In PowerPoint 2013 the slide layout area is now default 16:9 widescreen, so as soon as you start a new presentation your area dimensions are set like this as standard. All previous versions of PowerPoint default to a 4:3 ratio.

The reasoning behind this is quite simple as most screens we use to view our presentations are now a 16:9 widescreen dimension.

  • Laptops – 16:9 widescreen
  • Plasma/LED TVs – 16:9 widescreen
  • Projectors – Whilst older ones project in a 4:3 mode, newer models are using a 16:9 widescreen.
  • iPad – Apple has typically gone against the grain as the iPad has a 4:3 area, this means that there will for some time to come, always be a place for the old dimension.

powerpoint 2013 widescreen by default

This new default dimension brings several potential issues for users:

  • Most presentation templates will have been developed for use on 4:3 template, in order to switch to widescreen mode, the background will need to be re-designed in the new dimensions; copying and pasting the old format onto widescreen will simply stretch the design over the wider area.
  • Perhaps the biggest challenge to organisations will be the staff adoption to this new layout. The first hurdle will be how to roll out the new widescreen template. Do staff need to use the old one in certain circumstances, or should everything be created in widescreen from then on?
  • If I cut-and-paste an old 4:3 slide into 16:9 it stretches. This is where the real headache starts – when you need to use parts of old presentations on the new widescreen format. If you simply copy and paste the slides from an old 4:3 formatted presentation into a new 16:9 widescreen your slides are all going to stretch to the new wider workspace, all elements on the slides from images to logos will become stretched.

powerpoint 2013 widescreen by default

Could I have a single presentation with some slides 4:3 and some 16:9 if I wanted?

PowerPoint will only allow you to have one size of slide in a presentation, so either 4:3, 16:9 or a custom size. This makes sense really as when presented it will only be viewed on a single device.

How do I fix the default back from 16:9 widescreen to 4:3 ratio when creating a new presentation?

You would have thought Microsoft would have made this quite an obvious option, with a quick and easy select either button when launching into a new presentation, but no….

Instead you have to choose create new presentation from the home screen in PowerPoint 2013. Then navigate using the top ribbon to the Design tab, then on the far right of the ribbon you will see a button named Slide Size. Click on this and it brings up the option to go back to standard 4:3 mode.

What happens if we view a 4:3 ratio presentation on a 16:9 widescreen?

This is already being done without most of us realising it.  Most presentations currently use a 4:3 dimension for their presentations. In the past most screen manufactured had a matching 4:3 ratio. Over recent years screens have become 16:9 widescreen output, so really it was only a matter of time before PowerPoint made the change also. When viewing a 4:3 ratio on a 16:9 widescreen all that happens is that wide space to the left and right of the screen remains blank, with the rest of the presentation being in the centre. You can test this out on your laptop – put your slides into presentation mode, if the presentation has been designed in a 4:3 ratio, you will see black space on the screen to the left and right.

Why do I need to change to a widescreen format then?

As explained above your 4:3 presentations work fine on a widescreen device, it’s just that you’re not making the most of the space available to you. In order to utilise the whole of a screen, the presentation needs to be designed in a matching format. It would be great to think that in the future all screen sizes will conform to one standard dimension, unfortunately the iPad seems to have scuppered that dream from becoming reality, as it is a 4:3 ration screen, unlike all those 16:9 widescreen devices.

How do I transfer old 4:3 presentation slides into a new 16:9 widescreen presentation?

The only way to effectively transfer old material is to select all of the individual elements on a slide (not the slide itself) and copy and paste them onto the new layout. This is not perfect, as it’s much more time consuming; also once the elements have been pasted, there will be a gap on the left and right of the slide where the screen is wider.

A technical point

In the older versions of PowerPoint, when widescreen 16:9 format is selected its dimensions are 25.4cm wide x 14.29cm high. Effectively this just chopped off the bottom of the normal 4:3 view which had an area of 25.4cm high x 19.05cm high.

When looking at the dimensions of the widescreen 16:9 setting in PowerPoint 2013 the dimensions are different, 33.867cm wide x 19.05cm high. The area has increased in size in order to match the height of the old 4:3 view.

I think the rationale behind this change is that Microsoft will assume that most presentations have been developed in a 4:3 format, so when copying over elements from one 4:3 slide deck to this 16:9 they will retain their size and not be cut off the screen.

powerpoint 2013 widescreen by default

This video compares these different sizes on top of each other so that you can see the benefit of using the newer 16:9 size in your templates:

How will your company prepare for PowerPoint 2013’s widescreen by default? How will you ensure that the various dimensions of slides created in your company will work well together?

