We're proud to be hosting a free e-book Open XML Explained. Finding readable explanations of how Office Open XML works isn't easy. Outside of the very dense published ECMA standards, most of the information exists only on the web in help pages and blog posts. Back in 2007, a developer in the Netherlands, Wouter van Vugt, published a well written PDF that goes into details about the XML formats used in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This was originally posted on the openxmldeveloper.org website run by OOXML genius Eric White.
Eric's site closed down some years ago and much of the content disappeared. But I've been able to track down a copy of Wouter's book and have his permission to give it a new home here at Brandwares. Download Open XML Explained.
The e-book covers Excel, Word and PowerPoint in depth, covering otherwise obscure topics like table formatting, bullets and charts. It's an excellent companion to my book, covering the theory behind my practical techniques. OOXML hackers will appreciate the explanations of all the major XML parts in an Office file, while coders will find this a useful resource in learning how to programmatically create and modify documents, workbooks and presentations.
I should note that Open XML Explained was written in 2007, so while it covers all the OOXML basics, it doesn't have any information about newer features like the Backstage or SuperThemes. Reader David Wiggins was kind enough to find the sample files that accomapied the book. The download page has a link to them as well. Enjoy!
After years of original research, you can finally buy the book! Filled with unique information not found anywhere else, online or in print, this manual shows you how to build SuperThemes 3 different ways, how to create custom Effects Themes, how to edit the Ribbon in macOS, and much more!
The book expands on many of the brief articles on this site, putting them in logical order and expanding the number of examples. Author John Korchok explains how Office Open XML files work, shows you where to find each XML part and how each part can be modified. With these tools, you can provide unique services to your clients or users that you can't find at the average Office template service bureau. To give you a better idea of what it covers, here is the Table of Contents:
All techniques are covered in both Windows and macOS. The book includes a link to a downloadable text file with all the hyperlinks, XML and VBA listings, so you don't have to retype anything from the printed page. At this time, only print copies are available, ebook versions will be here in several months. To buy the book, click here.
A bug in PowerPoint Online can wreck presentations edited there. This article describes the symptoms and how to do a notes page repair - if you use Windows. Mac users cannot fix this issue because of sloppy Microsoft programming in the macOS version.
PowerPoint Online can resize the Notes Master page of a presentation. It can also resize elements on the Notes Master, leading to a really wacky combination of large and small placeholders. Almost always, the page size is made much smaller, often into a thin but tall rectangle. The exact cause hasn't been determined yet, but it may be caused by editing Notes. PowerPoint Online can't display either the Notes Page or the Notes Master for a presentation, so this problem goes undetected until the presentation is downloaded and viewed in the desktop version. Do a quick Google search on notes page wrong size site:microsoft.com to see lots of examples.
There are three steps to a notes page repair, and it starts with an XML hack. Open up the presentation in BBEdit or OOXML Tools (macOS) or unzip it (Windows). Find the presentation.xml part. In human-readable form, the 13th line will be the Notes Master page size. This example shows the normal values:
<p:notesSz cx="6858000" cy="9144000"/>
The hack involves resetting these values to normal, then saving and closing, or rezipping the files. But that's just 1 of 3 steps. The next 2 steps can be done in the program.
Open the presentation in PowerPoint, then choose View>Notes Master. Very likely there will be wrong-size shapes or missing elements. To fix this, uncheck, then recheck each of the 6 elements (Header, Slide image, Footer, Date and Time, Body and Slide Number). This restores them to the designed co-ordinates.
The third step notes page repair is to reset each Notes Page to follow the Notes Master. This is where the Mac version runs into trouble. In the Windows version of PowerPoint, open the Notes Page for each slide and right-click on the background. This is the context-aware menu you'll see:
Click on Notes Layout, then on Reapply master. The Notes Page reverts to correct formatting.
Now let's look at the same operation on a Mac. Right-click on the Notes Page and what do we see?
This is not a "context-aware" menu. This is exactly the same menu that you get if you right-click on a slide. The available commands make sense for a slide, not for a notes page. There is no option to reset the page to the Notes master. The Mac programming team got lazy and just reused the same menu.
As a result, Mac users can't complete a notes page repair. They can't reset the page back to the original format.
But wait! What's that? I hear you say, you read about a macro that can reapply the Notes master. Yup, it's here on Steve Rindsberg's awesome PPTFAQ site: Reapply the Notes Master to each Notes Page in a presentation. Except that macro raises an error on Mac version of PowerPoint, because the control ID can't be found.
