To the uninitiated it might seem like if you’ve seen one presentation creation platform, you’ve seen them all. But to those in the know, moving to Google Slides from PowerPoint is a pretty significant switch.

To say that the business world is fast paced is both a cliche, and an understatement. No matter how established an enterprise might be, there’s always an underdog ready to disrupt the status quo. This means that companies of all sizes are constantly on the lookout for new strategies and innovative practices that will give them a leg up on the competition. As a presentation agency working with lots of different organizations, one of the key shifts we’re seeing is a move to cloud technology. For many companies, prioritizing cloud technology also means switching to cloud-native business applications like those available through Google Workspace. And there’s no two ways about it, if your organization is considering using Google Workspace it will impact the way you create presentations. Microsoft Office has been the go-to business software for decades, which means that for many of us the word “presentation” is synonymous with PowerPoint. But if your organization shifts to Google Workspace, Microsoft PowerPoint will no longer be your default and you’ll need to count on Google Slides. Before you make a change like this, it can be hard to know what to expect. How might your business benefit? What are the potential downsides? How can you make the transition as smooth as possible?

If you’re wondering if Google Slides is right for your organization, look no further! In this blog post we’ll cover what you need to know about each software to make an informed decision, before walking through how to overcome common challenges when moving from Microsoft PowerPoint to Google Slides.

Skip to the good stuff:

What Google Slides does well

What Google Slides doesn’t do so well

Moving to Google Slides: The verdict

Common compatibility issues

What Google Slides does well

Google Slides is a browser-based presentation tool that operates on a cloud-first principle. Two things we really love about Google Slides are its collaboration features and its usability. If your organization is using PowerPoint 365, Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint, many of the Slides features will be familiar as PowerPoint 365 also offers collaboration features. But if you’re stuck using the desktop version of PowerPoint, then moving to Google Slides could open a new world of collaboration.

  1. Collaboration

Google Slides is purpose built for collaborating in real time, offering lots of different ways to interact with colleagues. PowerPoint 365 and Microsoft SharePoint also offer collaboration features, so if your organization relies on these then no reason to worry, they’ll still be there with Google Slides. In fact, in our experience the collaboration functionality Google Slides offers is a bit more responsive.

The key difference in the collaboration features between Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint 365 comes down to how they use cloud technology. Google Slides is built to operate natively in a browser using cloud technology and relies on Google Drive to store files, whereas PowerPoint 365 is software based and functions as a desktop program connected to the internet using Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive. Because Google Slides is cloud and browser based, it offers a near instantaneous response time. It’s easy for multiple people to work together in real time in one slide deck while commenting on individual slides or elements on a slide, as well as tagging in co-workers and assigning them specific tasks. There’s also a chat function for easy communication. This can all be done with minimal lag time, assuming you have a strong internet connection.

Screenshot of Google Slides showing a comment

If you’re used to PowerPoint 365’s collaboration features, you’ll have no problem getting the same functionality out of Google Slides – and it might even work better for you. And, if people in your organization are using the desktop version of PowerPoint without Microsoft SharePoint, Google Slides’ collaboration features could really increase productivity. However, it’s crucial to remember that these features rely on a strong internet connection. Google Slides does offer offline functionality, but if your employees are often offline then Google Slides might not serve them well.

Bottom line: Google Slides’ collaboration features match (and likely surpass) those of PowerPoint 365, so if real-time collaboration is important in your organization, then moving to Google Slides won’t pose any problems. It might even improve your experience.

For more detailed instructions on how to use Google Slides’ collaboration features, visit the “Getting the most out of cloud and collaboration features” section in our Ultimate Guide to Google Slides.

  1. Ease of use

Google Slides positions itself as intuitive to use, helping teams simplify the process of sharing and creating new projects together from a single file. In our view, apart from a few hiccups, this is largely true. Slides offers simple sharing, automatic autosave, full version history, and automatic updates, among other features.

Sharing files is straightforward and, because multiple people can work on the same file, there’s no reason to email versions back and forth as can be the case with offline files. Instead, just share with another user in your organization and start working immediately in the same version. You can also choose whether you want to share with edit access, comment only access, or view only access, giving you the ability to limit how much someone can change.

Screenshot of google slides showing the share options

Google Slides also automatically saves every change in real time. It’s able to do this because it’s browser-based, and all changes are saved in the cloud. This helps prevent employees from losing work if a device or program unexpectedly crashes. Of course, this feature relies on an internet connection! PowerPoint 365 also offers autosave, so Microsoft 365 users will be familiar with the feature.

