETE key on your keyboard, or right click and select Delete.
If there’s a slide you want to keep in your deck, but do not want to show when presenting, you can hide it. Right click the slide thumbnail and select Skip. The slide thumbnail will fade back. When you are in present mode this slide will now no longer show. To un-skip a slide, right click the thumbnail and click to remove the tick next to Skip.
Understanding the Menu bar
The menu bar covers all the key functionality you’ll need to get started building your presentation. You’re likely to have come across many of these options before in other software programs, so we’ll focus on some of the more Google Slides-specific functionality below.
The File tab has all the basics for sharing, editing and toggling settings.
The Share… button lets you share your presentation with others. To learn more about sharing and privacy settings, see Cloud working below.
Publish to the web lets you publish a non-editable version of your presentation that can be viewed via link, or embedded on a web page. This is a great feature if you want an audience to see your final, finished piece of work. Click Publish to the web, select either Link or Embed, and hit Publish.
The Edit tab includes some of the simplest – but most useful – tools you’ll use in Slides. Here you can find the expected Undo and Redo buttons, for taking edits a step forward or back, and options for Cut, Copy and Paste. A particularly handy tool is Find and replace…. If you have a word or phrase running throughout your presentation that needs changing, type it into the Find dialogue box and type your alternate into the Replace box. Then hit Replace to go through each instance individually, or Replace all for a blanket change across slides.
The View tab is used to change screen setup, open new windows and side panels, and toggle grids and guides on and off. You can also toggle guides by right clicking your slide and selecting Guides from the drop down menu.
Grid view shows youyour slides in grid formation so you can see an overview of your whole deck rather than looking at things one slide at a time. In Grid view, you can reorder slides by dragging and dropping them – a handy way of rearranging things in your deck. To toggle Grid view off, go back to the View tab and untick it. Alternatively, you can toggle between Grid view and Film strip view (the default view) by clicking the icons at the bottom of the sidebar on the left.
Guides lets you add guide lines to your presentation by clicking the Add vertical / horizontal guide buttons. Once you’ve added guides you can click and drag to rearrange them. By selecting Show guides or Clear guides you can toggle the guides on and off.
Here you will find tools to help you customise your slide text. Go to Text to see a range of ways you can adapt the look and feel of text. Here you can change the Size, Colour, Capitalisation and more. If you need to add references, you can use the Superscript and Subscript options.
Below Text is Align and indent. You can choose whether your text aligns to the left, right or center margins of the text box it sits in. You can also choose Justified for text paragraphs, spacing the text out evenly to fall flush with both margins.
Under Borders & lines you can create and edit a border for your text box, change its colour or increase/decrease its line thickness.
To remove all formatting changes to your text, click Clear formatting.
The Slide tab has more ways to add and remove slides from your deck. You can use it to apply a layout from your master by clicking Apply layout, or open the animation pane to select a new transition by clicking Change transition. Change background… opens up a new window where you can choose a colour or image fill for your slide. Once selected, you can choose to apply this background to a single slide, or click Add to theme and apply it to your master.
There’s a lot of easy-to-miss functionality hidden in the Tools tab.
The Spelling menu has standard tools such as Spell check. Personal dictionary lets you add words and phrases that wouldn’t show up in a standard dictionary. This way, these words don’t get flagged as misspelled. This would be useful for a company name, for example.
You can find the standard Dictionary feature in the Tools tab, too.
Unlike the Tools tab in Google Docs, Google Slides unfortunately doesn’t have an option for viewing word count. A way to see the word count for your presentation is to click File > Download as > Microsoft PowerPoint (.pptx) or Plain Text (.txt), or copy and paste the text from your presentation into a Google Docs file.
From the Tools tab you can also open up the Preferences window. Here you can toggle some standard Slides features on or off, such as Automatically detect links, or Automatically capitalize words. This would be useful if you have a particular style you need to adhere to, for example, all lowercase.
There’s a lot to cover here, so see below for more on using Add-ons in Google Slides.
Understanding the toolbar
The toolbar is home to all the helpful tools you need to create a dazzling presentation. We’ll guide you through some of Slides’ more unique tools, so you’re ready to get stuck in with confidence.
Paint format: This handy tool allows you to copy and paste the formatting of one object and apply it to another. Select a shape and click the Paint format tool. Then select another shape and watch the formatting of the first shape (fill colour, line colour, line width) be applied.
Zoom: Google Slides’ zoom functionality is somewhat limited. Selecting the Zoom button in the toolbar only allows you to zoom to 50, 100 or 200 percent. One way to more accurately adjust your zoom increments is to use the keyboard shortcuts CTRL+ALT++ and CTRL+ALT+-.
Bullet points: Whilst we don’t recommend presenting bullet-point and text-heavy content, the bullet tool is quite easy to miss in Slides, so we thought we’d call it out here for those of you wondering how to add bullet points to your presentations! The Bulleted list drop down sits towards the end of the toolbar. Simply highlight your text, select the drop down and choose the type of bullet you wish to use. Next to the Bulleted list is the Numbered list, which you can use if you want to use numbers and letters to organise your text points instead.
Using the master
The slide master controls the look and feel of your deck. Use it to set custom layouts, backgrounds, colour schemes and fonts for all your slides. It’s best to set up the master at the very start of your project to create a consistent set of slides. Be mindful if you edit the master after having created slides. Changes in the master will retroactively affect the slides you’ve already built, so be sure to check through the whole deck afterwards!
Master layout: To launch the master editor go to the View tab in the menu bar and click Master. Down the left hand side you will see a number of layouts. At the top is the master layout. This is like the control center for the rest of your deck: any changes you make to this layout will be applied to all other layouts in the master, and all slides within your presentation, too.
Slide layouts: If you want to make specific types of slide, like the title slide or agenda slide, you’ll want to edit the different slide layouts which sit below the master layout.You can make small tweaks, like adjusting background colours or adding images, or larger adjustments, like repositioning text boxes. Unlike with the slide master, these changes will not be applied to all slides; only slides which use that specific layout will be affected.
