Posted on by jkorchok- Updated on November 13, 2018
To be honest, I’ve never met a designer who, on their own, gave a moment’s consideration to designing the latest corporate template so it could handle all the presentations that the client already has. It just doesn’t seem to be part of today’s design esthetic to consider anything but the today and the future.
That’s not how your client sees it. For rapid production of new presentations, the last thing they want it to have to re-invent their presentations every time the brand is overhauled. It’s far more efficient to reuse slides that already tell the story. But to reuse those slides easily, the designer must be an integral part of the process.
Legacy Slides – Everything You Know is Wrong
Despite the hyperbole of my headline borrowed from Firesign Theater (look it up, youngsters!), most designers create presentation template incorrectly, for the purpose of importing of legacy slides. Almost universal infractions include deleting or renaming the default slide layouts, and deleting or adding placeholders on whatever default slide layouts are left. Less common methods that designers use to wreck templates include deleting all placeholders on the master slide, and deleting all default layouts, then trying to replace them
To understand why these actions could cause problems, we need to understand the PowerPoint file structure. All new blank PowerPoint files contain the following:
1 Master Slide (in Slide Master view, the larger slide at the top). The parent to all the layouts, to which the slide layouts are children.
11 default slide layouts, which inherit the formatting set in the master slide. These 11 comprise:
Title Slide, for the presentation title.
Title and Content, for the bulk of the presentation content.
Section Header, to divide the deck into relevant sections.
Two Content, with 2 content areas.
Comparison, similar to Two Content, but each content area also has a corresponding heading placeholder.
Title Only, displaying only a Title field, with the rest of the slide blank.
Blank, with not even a Title field.
Content with Caption, a little-used layout the includes a Title, Text and Content placeholder.
Picture with Caption, similar to Content with Caption, but with a Picture placeholder replacing the Content one.
Title and Vertical Text This layout is intended for Asian language use and is only displayed as a choice if your operating system has an Asian language set up.
Vertical Title and Text Similar to the previous layout, only available on systems with Asian language available.
Each of these layouts has a specific layout type, set in XML and not alterable in the program interface. AFAIK, you can only create the correct placeholder types by generating a new, blank PowerPoint file. Each of these layouts contains placeholders for the date and slide number, plus a footer field. All but 1 have a title placeholder.
Here’s the second line of a default layout. In this example, obj is the XML type for a Title and Content layout:
PowerPoint, like most programs, is bonehead stupid. When you paste in old slides, and you want them to map to your new slide layouts, they must meet all of these criteria:
The slide layout name must be the same.
The slide layout type (as set in XML) must be the same. This means that if you have already deleted the default slide layouts, then realize you made a mistake, you are hosed. You have to redo the template, for all practical purposes.
The number of placeholders must be the same. When there is a different number of placeholders on the slide being pasted, PowerPoint goes mental and will reassign content randomly.
The types of placeholders must be the same. If a user is pasting a Title and Content slide, PowerPoint is looking for 1 Title, 1 Content, 1 Date, 1 Footer and 1 Page Number placeholder. No more, no less.
If a pasted slide does not meet all of these criteria, PowerPoint imports the slide layout from the old deck, prepending it’s name with “1_”, if it’s the first time it’s importing that layout. Very quickly, the client’s deck is polluted with multiple spurious slide layouts. When face with choices like Title and Content, 1_Title and Content, 2_Title and Content, 3_Title and Content, the user will simply give up trying to decide which one to use. Branding goes down the drain.
Here are the recommendations that Microsoft should have published with the release of PowerPoint 2007: All new PowerPoint templates should include all default slide layouts and placeholders. That would have saved so much grief!
Please note, I am not suggesting that you restrict your design to only these layouts and placeholders. As long as you have the default layouts with the default placeholders, the rest of the master slide can be filled with all kinds of special-purpose layouts with any number of placeholders. Just remember, what ever you create today must be supported in the future. Restraint in slide layout numbers is best for your client’s users. Too many layouts and they just don’t know which one to pick!
To extend this to today, all new templates you create for a client should include the slide layouts and placeholders of all previous templates they have commissioned. Sometimes it’s feasible to segregate these using different slide masters, one for each previous template they have used. Each slide master includes exactly the layouts and placeholders used in a previous version. Then in the receiving template, the user is instructed to paste immediately after a slide based on an earlier version. This method can reduce the user’s pain of having to follow your shiny new template.