When you create a Google Slides presentation there’s only one live version which everyone works from unless you choose to make multiple copies. With only a single file, nobody can make changes in one version that won’t be reflected in another – because there’s only one version to change! If you realize you’ve changed something that shouldn’t have been changed, you can use Google Slides’ version history feature to restore the previous version, or even copy and paste specific slides from the previous version to the new one. Because Google Slides is constantly autosaving, you have access to all changes you’ve made in version history. To access version history, just click File, scroll down to Version history and click on it.

screenshot of the File dropdown menu in Google Slides showing the Version history options (Name current version and See version history)

Version history panel

You’ll be able to navigate through all the changes to your presentations in the form of different versions, going back to the moment the presentation was created. Different versions are timestamped, so you can go back to a specific day and time within that day when a change was made. There’s one caveat to this, which is that if you don’t own the file or aren’t part of the organization that owns the file, you may not be able to access version history.

If your organization opts for Google Slides, you also won’t need to worry about keeping your entire workforce’s software up to date because Google Workspace updates automatically in the background. This means your employees don’t need to stop and install new versions of the software, or reboot computers to get things up and running again. Google Slides can do this because its browser based, so the software on any individual computer never needs to be updated. Instead, it’s done through the cloud.

Bottom line: If your employees are used to working in PowerPoint, there may be a slight learning curve to get used to Google Slides. However, once they make the adjustment, your employees will likely find Google Slides very user friendly and intuitive. If you currently use PowerPoint 365 then they’ll still have access to simple sharing, reliable version history, and dependable autosave. If your employees use a desktop version of PowerPoint, these extra features could add a lot of value. On top of these features Google Slides also eliminates the need for software updates, potentially saving time and preventing both employee and IT headaches.

  1. Specific helpful Google Slides features

Here are some other Google Slide features we love that might matter for your business.

  • Sync slides across multiple decks: If you make updates to a specific slide in a specific deck and that slide is present in other decks, the changes will be updated across all decks where the slide is synced. This is particularly handy if, for example, you have a slide containing data that you need to update regularly. Instead of going into each deck that contains that slide and editing them manually, you can update just the original slide and sync across multiple decks in one go.
  • Editing and playing GIFs: Options for editing GIFs are far more advanced in Google Slides than in PowerPoint. You can crop a GIF, recolour it, resize it, and much more without losing quality or hindering its ability to play. Both desktop and online versions of PowerPoint support GIF playback, though only in present mode. Google Slides allows GIFs to play outside of present mode, while you’re editing them. This gives greater visibility over the changes you’re making and allows you to preview how the GIF will loop. For more information about adding gifs in Google Slides, check out this blog post..
  • Explore: The Explore feature allows you to do all kinds of useful things without leaving your Slides window, helping you create presentations more efficiently. For example, you can search for content on the web or from your Google Drive. With a few clicks you can easily locate photos, videos, text and more and quickly add it to your presentation, all without having to jump between tabs. The Explore tool also helps by autogenerating layouts or design styles around photos you’ve added. PowerPoint 365 offers similar functionality, but pulls images and videos from Bing instead of Google (need we say more…), and doesn’t have seamless integration with SharePoint in the same way Google Slides does with files in Google Drive.

To find out more, check out our article about Google Slides Features We Wish PowerPoint had. For step-by-step guidance on how to use these features, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Google Slides.

What Google Slides doesn’t do so well

We’ve hit on what makes Google Slides a great tool and how it offers many of the same features as PowerPoint, with some additional benefits. But it’s important to understand both sides of the coin when deciding if your company should make the switch from PowerPoint. And despite the excellent collaboration features Google Slides offers, PowerPoint is generally a much more powerful tool in most other aspects.

  1. Animation

If you’re considering moving to Google Slides but rely heavily on animation for your presentations, you should know that Google Slides only offers a few basic transitions and limited animations. This means you can’t rely on animations to create dynamic presentations. In contrast, in addition to a wide range of basic animations, PowerPoint also offers special effects, reflections, 3D functionality, and advanced transitions that Google Slides lacks. If you want to build presentations with animations, PowerPoint offers many more tools to help you realize your creativity.

  1. Morph

Morph is another very cool PowerPoint feature that Google Slides lacks. It’s an animation transition that can really help your slides stand out without a lot of added effort. You can use Morph to navigate a complex diagram between slides, zoom into specific areas of interest of an image or information, or even animate objects to change position or color. For more information on how Morph can help level up your presentations, check out this beginner’s guide to Morph.

  1. Fonts 

Google only offers fonts available in the Google font library. If your company brand uses a font that’s not in the Google library, it could cause problems if there isn’t a close analog. PowerPoint, on the other hand, has many more font options. This means it’s more likely you’ll either find the specific font you need, or something very close. If you have a unique font, PowerPoint can also use locally installed fonts. It’s worth noting that any locally installed fonts will only appear on the computer on which you install them, so if you use the same presentation on a different computer then your fonts likely won’t display properly. You can get around this by embedding the font in your PowerPoint file, but this will increase the file size.