To edit a layout, first locate it down the left hand side of the master view. You can also create a new one by right clicking on any layout and choosing New layout. Once you have the right layout selected, you can begin editing it like any other slide. Add, move, alter or even delete objects to achieve your desired layout style. Right click the layout thumbnail in the left hand panel and select Rename layout. A new window will appear where you can give the layout a more specific name, like ‘Agenda slide’.
When you are done editing your layouts, have a thorough check over your deck. Once checked, you can exit the master by clicking X in the right hand corner. All changes will be automatically saved.
To apply a particular layout to a slide, right click the slide thumbnail in the left hand panel and click Apply layout. This will bring up all the layout options from the slide master for you to choose from. Need a bit more info? Check out our article on editing the Google Slides master and layouts.
Using and creating themes
Themes are pre-made slide layouts that you can apply to your presentation. Google Slides comes with a number of preset themes that you can use straight out of the box, or customise via the master layouts for a more personalised look and feel.
You can also create your own, personalised theme. To do this, open up a blank presentation and make the necessary edits to the master slide and layouts, as explained above. You can then save your presentation as a blank template, to be duplicated and reused time and time again.
Choosing a theme: When you create a new Slides deck (by clicking +New and then Google Slides from your Google Drive homepage) you will be presented with a range of themes when your presentation first opens. If this doesn’t happen, go to the Slide tab in the menu bar and select Change theme. You can click on any theme in the panel to preview it. Once chosen, simply close the panel by clicking the X in the right hand corner. To customize the theme, open the slide master and follow the steps as explained above.
To learn how to share this template with your company – check out this blog post. Users can then find the template by going to New > Google Slides > From a template and selecting the correct template when creating a new Google document.
Changing the theme: If you are working from an existing Slides document and want to change the theme, go to the Slide tab in the menu bar and select Change theme to preview Google Slides’ preset options. If you choose a new theme, it will be applied to all of your existing slides, so check through all your slides once the change has been applied to ensure it looks how you want it to.
Changing and customising theme colours: At the time of publishing, it is not possible to create a set of custom colours that appear in the colour palette for your theme. One (slightly inconvenient) work-around would be to create a PowerPoint file with a custom colour palette and import this into Slides by uploading and converting your PowerPoint file to a Google Slides file. You could then build your theme around the imported custom palette, or save the file so you can use it again and again by making copies.
Importing a theme from PowerPoint: You can import a theme from a different presentation into Slides. This is extremely handy if you have a PowerPoint theme that you would like to apply to your Slides deck. Go to the Slide tab in the menu bar and select Change theme…. At the bottom of the theme panel that should open up, select Import theme. In the new window, navigate to the upload tab and click Select a file from your computer. Once you have located the right PowerPoint file, Google Slides will extract the theme. Click OK and it will be applied directly to your slides.
Changing slide size: Google Slides defaults to the standard widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. This works for most modern laptop, TV and projector screens, but if you want something different – for example, you want to switch from landscape to portrait – there’s an easy way to toggle between set slide dimensions or create a custom size.
Go to Page setup in the File tab. Use the drop down to choose a standard size (Standard 4:3, Widescreen 16:9, Widescreen 16:10) or choose Custom to input your own dimensions. Once chosen, click OK.
If you do choose to use a custom size for your deck, make sure you do so with good reason. The standard 16:9 aspect ratio is widely used because it fits perfectly on most widescreen screens and projectors. A custom size may not work as well, and can make inserting slides from other decks quite tricky! Learn more about how to change slide size in Google Slides.
Using the Explore tool
A good presentation needs many things – a good story, strong visuals, polished slides, and of course supporting information to fill in your presentation outline. Typically, all these things won’t be accessed from the same place. When you’re facing this challenge, the Google Slides Explore tool can help.
If you use Google Drive, you may have a lot of great images and text for your presentation saved there that you want to include. However most presentations will need multiple sources, and often what you have on your Drive won’t be enough on its own. The internet is a great resource for information, images, and more, but at times it’s hard to know where to look. When searching for information on the internet, most of us turn to the simplest research method there is, which is using Google Search. Google Search often serves as our first point of contact with this vast information network.
If you’re using Google Slides to create your presentation, there’s an easy way to access all that great content from both Drive and the internet to help you fill in the outline of your presentation, without opening a new tab – the Explore tool.
Explore allows you to do all kinds of useful things without leaving your Slides window, and helps keep you from having to jump between tabs when searching the web or looking for content you have on drive. The Explore tool also helps you to easily include layouts or add content from the web or your Drive.
Opening the Explore panel
Accessing the Explore tool is simple. All you need to do is look to the bottom right of the screen in Google Slides and locate the Explore button. After you’ve located, simply click – this will open the Explore panel sidebar.
Using the Explore tool for layouts
After the Explore panel is opened, the first thing you should notice on the right-hand side of your screen is a column with a number of suggestions for slide layouts. These layouts can help you quickly and easily create more interesting presentations. Simply click on a blank slide, and select one of the layouts in the Explore panel. The blank slide will immediately adopt the layout you have selected.
While choosing a new layout when your slides are blank may give you more flexibility, you aren’t limited to only making layout changes before you add text to your slides. The suggested layouts are in fact auto created based on what is present on your slide. If you type text on a blank slide, the suggested layouts will update automatically to reflect more appropriate options for the amount of text you have included. Once you add text to a slide, this text will be kept when a new layout is applied.
Once you’ve selected a layout, any new slides you add will follow that same layout, helping you keep your presentation consistent. However, you can also select a different layout for certain slides within your presentation, if you need to differentiate one presentation into multiple layouts.
Suggested layouts don’t only change when you update text. If you insert an image, graph, chart, or gif, the layouts will also update to offer you more appropriate layout options for the specific type of visual you have included. For example, to insert an image, select Insert, hover over Image, and choose one of the options provided to either upload an image from your computer, the web, drive, or another location. After you have inserted your image, you will see the layout suggestions in the Explore panel update in real time.
