The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint: From Newbie to Master


Microsoft PowerPoint has been a staple for creating presentations for many years. But like anything, not everyone is an expert right off the bat. You have to start somewhere, right? So, let this beginner’s guide to PowerPoint be that first step.

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For those beginner’s who are using PowerPoint for the first time, haven’t used it in a while, or just want a simple reference for the basics, this your guide to the desktop version. And, many of these same features apply if you use it online. So, if you are still deciding between PowerPoint Online and PowerPoint 2016, this guide can come in handy either way.

What Is Microsoft PowerPoint?

Microsoft PowerPoint is basically a presentation creation tool. You can make slideshows with text, images, shapes, animations, audio, and much more. Then, pop your presentation onto the big screen to display it to others or save it as a visual document for yourself.

From Microsoft:

“PowerPoint is a slideshow presentation program that’s part of the Microsoft office suite of tools. PowerPoint makes it easy to create, collaborate, and present your ideas in dynamic, visually compelling ways.”

For business, educational, and personal situations, PowerPoint offers the flexibility to make the simplest presentations stand out with its host of features.

General Uses for PowerPoint

  • Business presentations for products and services
  • Educational slideshows for classrooms and lectures
  • Personal visuals such as mind maps and family photo slideshows
  • Sales and marketing materials
  • Event presentations like weddings, anniversaries, or family reunions
  • Project, budget, and financial presentations
  • Certificates, calendars, reports, diagrams, and charts for any industry

You can create almost any type of visual in PowerPoint. But first, you should become familiar with the general terms of the application.

Basic Terms Used in PowerPoint

You will see many words and terms used frequently throughout this guide. So, taking a moment to review them will help you follow the processes and explanations much easier.

Slideshow and Presentation: When talking about PowerPoint, you may see these two terms become interchangeable. They each represent the overall document you create in the application.

Slides: Each slideshow in PowerPoint contains slides, just like with a physical slideshow. You can think of slides as pages that you can add to your presentation and then move through them one-by-one.

Animations: Animations are visual effects that can give your slide a unique appearance. They allow you to add movement and pizzazz to the elements on your slide.

Transitions: Transitions are also visual tools, but you will see as one slide moves to the next. By using a transition, you can make your presentation stand out to your audience or use it to create a dramatic effect.

The Ribbon and Tabs in PowerPoint

Just like with other Microsoft Office applications, the PowerPoint ribbon contains the buttons that you will use inside tabs. You can customize the ribbon to remove or add both tabs and buttons. But, you will likely see the tabs below by default.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Tabs and Ribbons

Here is a brief description of what each one is for and which tab group you can see.

  • File: Create a new presentation, open an existing one, save, print, and share slideshows.
  • Home: Control the clipboard, slides, font, paragraph, drawing, and editing.
  • Insert: Insert slides, tables, images, illustrations, links, comments, text, and media.
  • Design: Select a theme, pick a variant, customize slides, and get design ideas.
  • Transitions: Choose a transition, preview it, adjust the effects, and add timing.
  • Animations: Pick an animation, preview it, adjust the effects, use advanced features, and add timing.
  • Slide Show: Start a slideshow, set one up, pick a monitor, and use presentation view.
  • Review: Use tools for proofreading, accessibility, language, comments, and comparisons.
  • View: Change the presentation view, adjust the master views, zoom in or out, select colors, and work with windows and macros.

You should also see the Help tab and Tell me what you want to do box. If you need assistance or want more information on a feature, just open Help or enter the keyword into the Tell me box and view your results.

The PowerPoint Quick Access Toolbar

Like the tabs and ribbon with other Microsoft Office products, you also have the Quick Access Toolbar. You might already be familiar with this handy tool, but if not, this is the toolbar at the very top left of the PowerPoint window. As the name implies, this feature allows you to perform quick actions.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Quick Access Toolbar

The Save button lets you easily save the file you are working on with the current file name.

If you make a mistake and want to undo it, just click the Undo button. If you click it once, it will undo the last action you took. If you keep clicking it, it will undo each previous action by moving backward. Alternatively, you can click the arrow next to the Undo button and highlight all actions you want to undo.