In fact, why not start the 16:9 revolution in your company? Widescreen presentations have a more modern feel, and even on a 4:3 screen, they still look slick – SlideShare is a good example of this (16:9 just looks better). Or if you just don’t get on with 2013, here’s how you can switch back to 2010.

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Vincent Thompson

Creative consultant

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  1. Image of Andrejs Andrejs says:

    It’s a monkey job to manually rescale every single pic within some 200 slides, from a 4:3 aspect to a 16:9.

  2. Image of Rae Rae says:

    We just purchased Powerpoint 2013 and we want to use dual monitors connected to our PC in our training room. We have a brand new wide screen monitor and a brand new Vizio HDTV. When we “duplicate” screens, our standard size (4:3) PPT presentations run fine on both screens. When we go to “presentation view” so that we can see our PPT notes on the PC while displaying only the presentation on the big HDTV, the PPT is too large for the HDTV. Both HDTV and the PC monitor have the same native resolution. We tried converting the PPT file to “widescreen” and have the same result – the PPT frame is too big for the HDTV monitor. Any ideas?

  3. Image of Vincent Vincent says:

    Rae – that’s a strange one, as the slideshow should just default into the full size of the HDTV regardless of format (4:3 would just leave a black bar either side. Try selecting the slide show tab in PowerPoint, you can then alter the resolution that the presentation will play at. Use current resolution should be selected (this will fill the whole space of your screen).

  4. Image of christopher christopher says:

    you can always choose the slide size at the design menu, you can choose either 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 standard

  5. Image of Bruce Bruce says:

    Return ppt to 4:3.

    Thank you for the help!!!

  6. Image of Tess Tess says:

    Thanks, this was great information – perfect level of detail but still thorough. Very helpful!

  7. Image of Andrew Andrew says:

    Great! Fixed it.. I’m not sure why the computer reverts back to the other size randomly though??

  8. Image of Holly Holly says:

    If I create a PPTin the new version with 16:9 and email it to a coworker who has not been upgraded to the new PPT version, what will it look like? Will their old ppt version display it as 16:9 or squeeze everything down to 4:3 and distort the images? Thanks!

    • Image of Richard Goring Richard Goring says:

      Hi Holly. Once you’ve created a PowerPoint presentation with a 16:9 aspect ratio, it will stay in that format on any computer and any version of PowerPoint, so there is no risk of your images getting distorted.

  9. Image of Michael Wilkinson Michael Wilkinson says:


    I have a related, but different issue. I’m running PowerPoint 2013 on a Dell laptop, and using 16:9 aspect ratio for my slides. When I go into full screen presentation mode, the presentation takes up the entire screen (yeah)! But as soon as I hit function F8 to go to a projector or projector and screen, I keep the 16:9 ratio, but the image is reduced and the black bars occur on ALL SIDES of the image.

    I’ve tried playing with the display resolution in control panel, but to no avail. Can you help?

  10. Image of Dr. Priscilla Reed Dr. Priscilla Reed says:

    Thank you for this valued information ! Your a God sent ~~

  11. Image of Kara Severson Kara Severson says:

    Hello! I have a client who’s client has decided they want to show their powerpoint presentation at a 3240×1080 size!

    Is there a way to set the size to this? I’ve worked on other shows for other clients where we had the powerpoint show on a wall covered in multiple screens.


    • Image of Karl Parry Karl Parry says:

      Hi Kara,

      It sounds to me that the aspect ratio you’re going to be working with is 1:3. ratio.

      That is to say the width is three times bigger than the height. So, working it out is as simple as it sounds; whatever size you’re using for the height, triple it for the width. To work out the exact sizing you need is a little trickier as you may have to take into account the DPI of the screen the presentation is to be shown on for best results.

      However, a good starting point is to try setting your slide size at 100 x 33.33cm or 50 x 16.67cm as these are the closest PowerPoint can get to an accurate 1:3 ratio.

      In the end, it shouldn’t matter too much as presentations are normally scaled proportionally to fit whatever screen they’re shown on, so as long as you’re setting it as close to a 1:3 ratio as you can, you should be fine.

      I would advise testing out how the deck looks on this super-uber-wide screen first, though.

      Hope this helps.

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