Adding information from other documents or web sources
The Explore tool can do more than just create layouts – it is also especially useful for searching the web. The Explore tool helps you quickly and easily locate something online without opening a new tab on your web browser or exiting your presentation. This means you can search for a document, presentation, image, chart, or webpage. All you need to do is click the Explore button, type in a search term in the search bar, and your results will appear.
After searching for something, your search results will show in categories. There are four categories which may appear, which are Cloud search, Web, Images, and Drive.
Cloud search allows you to search through Google Drive, Gmail, and more. To filter by type, click Filter. It is possible your administrator may have turned off this option, in which case it may not appear and you’ll need to search in Google Drive instead.
Web helps you locate information from the web related to your presentation.
Images of course helps you find images from the web related to your presentation.
Finally, Drive searches through Documents saved in your Google Drive.
This might all seem a bit confusing, as there are a lot of different ways to search online using Explore. Let’s look at the Explore tool in action.
Let’s say you are giving a presentation on marine mammals, and you need to locate pictures of seals. The Explore tool can help you leverage Google image search without opening a new tab on your web browser. Simply click on the Explore button, type ‘seal’ in the search bar, and click enter on your keyboard. Now, click images from the three options just below the search bar. Many different images for ‘seal’ will appear – mostly of the mammal we are looking for, as well as maybe even one or two images for a very famous singer by the same name! (Ok Google, play ‘Kiss from a Rose’).
To preview any images at a larger size, just click on them. If you decide you are happy with the image, simply click the blue insert button at the top of the preview window. If you’ve located an image you want to add to your presentation from the Explore panel and don’t need to preview it, all you need to do is click the + that appears on the top right corner of the image when you hover over it. The image will be added to the slide you have selected, with a link to the original source page attached.
Reminder: consider usage rights when selecting an image. Be sure to consult guidelines on fair use and licensing when searching for images online. Site owners often use licenses to indicate if and how others can reuse content on their sites. The license details should provide guidance on whether or not an image can be used for your intended context, and whether to include appropriate attribution for the image if necessary.
Once you’ve selected your images, you can use Explore to place them in layouts by exiting the Explore panel, selecting one of the slides you have just added an image to, and clicking the Explore button again. You’ll see suggestions for layouts, as we covered previously.
You’re not just limited to searching for images. Let’s say you’re unsure if a whale is a marine mammal or not, and you need to find out for your presentation. To find an answer to your question, all you need to do is select Explore and type a question like ‘is a whale a mammal?’
You’ll see search results related to your question that are generated by Google search, with relevant internet resources and short text excerpts from each. This way you can easily answer your question. If you want to find out more, simply click on one of the links and a new tab opens in your browser taking you to that webpage. If you need to see more results, simply scroll down to the bottom of the Explore tab and select ‘See all results on Google.’
You can easily search for any supporting information that you need to fill in your presentation outline using this feature. To locate files in Drive, simply search in the Explore tab using the process we’ve outlined above – it’s the same as a Google Search in the Explore tab, except you select the Drive option instead.
How to add an add-on to Slides: Add-ons are independent apps you can add to Google Slides to increase its capabilities. You can find the full range of add-ons by clicking the Add-ons tab in the toolbar and choosing Get add-ons….This opens a new window with some featured add-ons, and a search bar to look for something specific.
Once you’ve found one to try, select it and click the + button in the top right corner. You may then be asked to verify your login details and allow permission settings. Once you’ve clicked Allow, the add-on will be added to Slides. You can find all of your downloaded add-ons in the Add-ons tab.
To insert a text box, click the Text box button in the toolbar or Insert > text box from the menu bar. Then, drop the text box onto your slide by clicking with your cursor. You can now begin typing. We’ve put together a list of the 10 best fonts to use in Google Slides.
The majority of text editing tools can be found in the toolbar. Here you can change the font, colour and size of your text, add bullet points or change its alignment.
Slides has a handful of more advanced tools for text formatting. Access them by selecting the object or text box you want to format, and clicking Format options to the far right of the toolbar. This opens up a number of different options, including Size & Position and Text fitting.
Size & Position: The Size options allow you to resize objects more precisely. You can adjust the Width and Height of text by typing directly into the provided input fields. If you want to resize your object without it being warped or stretched, check the Lock aspect ratios box.
The alignment tools will suffice for most users, but – if you need more precision – the Position tools provide a more accurate way of positioning an object or text box on the slide. The Rotate tool allows pinpoint accuracy when rotating an object by enabling you to enter a specific degree.
Text fitting:Text fitting tools give you more control over text that sits within a shape. The Indentation tool lets you fine-tune lines of text without having to alter the shape they sit within. You can play around with this by typing in the size of your desired indentation, in inches, into the provided input fields. Within the Indentation menu there are some further options. Click the drop-down labelled Special and select one of the following:
None: Select for text to follow the default indentation parameters
First line: Select to adjust the indentations on the first line of a paragraph only
Hanging: Select to adjust the indentation for all lines of text except the first one
Where indentation allows you to fine-tune specific lines of text, Padding is used to adjust all of your text and how it sits within its text box. By adjusting the four Padding values (top, bottom, left and right) you can control the margins of your text box. For example, if you wanted to perfectly left-align an object with some text, you can set the left-hand margin to 0!
At the time of publishing, there is no way to fully wrap text around an image or shape in Google Slides – these tools are your best options! Read more text formatting tips!
To insert a table onto your slide, go to the Insert tab in the menu bar and hover over Table. In the drop down menu you are given the option to select how many columns and rows you want, for example 2 x 5. Once selected, your table will appear on your slide.
You can now move it around your slide, or make it bigger or smaller, in the same way that you would with any slide object. To begin adding information into your table, simply hover your cursor over one of the boxes and click once. You can now begin typing.
The table tool is a great way to add text columns to slides, as there is currently no inbuilt functionality to do this. You can make your table invisible, so that only the text within the cells shows, by selecting the individual lines within the table and clicking the Border colour tool in the toolbar, and selecting Transparent.