  1. Templates 

Google Slides comes with a gallery of basic templates which you can edit and change relatively easily. However, they don’t offer much room for customization and are pretty limited in scope. You can put in a title placeholder, subtitle placeholder, and body text placeholder, but that’s more or less it. For many organizations these templates will be sufficient. However, if you’re looking for anything more complex or customized, PowerPoint gives you options. You can also access thousands of custom templates and graphic elements on the web if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the software itself (for some great examples, check out this blog post). This means it’s much easier to tailor your template to your organization’s brand and needs with PowerPoint than with Google Slides. There are free Google Slides templates available online too, though they’re more limited in scope.

  1. Quick access toolbar or customizable toolbar 

In Google Slides, you can’t customize your banner menu or taskbar. Instead, you have to stick with what Google offers. PowerPoint, on the other hand, makes it easy to customize your toolbar in a way that makes the most sense to you. Easy access to your favorite tools can be a huge timesaver and can save you from scrolling through multiple menus to find a function you regularly use. The addition of the Developer tab within PowerPoint opens up a multitude of options such as add-ins and VBA, should you wish to delve into this magical realm. None of these options are available with Google Slides. If you rely on these features, moving to Google Slides could negatively impact productivity.

  1. Offline functionality 

Google Slides was created with online performance in mind, and generally works very well with a strong internet connection. However, because Google Slides runs in your browser, you may experience lag or slow loading times when you don’t have a strong internet connection. Google Slides does offer offline functionality, but it requires saving or downloading your presentation before you go offline. PowerPoint, in contrast, is software based and was designed to work on a PC. Once downloaded and installed, it doesn’t require an internet connection. Of course, if you’re using PowerPoint 365 and syncing with SharePoint and OneDrive then you won’t have some cloud-based functionality like autosave when offline. However, you’ll still be able edit your presentation, without needing to download or save it beforehand.

  1. Compatibility

If you’re considering moving to Google Slides, it’s worth mentioning that you probably shouldn’t only switch your presentation software. You should really switch your entire business productivity suite of tools from Microsoft Office to Google Workspace. Google Slides is compatible with Google Sheets and Google Docs (which are Google Workspace’s equivalent to Microsoft Excel and Word) but isn’t compatible with Microsoft files. If you often link to Excel sheets in your PowerPoint presentations, for instance, you’ll have to switch to Google Sheets to continue doing so in Google Slides. Sheets is also less powerful than Excel, so if you rely heavily on it then moving to Google Slides might cause problems for you.

Bottom line: These are just a few areas where Google Slides is less well equipped than PowerPoint, but they aren’t the only ones. In general, PowerPoint is a more powerful tool that offers more advanced features when compared with Google Slides.

Moving to Google Slides: The verdict

Both Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint offer unique advantages and disadvantages. The key difference in Google Slides’ favor is that Google Slides is browser based, whereas PowerPoint is software you install. Being browser-based means Google Slides relies on cloud technology, so if you switch, you’ll gain nearly instantaneous and straightforward collaboration features to work with colleagues or team members. PowerPoint 365 also offers collaboration features, but because it isn’t cloud native, we find them less intuitive and instantaneous. However, to get the most out of Google Slides you need a strong internet connection, while PowerPoint offers full presentation functionality both on and offline. If you make the move to Google Slides, your workforce will lose the ability to work on a file offline without downloading it when an internet connection is available. Because PowerPoint is software based, it is also generally a more advanced product that offers far more features and functions for the end user. If you move to Google Slides, you’ll have to live with a much more limited presentation toolkit.

So, should you switch? In general, we recommend switching if real-time collaboration and ease of use are the most important aspects of a presentation creation solution for your organization. If your organization mostly uses presentation software to create basic presentations with text and visuals like graphs and images, then Google Slides will likely meet your needs. However, if you want a more powerful tool that offers more animations, fonts, and overall design features to make your presentations stand out, PowerPoint is likely the better choice.

How to overcome common compatibility issues

If you decide to switch from PowerPoint, it’s likely that you will need to convert your existing PowerPoint presentations into Google Slides presentations. If you’re looking to do this, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to import a PowerPoint presentation into Google Drive and convert it into a Google Slides presentation. The bad news is that the results can be unpredictable. In our experience there are a few common problems. Here’s some quick solutions to keep your presentations working as they should. If this seems like too much hassle or you have hundreds of slides you need to transition, you can always get in touch with us.