If you undo an action with the button, the Redo button will then be clickable. This lets you redo what you have just undone. Like the Undo button, you can redo your last action with one click or use the arrow next to the Redo button to redo multiple actions.

The Presentation button lets you start your slideshow as it will be viewed by others. It should take up your entire screen for a nice view of the presentation at any time during your creating or editing processes.

You can select the arrow on the right of the Quick Access Toolbar to add or remove buttons from it easily. You can also see more commands available or move the toolbar below the ribbon.

How to Work With PowerPoint Slides

Slides are the foundations of your slideshows. So knowing the ins and outs of how to work with them effectively can have a big impact on your creation. Here are the basics you should know to work with your PowerPoint slides.

Add a PowerPoint Slide

On the Home tab, you should see a section on the ribbon for Slides. You can quickly add a slide by clicking the New Slide button. This will add a slide just like the one you have currently selected.

Alternatively, you can click the arrow on the New Slide button. This allows you to choose which type of slide you want to add such as a blank slide, a title with content, or a picture with caption.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Add Slide

Change the Layout of a Slide

The Layout button on your ribbon lets you change the type of the currently selected slide. So you can easily change a title slide to one with a title and content or a picture with caption slide to a content with a caption.

Slide Icons

Some slide types are easy to understand right from the start. For instance, if you choose a title slide, you will see the text areas instructing you to click to add your title and subtitle. But other slide layouts, like those that let you add media, contain icons for you to insert your content.

If you use this type of slide, just click the corresponding icon to insert your item.

  • Insert Table: Create a table by choosing the number of columns and rows.
  • Insert Chart: Create a chart with a variety of options like line, pie, bar, and area.
  • Insert SmartArt graphic: Create a visual like a matrix, pyramid, or process diagram.
  • Pictures: Insert an image from your computer.
  • Online Pictures: Insert an image from the gallery or search the web for one.
  • Insert video: Insert a video from a file, YouTube, or embed code.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Slide Icons

You can also get more details on embedding YouTube videos or adding music to your PowerPoint presentations.

Delete a Slide

If you want to delete a slide, the simplest way is to select it and click Delete on your keyboard. You can also right-click on the slide and choose Delete Slide from the context menu.

Using PowerPoint Sections

You might want to organize your slideshow into different sections. Click the Section button, select Add Section, and then give it a name. You can then add slides separately within each section. The Section button arrow lets you also remove, rename, collapse, and expand sections.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Section Options

Other Common Slide Actions

  • Easily rearrange slides with a drag-and-drop action.
  • Duplicate slides or create them from an outline using the New Slide button arrow or right-clicking and using the context menu.
  • Return a slide to its default layout by clicking the Reset button or right-clicking and using the context menu.

Work With Presentation Notes

PowerPoint offers a terrific speaker note feature that can come in handy. You can add a note to a slide for your own reference or for speaking to your audience during a presentation. The note section appears directly below each slide within PowerPoint.

If you cannot see it, just click the Notes button in the task bar at the bottom of your PowerPoint window. Or, open the View tab and click the Notes button on your ribbon. Then, simply click inside the note section to add yours.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Notes

Using Notes in Your Presentations

When you present your slideshow to an audience, only you can see your notes. This makes it a great tool to hold your descriptions, explanations, or instructions as you present your slideshow. Here is the view that you will see containing your notes as you display your presentation.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Notes in Presenter View

Printing Your Presentation Notes

If you print your presentation so that your audience has a reference, you can include your notes if you like. To see how it will look, click the View tab and then Notes Page in the Presentation Views section of the ribbon.

If you would like to change how your notes look when you print them, click the Notes Master button in the Master Views section of the ribbon. This allows you to select the design, layout, and page setup options. Also, note the Handout Master button directly to the left which lets you customize the entire handout appearance as well.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Notes Page and Master

Add Animation to PowerPoint

If you are considering adding animations to your slides, it’s super easy to do. Animations can be effective for slideshows you create for education like classroom presentations or college lectures. They can also give your presentation a fun effect for personal slideshows like a family reunion or wedding display.

Animation Options

These are the basic features available on the Animations tab.