Adding fonts to Slides
At the time of publishing, Google Slides does not support custom fonts. You cannot import them, and there are currently no add-ons for custom fonts in the add-ons store. However, there is a way to add a few new fonts to your existing Slides font library. In the toolbar, click the font drop down and select More fonts…. This opens up a new dialog box with a selection of Google fonts that you can add to the default list. Click on a font to install it. Installed fonts will turn blue, with a blue tick. To remove a font, simply click on it again and the blue tick will disappear. Once you are happy with the fonts you have added, click OK.
It’s worth noting here that there is a handy add-on for Google Docs called Extensis fonts that provides access to a library of over 1000 fonts. Here’s hoping it becomes available for Slides soon!
To insert an image, click the Image button in the toolbar, or go to Insert > Image from the menu bar to Upload from computer, Drive, Google photos or even directly from your Camera. If you have a web link for a specific image, select By URL and paste the link into the dialogue box.
Slides even has an in-built Google Image Search feature. Simply select Image > Search the web.
Images typically need to be under 2MB and in JPEG, GIF or PNG format to upload correctly.
To insert a shape, click the Shape button in the toolbar, or Insert > Shape from the menu bar. Select the shape you want to use, then either:
Click on your slide to insert a perfectly proportioned shape at a default size
Click and drag whilst holding down the SHIFT key (if you want to retain proportions) and drag your shape to an appropriate size
Adjusting the size of Slide objects: Whether you’re working with an image, shape or text box, there are some simple but effective ways you can edit them to achieve a more custom look and feel.
To adjust the dimensions of an object, click it to make adjustment nodes appear. Click and drag any one of these nodes to alter your object. If you want to make your object bigger or smaller whilst maintaining its proportions, hold down the SHIFT key whilst dragging the nodes.
Grouping and ungrouping objects: If you have objects on your slide that intersect with one another – like a text box layered on top of a shape, or a complex bar chart – you may wish to group them so that they stay together when moved or resized.
First, select the objects you want to group together (it can be as many as you like). Then right click the objects and select Group, or use keyboard shortcut CTRL + ALT + G or CMD + ALT + G (Mac).
Now, when you select one object, all other grouped objects will be selected too.
To ungroup your objects, select the group and right click > Ungroup, or use keyboard shortcut CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + G or CMD + ALT + SHIFT + G (Mac).
Note: you can only group elements that are on the same slide as one another, though it is possible to group shapes even if they are outside the bounds of your slide template.
Grouping objects can be helpful if you want to format multiple shapes or text in the same way at once. For example, if you need to change the font style, colour and size of all of your slide text, you can group the textboxes together and edit them using the ribbon as normal. These changes will apply to all elements selected.
Cropping images: If you only want to show a specific part of an image, right click and select Crop image. Alternatively, you can double click the image to bring up the cropping options. Now pull the black handles to reveal the mask that will hide parts of the image that you don’t want to see. This tool can be a little fiddly, and if you accidentally select one of the image nodes instead of a black handle, you could wind up distorting your image instead of cropping it. If this does happen, just hit the Undo button in the toolbar and try again!
Using the alignment tools: To ensure that your slides are slick and professional, you need to tap into Google Slides’ alignment tools. To show you how to make the most of these tools, we’ll show you how you could use them to format an agenda slide.
Select all four agenda points and click the Align drop down in the Arrange tab. Here you will see a range of alignment options. Click Left, so that all points line up along the left hand side.
Next, with all four points still selected, click the Arrange tab again, but this time choose Distribute and then Vertically. This spaces all of your points evenly between the top and bottom point.
Now you have a perfectly aligned and distributed agenda slide!
Another handy tool here is Center on page, again in the Arrange tab. Choosing either Horizontally or Vertically positions your selected object in the centre or middle of the slide.
Adding and editing GIFs: Google Slides is very GIF friendly, and you can insert and edit animated GIFs in the same way as static images. If you edit a GIF (by cropping or resizing, for example) it will still work, playing in both present mode and on your slide as you edit! See more cool stuff on Google Slides and GIFs.
Advanced: making attractive slides
It’s all well and good knowing how to add images and shapes to Google Slides, but we want to show you how to use them more effectively to help tell your story better, too. At BrightCarbon, we strongly believe that text-heavy slides won’t help you achieve much besides sending your audience straight to sleep. When audiences are forced to read slides like this, they naturally tune out everything that the presenter is saying because it’s impossible to read and listen at the same time! So instead of presenting distracting slides like this, try toning down the text and introducing more visuals. People respond much better to interesting visuals, and what’s more, are much more likely to listen to what you, the presenter, is trying to say.
So, here are our four simple tips for using more visuals to not only make your slides look more attractive, but to increase audience engagement and help get your message across!
Use charts, processes and timelines to relay information: Charts and timelines are an excellent way to show information visually, and help audiences see the result or trend straight away. What’s more, they are an easy visual for anybody to create. We talked a bit about how to use charts earlier, so here’s an example of a simple but effective timeline, using nothing but Google Slides shapes. Looks better than a list of bullet points, right?
Use visual metaphors to help tell stories: Combining simple but striking visuals with a little bit of text can be a great way to get your audience thinking. This kind of simple imagery is great for segue slides or section headers – to change the tone before heading into a new section.
Replace bullet points with simple iconography:
Consider removing large chunks of text and replacing them with simple icons that speak to the larger themes of your slide. Icons are much more visually interesting – and less daunting – than long blocks of text!
Use high quality photography- not stock photo clichés:
Don’t underestimate the power of photography. The image choice you make will have an impact on how your brand is perceived. The right photography can create a positive atmosphere and sense of finesse around you and your presentation; cheesy stock images will have the opposite effect! Aim to use high quality imagery from free imagery websites like unsplash.com, rather than pulling straight from Google Images, where the majority of content is copyright protected.
This image uses unrealistic and cheesy imagery that the audience may struggle to relate too. They may, as a result, not take you or your brand seriously. There’s also a lot of text on the slide, which the audience will read instead of listening to what you are saying.