Fonts

When converting a presentation from Microsoft PowerPoint to Google Slides, you may encounter a discrepancy in fonts. This is because PowerPoint has more standard fonts than Google Slides, and can display custom fonts. When you open a PowerPoint Presentation in Google Slides, Windows standard fonts will be converted into a Google font that is similar in style. For some common fonts, like Arial or Calibri, there’ll be no change. For less common fonts, Google Slides will replace the original with a new font – this might cause formatting issues if the new font is bigger or smaller than the original. If you aren’t happy with the selected Google font, highlight the text and select a new font in the toolbar drop down menu. You can also select More Fonts and browse through the entire Google fonts library or search for a specific font by typing the name directly. If the font you search for doesn’t appear it’s not available in Google Slides. For more information about the best free fonts in Google Slides, check out this blog post.

Screenshot of the fonts drop down menu in Google Slides showing the add more fonts option

Screenshot of the add more fonts pop up in Google Slides

Images

If your PowerPoint presentation contains images, they should more or less convert neatly into Google Slides without significant changes. If there is a change, you can usually fix it by simply resizing the image.

Crops and custom image placeholders should also remain roughly the same, and you should still be able to edit them. However, pre-set image placeholder shapes (for example, a circular placeholder) that are created in PowerPoint can’t be altered in Google Slides. If you want to change an image placeholder (for example, from a circle to an arrow), you need to create a new placeholder in Google Slides.

If you’ve cut out the background of photos in your PowerPoint presentation, they occasionally reappear after the presentation is converted to Google Slides. If this does happen, open the image in a third-party software (E.g. Remove.bg or Photoshop), remove the background again, and reinsert it into your Google Slide deck.

Animations

Most PowerPoint animations aren’t supported in Slides. Google Slides’ animation list is: Appear, disappear, fade in, fade out, fly in from top, left, bottom and right, fly out from top, left bottom and right, zoom in, zoom out and spin. If you import a PowerPoint presentation with animations that are not on this list, Google Slides will find what it deems a suitable replacement. More often than not, the animation will be replaced with Fade. Delays on animations will be preserved, though once converted there is no way to change them in Google Slides and no way of adding new ones.

To avoid any issues, double check the animations in your PowerPoint presentation are compatible with Google Slides. If you find any that aren’t in the above list, change them before converting.

Colors

Colors in your PowerPoint template will likely remain the same when converted into Google Slides. If your brand colors are already in your PowerPoint theme, then they will appear in Slides. However, you’ll lose the various shades that PowerPoint provides based on the core theme colors. The only exception is if something in the presentation or the master uses a shade color, in which case it will appear in the custom color section of the Google Slides color palette. If you’re using a template that has custom colours created with BrightSlide, these colors will also be lost in the transition to Google Slides.

side by side screen shots of the colour drop downs in PowerPoint and Google Slides

If you lose important colors in your PowerPoint presentation when you move to Google Slides, there’s a relatively simple workaround. Let’s say, for example, there are five colors in your presentation that Google Slides doesn’t support. To ensure these five colors are still available after the conversion, simply create five objects (e.g., shapes) in your PowerPoint presentation and color each object with one of the five colors you want to preserve. You can put these objects anywhere in the PowerPoint presentation, like on a blank slide at the end of the presentation or in the master. If you convert your presentation after you’ve done this, these five colors will be available in your Slides palette. Be sure not to remove the objects from the Slides presentation and refresh until you’ve used the colors elsewhere in the deck, as the colors will be lost from the palette.

Transitions

PowerPoint transitions can also behave differently when converted to Slides. Similar to animations, if a specific PowerPoint transition is supported in Google Slides, then it will be copied over. Common transitions like Fade should work without any issue. However, PowerPoint offers more transition options than Google Slides, so many PowerPoint transitions will not be supported. In this case, Google Slides will simply remove the transition without trying to find a replacement.

To avoid this, check through your PowerPoint presentation and change any unsupported transitions before you convert your presentation, to ensure they’re still present in Google Slides. You can find the Google Slides transitions in the Transition tab on the toolbar.

Screenshot of Google Slides showing the transition options mentioned in the text.

The transitions available in Slides are Dissolve, Fade, Slide from right, Slide from left, Flip, Cube, and Gallery.

It’s worth mentioning that Dissolve in Slides and Dissolve in PowerPoint behave slightly differently. A slide with a Fade transition in PowerPoint that fades to the next slide will become a Dissolve transition in Google Slides, whereas a slide with a Fade transition in PowerPoint that fades to black will become a normal Fade transition in Google Slides. Regardless, the outcome should be the same for your presentation, so no cause for concern!

Conclusion

Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint seem similar on the surface, but there are plenty of significant differences to consider. Every organization will need to weigh the pros and cons of each solution to decide which presentation software is right for them.

If you’re looking for more in-depth how-to’s about Google Slides, check out our Ultimate Guide to Google Slides. If you need more assistance on converting PowerPoint presentations to Google Slides or want to learn more about our PowerPoint and Google Slides design services, just get in touch with us at BrightCarbon.

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Ian Wicks

Senior consultant;
Group messaging lead

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