  • Animation: Choose from a variety of options by clicking the arrow in the Animation You can apply an animation to an element when it enters or exits the slide, use it for emphasis, or give it a motion path.
  • Effect Options: Different animations have extra options for you to pick from. For instance, the Wheel animation lets you pick the number of spokes while the Spin options lets you select the direction and amount of spins.
  • Advanced Animation: Here you can add an animation, open the Animation Pane for more working room, set up a trigger, or use the Animation Painter. But for simple slideshow animations, the basic features should suit you fine.
  • Timing: Decide how you want your animations to appear on the slide. They can start when you click during the presentation or right after or with the previous animation. You can also pick a duration time, delay time, and reorder your animations.
  • Preview: Once you add an animation you can see a quick view of how it will look without exiting the editing mode or opening the presentation view.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Animations

Create Your First PowerPoint Animation

First, select the slide and then the element on the slide that you want to animate. Then, just pick the type from the Animation box. It’s that easy! You can then use the tools described above to add effects, advanced items, or timing if you like.

Notice that when you add an animation to an element, a number appears next to it. Each animation you add will be numbered sequentially so that you can easily identify it, work with it, or reorder it. Remember to think of each animated element on its own. This means you can have multiple animations with their own effects all on the same slide.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Animations Pane and Numbers

If you use the Animation Pane on the right, the numbers make it simple to see one animation at a time. There, you can add the same types of effects that you see on the ribbon. Just click the arrow corresponding to the animation and a dropdown menu will appear.

And if you are inserting Excel charts into your presentation, you can animate those too.

Apply PowerPoint Transition Effects

Inserting transitions between your slides can be another effective way to keep your audience’s attention, similar to animations. You can apply a unique visual, with or without sound, as you move through the slides of your presentation.

Transition Options

These are the basic features available on the Transitions tab.

  • Transition to This Slide: Pick from the transition options by clicking the arrow in the box. You can apply a transition that is subtle, exciting, or dynamic. Keep in mind that this is the effect for transitioning to the current slide.
  • Effect Options: Different transitions have extra options that you can apply. For example, the Wipe, Wind, and Orbit transitions let you pick the direction.
  • Timing: Here you can add a sound to go with your transition, pick a duration time, and apply these items to all slides. In addition, you can decide to advance to the next slide upon your mouse click or automatically after a certain period of time.
  • Preview: Once you add a transition you can see a quick view of how it will look without exiting the editing mode or opening the presentation view.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Transitions

Create a Slide Transition

This works basically much the same way as the animation only with one step less. Simply select the slide and pick the transition. You can then optionally apply any of the above-described effects that you would like. Pretty easy, right?

While transitions, like animations, may not have their place in every type of slideshow, they can be eye-catching for casual gatherings or fun events. Even for business presentations, a simple Fade effect can eliminate a clunky transition between slides.

Use Different Presentation Views

Not everyone works the same way when it comes being creative. Luckily PowerPoint offers different built-in views to accommodate this. Just select the View tab and take a look at the ways in which you can work with your slideshow.

The Presentation Views section holds five unique ways to create or edit your slideshow. One of those is the Notes Page which you read about above. And, here are the other four with brief explanations.

  1. Normal: As you can probably guess, this is the basic, normal view. You should see your slides on the left as numbered thumbnails and the current slide in the largest section to the right. This view works well if you prefer to jump between slides visually.
  2. Outline View: For those who prefer to write or create using outlines, this view is ideal. You can write directly within the outline pane on the left or paste an existing outline from Microsoft Word directly in. Here again, the current slide is in the largest section to the right.
  3. Slide Sorter: This is a terrific way to see all of your slides at a glance. Taking up the entire center window, you can see each slide and can reorder them easily with a drag-and-drop action.
  4. Reading View: If you want to see your entire presentation without switching to full-screen mode, then just click this button. You can view your slideshow with animations and transitions easily.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Outline View

Along with the Slide Sorter view, the Normal and Outline Views allow you to quickly reorder your slides. Just select one and then drag it to its new location.

Collaborate on PowerPoint Presentations

Like other Microsoft Office applications, you have features to easily collaborate with others on your PowerPoint presentations. So if your sales team, fellow educators, or classmates will work on the slideshow together, you have a few options.