This image, on the other hand, shows a more realistic depiction of events that audiences may be able to better relate to. Using high quality, modern-looking stock-photography also helps to paint your brand and your presentation in a better light. Reduced text means your audience can focus instead on the imagery and on listening to what you are saying.
When it comes to graphs and charts, Google Slides doesn’t have the largest library to choose from, but it does cover the basics and is incredibly easy to use, customise and update. There are four different types of built-in charts you can create: Bar, Column, Line and Pie. Each chart works in a similar way, so here we will just demonstrate a simple pie chart.
Adding data to your chart: Go to the Insert tab in the menu bar, click Chart and then Pie. A basic pie chart will appear on your slide. To edit the data in your pie chart, select the chart and click the small drop down arrow in the right hand corner that looks like a ‘v’. Then click Open source.
This opens a new Sheets doc where you can start to edit the data for your pie chart. Once you have added all of your data, close the Sheets doc and click the UPDATE button that will have appeared next to your pie chart. The pie chart will now adjust to reflect your data.
Customising the look and feel of your chart: You can recolour the individual segments of your pie chart by clicking the small drop down arrow in the right hand corner that looks like a ‘v’. Then click Open source to open up the data in Google Sheets.
In Sheets, double click any segment of your chart to open up the Chart editor. Here, beneath Series, click the Colour drop down to choose a colour for the segment. Repeat on each segment until your pie chart is the desired colours. Once done, close the Sheets doc and click the UPDATE button. The new colour scheme will now be applied.
If you’re looking for an easier way to recolour your pie chart, Slides has a few custom options you can use. Select the chart and click Format options… on the toolbar. Beneath Recolor, click the No Recolor drop down and choose from one of the many colour options. Click one to automatically recolour your chart.
Inserting a GIF: Adding an animated GIF to a slide works in exactly the same way as adding an image. In the menu bar go to Insert > Image > Upload from computer, then select the GIF from your computer. The GIF will appear on your slide and begin looping. You can edit it in the same way you would edit a static image such as a JPEG.
Inserting a video: Go to the Insert tab in themenu bar and select Video… to open up the Insert video window. At the top of the window you will see three tabs; Search, By URL and Google Drive. These are the three places you can get videos from.
The Search tab shows a search bar and the YouTube logo. Type into the search bar to search for any video on YouTube. As with any media you use in your presentations – make sure you have the rights to use the video you choose. Click on the video you want to use and then hit Select. The video will now appear on your slide. You can move it around or resize it like any other Slides object. To watch the video, click the play button in the centre of the video. This works in both normal and present mode.
The By URL tab is handy if you already have a link to a video you wish to use. Paste your link into the box labelled Paste YouTube URL here. Once entered, hit Select and the video will appear on your slide.
If you have a local copy of the video you want to show, in MP4 format for example, you can upload it to Drive and then use the Google Drive tab to search and locate it. Once you have found your video, hit Select and it will be added to your slide.
If you need to set a specific start and end time for your video (so that it only plays a chosen section of the content) here’s how to do it. Once your video has been added to your slide, right click it and select Format options. In the new window that appears to the right, click the Video playback drop down. From there you can input the desired start and end times by typing into the boxes. Once completed, the video will start and end at the chosen times whenever it is played, in both Present mode and normal view.
Inserting audio: Google Slides doesn’t support audio files (at the time of publishing), but there is a simple work-around. As we already know, Google Slides supports video clips, so the first thing you need to do is convert your audio file to a video file, which you can do by using free downloadable tools such as Audacity. If you want to use a popular song or soundtrack, it’s probably worth checking if it’s on YouTube first, so that you can skip this step. Once you’ve converted your audio file to video, or located a video on YouTube, use the steps in the Inserting video section above to add it to your slide.
Next, we need to turn on autoplay, so that the video clip begins playing as soon as you land on the slide in present mode. Right click the video and select Format options. Here, under Video playback, check the box next to Autoplay when presenting. You can now close this window by clicking the x in the right hand corner.
Finally, we need to mask the video to make it invisible, so that your audience will hear the audio but will not be able to see the content. Resize the video and make it much smaller. Select the video and click and drag one of the corner nodes to do this. Next, add a rectangle by clicking the Shape icon on the toolbar and selecting Rectangle from the drop down. Click and drag on your slide to add the rectangle. Reposition it over the top of your video file and make sure that the rectangle is big enough to cover it. Now, with your rectangle selected, click the Border colour icon on the toolbar and select Transparent.
The only thing left to do is change the colour of the rectangle so that it matches the background of your Slide. With the rectangle still selected, click the Fill Colour drop down and select the same colour as your Slide background. If your background is a photograph, move the video behind the photograph by right clicking it and choosing Send to back. Your video should now be completely invisible, hidden behind the rectangle. When you present your deck in Present mode, the video will be nowhere to be seen, but your audio will automatically play loud and clear!
Transitions: Google Slides has a number of transitions to help you segue from one slide to the next. Go to Transition… in the toolbar to open up the transition and animation panel. In this panel, click the No transition drop down to see the different options.
Whilst it’s tempting to use a number of different transitions to jazz up your deck, we advise keeping things simple, so as not to distract from your story. Typically, we like to use Dissolve (which gives a subtle fade effect)for most slides in the deck, as this is a good way to transition between slides without distracting the audience. At the end of each section, we like to use Fade (fade to black) to accentuate the break between sections in a more obvious way.
If you want to apply one transition to all slides, click Apply to all slides below the transition drop down.
Animation: To access the animation pane, either click Transition… in the toolbar, or go to the Insert drop down in the menu bar and select Animation. Here you can view all the animated objects in your presentation, and access the range of animation options that Google Slides has to offer. You’ll see that there aren’t as many options as some other presentation software, but the essentials are there.
To animate an object, first select it. Then, click Select an object to animate in the Animation pane. Using the animation drop down (which usually defaults to Fade in before an animation has been selected) you can choose from a variety of animation options. Options such as Fly in and Fade in make your objects appear on the slide. Conversely, Fly out and Fade out make objects that are already on your slide disappear.
You can also choose when your animation will begin with the Start condition drop down. Choose between On click (animation starts when you click with mouse or keyboard), After previous (animation starts after the previous animation) or With previous (animation starts with the previous animation, or directly after the previous slide has ended).
Slides makes it easy to animate paragraphs of text individually, by checking the By paragraph checkbox when creating your animation.
Adjust the Duration slider to set the time it takes for your animation to complete.
Advanced: Linking and hyperlinking
As a web-based program, Slides makes great use of hyperlinks, so you can easily navigate between Slides, web-pages and other documents as you present.
Hyperlinking text and objects
Long, complicated URLs can make slides look messy. If you want to provide a link to an external website in your presentation whilst keeping your slide looking slick and professional, you need to know how to hyperlink text!
Highlight the text that you want to turn into a hyperlink – one or two words is best. Right click the text and scroll down to Link… This will bring up a new dialog box, in which you can paste the link of your chosen website. Click Apply, and you’re done!
Now, whenever you click that link (even in present mode) a new browser page will launch, directing you to the web page. You don’t have to link to just web pages, you can link to other Google Docs and Sheets too. This same method of linking works on shapes, images and any other kind of Slides object.
Linking to a slide within your presentation
You may want to be able to link between different sections of a presentation, or easily navigate back to an agenda slide. To do this, highlight the text or select the object that you want to act as the hyperlink, right click it and scroll down to Link…. In the dialog box, you should see a drop down next to the Link box with a button that says Slides in this presentation. Click this to reveal a choice of Slides in your deck. Select the one you wish to hyperlink to and hit Apply.
Linking to a slide in a different presentation
It may also be necessary to link to a particular slide in a different presentation. To do this, first open the deck that you want to link to, and click on the slide you want it to open on. Whilst on that particular slide, copy the hyperlink from the browser bar.
Now, in the deck you want to link from, right click the text or object that will act as the hyperlink, scroll down to Link…, and in the dialogue box paste the hyperlink next to where it says Link. Click Apply. Now when you click your hyperlinked text or object, a new browser window will launch your presentation, on the exact slide you want!
Getting the most out of cloud and collaboration features
Google Slides has an unparalleled range of collaboration features. Slides has been purpose built for collaborating in real-time, offering a number of different ways for interacting with colleagues or friends. No more version control problems, emailing files back and forth, or being pushed to download anything. Here’s how you can make the most of these features:
Sharing a presentation: Sharing means granting someone access to view, edit or comment on your presentation. Handy if you are collaborating on a project, would like a second opinion on your own work, or need multiple team members to work in the same document at the same time. Google’s sharing settings allow you to set restrictions, so you are always fully in control of the document you share.
To Share a Slides presentation, head to the File tab and select the Share… button. Alternatively, click the blue SHARE button in the top right of your screen. This will open a new window where you can input the email addresses of the people you want to share with. To the right of the window you will see a button with a pen icon. Using this drop down lets you toggle whether recipients will be able to edit, comment, or simply view your presentation.
Advanced sharing settings: Advanced sharing settings are found in the sharing window mentioned above – click the Advanced button in the bottom right corner for access. Below Who has access you can see the sharing status of your presentation. This may be set to Private, meaning only you have access, Shared with specific people, or set so that Anyone with a link can view. Please note that setting your presentation so that Anyone with a link can view means that it is no longer private. Anybody with that link can access your presentation.
Working with multiple users: So, you’ve shared your presentation with a few people and given them edit privileges. How does this kind of collaboration work in practice? Here are a few handy pointers to get your collaborative efforts off to a flying start.
There’s only one document
Sharing your presentation document with somebody else doesn’t mean you’ve shared a separate version of it. There is only one master version, and any edits you make will be made at your collaborators’ end, too. This is great for real-time collaboration, especially if you have a deadline or need something to be reviewed as you work on it. You can revert your document back to Private at any time in the Sharing settings, or make a copy by going to File > Make a copy.
Working together is easy
Google have tried to make working with multiple collaborators as simple as possible. You can see which collaborators are in the presentation in the top right panel. Collaborators will appear as colourful circles with initials, or profile pictures if the user has one. You can hover over the circles to reveal the full details of the collaborator.
You can even see what your co-workers are editing. Whether they are typing, drawing a shape or adding an image, you can see them do this in real-time, and they can see you as well. This visibility over other people’s work means you can ensure everybody is on the same page, and complete work faster.
Using Comments: If you and your co-workers aren’t editing a presentation at exactly the same time, you may want to leave notes for them to pick up on later. To leave a comment, click the Add comment button in the toolbar, or go to the Insert tab in the menu bar and choose Comment. A box will appear next to your slide where you can begin typing. To assign an action to a specific person, type the @ symbol and then type their email address. An option will appear for you to Assign to that person. When you @somebody in a comment, they will receive an email notification, so you can be sure they won’t accidentally miss it.
Using the chat feature: If you need to chat with collaborators in real-time, Slides has a built in chat feature, too. To use it at least one other collaborator must be in the presentation at the same time as you. To Show chat, click the grey person icon in the top right, next to the profile icon of the person you want to chat with. This will open up a separate window where you can type to chat. Close the chat window by clicking the same button used to open it.
Email multiple collaborators
One final collaboration feature worth mentioning here is emailing collaborators from Slides. This is handy if you want to send a message to all collaborators. In the File tab click Email collaborators…. Here you can write a message to be emailed to as many or as few collaborators as you want. Simply check the names of the people you want to send the message to in the right hand column and click Send.
Using Google Slides doesn’t have to require an internet connection. If you use Google Chrome as your browser, you can use Slides offline. This is particularly handy if you want to make changes to a Slides deck on-the-go, or you are due to present in a space without an internet connection.
Setting up Google Slides for offline use: Firstly, make sure that you are connected to the internet and using the Google Chrome browser. In Google Drive, click the icon shaped like a gear in the top right, and select Settings. Under General, make sure that the Offline checkbox is ticked and click DONE. You may see a notification box appear in the bottom left of your screen that says Setting up offline.