Share your slideshow as a PowerPoint presentation saved to OneDrive or as a PDF. Just click the Share button from the menu on the upper right corner. Then, invite others in the sidebar that opens, send the slideshow as an attachment, or obtain a link to share.

Let others make notes on the presentation with the Comments button which is right next to the Share button on the menu. (Assuming your collaborators open the presentation in PowerPoint.) You can view their comments, pop in a reply, move, and delete comments.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Comments

View the version history once you start collaborating. If your collaborators are able to make edits to the presentation, you can see the previous versions. A button will appear in the menu in between the Share and Comments buttons. You can then open previous versions of the slideshow if needed.

Slideshow Options

Once your presentation is complete, it’s time to review and set up your slideshow. Head over to the Slide Show tab and check out the following options.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Slide Show Tab

Start Slide Show

  • From Beginning: Watch your slideshow from the first slide as your audience will see it.
  • From Current Slide: Watch your slideshow start from the slide you select.
  • Present Online: Use the Office Presentation Service to view your slideshow in a browser.
  • Custom Slide Show: Create a custom presentation with the slides in a particular order.

Set Up

  • Set Up Slide Show: Choose the show type, show options, which slides to display, how to advance the slides, and any multiple monitor options you need.
  • Hide Slide: This hides any slide that you select from the presentation.
  • Rehearse Timings: You can practice presenting your slideshow and see the amount of time you spend on each slide and the slideshow in total. You also have an option to save your timings which is helpful for improving the presentation time if needed.
  • Record Slide Show: Easily record your slideshow from the beginning or a specific slide. This is ideal for distributing to others who could not attend the presentation.
  • Enable or Disable narrations, timings, and media controls with the convenient checkboxes.


Select a connected monitor from the dropdown box for where your presentation should display. You can also enable or disable Presenter View.

Presenter View provides you with a different view of your slideshow. This allows you to see your presentation with speaker notes on one screen while your slideshow displays on another. In addition, you can control your presentation in this view.

  • Change the display settings or duplicate the slideshow.
  • Access tools like a laser pointer, pen, or highlighter to use throughout your presentation.
  • Zoom in on a slide.
  • Black or unblack the slideshow.
  • Advance to another slide.
  • End the slideshow.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Presenter View

Start the PowerPoint Slideshow

Once you have the above options set for your slideshow, have rehearsed it, and are ready to start, the rest is easy.

Open PowerPoint on your computer, select which monitor to use, and then present it. You can start the slideshow with either the From Beginning button on the Slide Show tab or with the Start from Beginning button on the Quick Access Toolbar. This is the same process you would have followed when you reviewed your presentation.

If you decide to use the Presenter View during your slideshow, then you already know the tools you have at your fingertips to control the show. But if you choose not to or are only working with one monitor, you can still maneuver your presentation.

Simply right-click on the slideshow once it begins to open the context menu. You can then see all of the slides, zoom in, adjust the screen or printer options, and end the show.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Slideshow Context Menu

Design With Powerpoint Templates

One final part of this beginner’s guide is the templates you can use to boost your productivity in PowerPoint. Using a template, you can get a head start on your presentation. PowerPoint offers a variety of built-in templates and you can find those from online third-parties.

Use Featured PowerPoint Templates

To view options within PowerPoint, click File > New. You will then see a number of featured templates you can use along with categories you can pick from and a search box if you want something in particular.

Beginner's Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint - Templates and Search

The built-in templates range from basic business cards and diagrams to lengthy and detailed presentations for most any industry.

If you see a template you would like to check out, click on it and then review its description and download size in the popup window. If you want to use it, click the Create button.

Use Third-Party PowerPoint Templates

While templates for Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel seem to be more plentiful, you can still check out these great suggestions for third-party options that include Microsoft PowerPoint templates.

Let the PowerPoint Presentation Begin

If you have never used it before, then this beginner’s guide to Microsoft PowerPoint should give you a great start to a wonderful slideshow. Whether you are preparing your first professional presentation or just want to get creative with family photos, these basics should have you covered.

Read the full article: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Microsoft PowerPoint: From Newbie to Master