Next, navigate to the Slides homepage and click the main menu button (represented by an icon with three horizontal lines) in the top left hand corner. Go to Settings and make sure that the Offline button is toggled on (to the right). You can now disconnect from the internet and begin working offline!
Google Drive should still load as normal via Chrome browser. You can open up a presentation and begin making changes. Next to the title of your presentation you should see a small lightning bolt icon. This indicates that you are now working offline. You can make changes and even present your deck as you normally would when working online. When you are done making changes, close your presentation as normal.
Syncing offline work when you reconnect to the internet: Changes made to an offline presentation will automatically sync when you go back online and open up that file in Google Drive. It’s worth noting that, if a collaborator made changes to the online document whilst you were working on it offline, both sets of changes will sync up in the same file. If this happens and you are unhappy with conflicting changes, use the Version history functionality to revert back to an earlier version.
Saving your work
Saving your work: If you are using the online version of Slides, this means your presentation is constantly being updated and saved as you work. This is why Slides’ online version doesn’t have a save button. Saving automatically, means you don’t have to worry about losing unsaved work if your computer crashes or you accidentally close your browser window.
Duplicating your work: There are two easy ways to make a copy of a presentation. From Google Drive, you can simply right click on any presentation, and choose Make copy from the drop down menu. Alternatively, whilst in a presentation, go to File > Make a copy….
Version control: If you’re used to working with desktop presentation software, you may be in the habit of emailing different versions of a presentation back and forth. This can get confusing, especially when it comes to consolidating changes across versions.
With Google Slides this isn’t an issue, because everybody is working from one single document. If you make a change it will be visible to anyone with access to the document. This is very handy, but what happens when you want to revert to an earlier version?
Version history: Slides makes it easy for you to see all previous iterations of your deck and revert back to an earlier version if necessary. At the end of the menu bar, after the Help tab you should see a line of clickable text saying All changes saved in Drive. It may say something slightly different, like Last edit made 2 days ago, or simply Saving…. Click this text to open up the version history window, where you can view all past edit rounds going back to when the presentation document was first created.
Click on the different dates to see a preview of how the document looked at the time. If you are just looking for a particular slide, line of text or image that was deleted, you can simply copy it from the earlier version, close the Version History window and paste it into to the latest version.
If you want to completely revert your document back to an earlier state, click RESTORE THIS VERSION in the top left. If you choose to do this, bear in mind that your current version will be completely overwritten by the version you are restoring.
Naming versions: If there are multiple collaborators working in your deck, the Version History window can sometimes be difficult to keep track of, especially if there are multiple iterations in the same day. To better track the different iterations that you work on, you can easily name different versions. To do this, in the Version History window, double click the date of the version you want to name. This opens up a dialog box in which you can type a new name, like ‘2018 stats only’, for example.
Advanced: Converting to and from Google Slides
Google Slides has tried to make it easy to convert to and from other presentation software. Here we’ll cover the basics of how to convert using some popular programs. Keep in mind that different presentation software has different features, so certain slide elements like animations or colour palettes may not convert perfectly. When converting any file type always have a thorough check through your slides for any errors before presenting!
Converting to/from Microsoft PowerPoint: Converting to and from PowerPoint is very straightforward with Slides however complications are very common. It’s worth noting that the animation functionality in particular is very different in both programs, so it’s likely that some animations may be lost in the conversion process. This is definitely something worth checking before presenting!
To download your Slides document as a PowerPoint file, simply click File in the menu bar and hover over Download as…. In the drop down menu, select Microsoft PowerPoint (.pptx).
Converting from PowerPoint to Slides isn’t much trickier though, again, glitches are common. From your Google Drive homepage click the + New button and select File upload, then choose the PowerPoint file to upload from your computer. Once your file has been uploaded, locate it in Drive and right click. Select Open with… and choose Google Slides.
If you want to insert PowerPoint Slides into an existing Google Slides deck, click File > Import Slides… and then choose a file you have already uploaded to Drive, or upload a new one from your computer. Once uploaded, you will then be given the option to choose which specific PowerPoint slides you want to import into your Google Slides deck.
Converting to/from Apple Keynote: Converting Slides to Keynote and vice versa is slightly trickier as it involves the additional step of converting to PowerPoint, as there is no way to convert directly between Slides and Keynote.
To convert from Slides to Keynote, click on the File tab in the menu bar and select Download as… then Microsoft PowerPoint (.pptx), and save your presentation. In Keynote, click on File in the menu bar, click Open, then select your converted PowerPoint file in the new window. Your presentation should now import to Keynote. To save it as a Keynote file, click File in the menu bar, then Save.
To convert from Keynote to Sides, open your Keynote, go to File in the menu bar and select Export to > PowerPoint (.pptx). In the new window, select Next > Export. From Google Drive, create a new Slides presentation, then select the File tab in the menu bar and Import Slides. You should then see a new window where you can upload your converted PowerPoint file. From here, you can select specific slides to import, or choose all of them by clicking All in the top right corner. When you are happy with your slide selection, select Import Slides.
Converting to/from Prezi: At the time of publishing, there is no way to directly convert Prezi to and from Google Slides. You could use PowerPoint as a vehicle to import your Prezi into Slides. A way to convert Prezi to PowerPoint is exporting it as a PDF, then copy and pasting each individual slide into PowerPoint. This is not a very efficient technique, though, and means that some of your colours or slide objects may be corrupted, and all animations would be lost in the PDF conversion process.
When creating and sharing your Google Slides presentation, you should keep in mind the accessibility needs of your audience. There are lots of tools available to increase the accessibility of your deck – check out this blog post for details.
Presenting your work
Using Present mode: At some point you are likely to want to practise running through your deck and will want to see what it looks like from the audience’s perspective. At BrightCarbon, we always recommend clicking through your deck in present mode at least once before presenting!
To see your presentation in present mode- whether working online or offline – click PRESENT in the top right corner to go straight into standard view. Alternatively, you can click the drop down to the side of the PRESENT button for a few different options:
Presenter view: In this view you can see a separate window from which you can time your presentation, see thumbnails of the previous and next slides, begin Audience Q&A and read your speaker notes. For more information see our guide on Presenter view in Google Slides. For more on Audience Q&A and speaker notes, see below.
Present from beginning: This opens up the standard presenting view, the same as what you would see if you simply clicked PRESENT. This view is what your audience will see when you present to them, so it’s great for practising.
Present on another screen…: This option is exclusively for people who have access to Chromecast. If you have a Chromecast device connected to a TV screen that you want to present from, you can click this button to cast your presentation to that screen. If you want to show your presentation on a large screen but don’t have Chromecast, you can always do things the old fashioned way and connect a HDMI cable from your computer to the TV screen, using normal Presenter view.
Creating a self-running presentation: Sometimes you may want to create a self- running presentation where the slides advance automatically, without a presenter’s input. To do this, you have to first publish your presentation to the web. Go to File > Publish to the web… to open the Publish to web dialogue box. Here you will see an option to Auto-advance slides.
Click the drop down and select how many seconds you want to leave between slides before they advance. The number you choose depends on how text-heavy your slides are, and how long you think it will take viewers to absorb all of your content. Typically, for slides with some but not lots of text, 5 seconds is a good amount of time for audiences to understand the message of each slide before wanting to move on.
For the presentation to begin automatically, without the viewer clicking play, check the box next to Start slideshow as soon as the player loads. If you want your presentation to loop back to the beginning when it ends and start again, select the checkbox next to Restart the slideshow after the last slide. Once you are happy, click the blue Publish button. This will generate a link containing your new, self-running presentation!
Speaker notes: Speaker notes can be accessed by dragging up from the bottom of your Slides window. Hover your cursor over the bar with 3 dots at the very bottom of your window, and it should turn into a hand icon. Click down and drag up to reveal the Speaker notes bar. Here you can type anything from the script of your presentation to additional notes about the content of your slides. Speaker notes won’t be visible when you present, unless you use Presenter view.
Slides also has a nifty built-in tool for voice typing speaker notes. Access the Speaker notes bar, then go to Tools in the menu bar and select Voice type speaker notes…. This will launch a new window to the left of your slide with a microphone icon. When you are ready, click this icon and begin speaking. You should see your words appear as text in the Speaker notes bar. We have tested this and found that it works best when speaking clearly into a good microphone or headset.
Audience Q&A: Audience Q&A lets your presentation become more interactive and engaging for participants. Encouraging users to ask questions virtually can inspire confidence and, if timed correctly, can give you more time to think about the best answers, rather than being caught off guard with on the spot questions.
In Present mode, hover your cursor towards the bottom left of the screen to reveal the Presenter bar. From here, click Q&A to launch a new window. Clicking Start new begins the Q&A and generates a link that participants can follow to ask their questions. Participants do not need a Google account to sign in, and can check a box to remain anonymous should they so wish. When a question is asked, it will appear in the window, ready for you to answer! This is particularly useful if you don’t like answering questions on the spot and would value the opportunity to review and prepare answers, perhaps in a short break during your presentation. Reviewing the questions before bringing them up in front of your audience is a good idea – there is no built-in moderation filter, meaning participants could ask almost anything and remain completely anonymous! You can find out even more about Audience Q&A in Google Slides here.
Pointer: In Present mode, hover your cursor over the Presenter bar and select Pointer. Clicking this button turns your cursor into a red laser pointer with a tail, so that the audience can easily see any areas that you wish to highlight.
Printing your work
To view Slides’ basic print settings, go to File > Print. This opens up a new window with a print preview of your slides, and a few options for customising your print. Next to Pages you can choose whether to print All pages, or type in a Custom range. You can also toggle Colour options, Paper size and the Image quality that is printed.
Printing Slides with speaker notes: To print slides with their speaker notes, go to File > Print settings and preview. This opens a new window where you can preview what your slides will look like when new print options are applied. To the top right of the modified toolbar, click the button that says 1 slide without notes. In the drop down, choose 1 slide with notes instead. This doesn’t mean that only one slide will be printed – you can choose which slides are printed in the normal Print settings. Once selected, the speaker notes will appear in a box to the side of each slide. You can now click Close preview in the far left, and navigate to the Print settings in the File tab to print your document. Or, with the preview still open, click the Print tab in the modified toolbar.
Printing Slides without skipped slides: If you have a number of skipped slides throughout your presentation that you don’t want to print, you can easily change the settings so that these slides are not printed. Go to File > Print settings and preview. This opens a new window where you can preview what your slides will look like when new print options are applied. In the top right of the modified toolbar, click the Include skipped slides button to toggle it on and off. When the button is completely white it is toggled off, when it is grey it is toggled on. You can now click Close preview in the far left.
Google Slides top keyboard shortcuts: We’ve compiled a list of the most used – and most useful – Google Slides keyboard shortcuts, so you can create amazing presentations that are quicker, smarter and slicker than ever before!
Editing images in Google Slides: Make your presentation more compelling with these few short and simple image editing tips for Google Slides. Guaranteed to make your slides look slicker and your audience feel more engaged!
Get involved with our Google Slides masterclasses!
We’ve got some great Google Slides masterclasses that run regularly on our events page. We also offer live in-person or online Google Slides training for small groups – why not invite us to train your team?
We really struggled not being able to add customisable maps to Google Slides, so we made our own. And if, like us, you're looking for a way to add editable maps to Google Slides, we’ve made our map available for you to download and use as well!
If you’re using Google Slides to create an important presentation, you may be considering employing a presentation design agency to help bring your content to life. Is employing an agency really worth the effort when Slides is so easy to use?
Microsoft PowerPoint is often considered the gold standard of presentation software but that doesn’t mean it can’t learn a thing or two from other players in the field. So we’ve whittled down our 9 favourite Google Slides features that we think Microsoft could take on board!