Microsoft has f***ed this one badly. First, through the PowerPoint Online bug that creates this, and remains unfixed until the date of this post. Second, because of the sloppy "context-aware" menu programming. And third because they can't provide PowerPoint for Mac with a complete list of controls in the VBA object model.
Since I first wrote this article, John Wilson in the UK has written a pair of Windows-only repair utilities to fix this problem. Here's the page where you can download both, one to fix the Notes Master and another to reapply the master to the Notes Pages. Give them a try, it's a little easier than revising the XML.
Bad design decisions haunt our lives. One poor choice was Microsoft's selection of the text baseline for vertical bullet alignment in PowerPoint. Bigger bullets move up, smaller bullets move down, without any control in the user interface. I'm sure you've seen this effect as you change bullet size relative to text:
Fixing Vertical Bullet Alignment with VBA
There are a couple of ways to fix this issue. One is to download and install this free Add-in by John Wilson of PowerPoint Alchemy: Bullets Move Up and Down. The VBA code behind this add-in looks something like this:
Dim oDes As Design
Dim oMast As Master
Dim L As Long
Dim oCust As CustomLayout
Dim oshp As Shape
For Each oDes In ActivePresentation.Designs
For Each oCust In oDes.SlideMaster.CustomLayouts
For Each oshp In oCust.Shapes
If oshp.Type = msoPlaceholder Then
Select Case oshp.PlaceholderFormat.Type
Case Is = ppPlaceholderBody, ppPlaceholderVerticalBody, ppPlaceholderObject
For L = 1 To oshp.TextFrame.TextRange.Paragraphs.Count
.BaseLineAlignment = ppBaselineAlignCenter
MsgBox "Masters and layouts fixed", vbInformation, "PowerPoint Alchemy"
When this runs, it adds an over-ride to the text level definitions on each slide layout that has multi-level text (any layout containing a Content or Text placeholder).
This is adequate for most purposes. With correctly aligned bullets, we now get this effect when we change the bullet size:
There are a couple of downsides to the VBA approach:
You have to remember to apply it to each presentation or template.
If you add a new layout, or add a new text or content placeholder to an existing layout, you'll have to re-run the macro.
Table text and text box text does not benefit, their bullets will still be wonky.
Fixing Vertical Bullet Alignment with XML Hacking
With XML hacking, we can fix this problem once and never have to think about it again. Start by unzipping a new blank template, then editing ppt\slideMasters\slideMaster1.xml. There are 3 sections to be edited: p:titleStyle (for all title placeholders), p:bodyStyle (for all text or content placeholders) and p:otherStyle (for table text).
The editing is the same for all sections: for each a:lvlXpPr section, where X is the level number, add fontAlgn="ctr" to the definition. Here's what it looks like before...
There are 19 level definitions in slideMaster1.xml to change. When you're done that, open ppt\presentation.xml and make the same edit to the 9 levels of the p:defaultTextStyle section that controls formatting for text boxes and notes and handout pages.
When you're done, rezip the XML files and rename the template blank.potx. Place it so it works as your default template, here's an article from Steve Rindsberg with the details for each Office version. For PowerPoint 2016 and 2019 for Windows, follow the PowerPoint 2013 directions. For 2019 for Mac, use the Mac 2016 directions: Create your own default presentation.
Now that this is set in your default template, every new file created when PowerPoint opens will have the correct vertical bullet alignment. Please note that in PowerPoint for Windows, if you choose File>New>Blank Presentation, this autogenerates a new file that is not based on your default template. Such a file will have incorrect vertical bullet alignment.
Having worked with many great designers, I see that they try to create variety in chart appearance rather than uniformity. So what if there was a way to have make a chart layout with the colors in a different order? This could give you layout color variations while sticking to the branding guidelines. Well, I have a solution for you, but you're gonna have to hack some XML!
Normally, every layout under a slide master has only 1 color theme. You're mostly stuck with those 10 colors in a fixed order. In my earlier article about Great Color Themes, I explained how the sequence of colors determines the color order of charts.
But during some recent research, I started reading about the <p:clrMapOvr> XML element. This can be applied to a slide layout to rearrange the color theme. With Accents 1 to 6 in a different order, charts can acquire a whole new look. Here's how it works.
Layout Color Variations with clrMapOvr
At the end of most layouts, you may have seen this XML:
This tells the layout that it should use the standard color mapping as defined in the theme. We would think of this as the default or normal set of colors. But what if we want to alter this sequence? We can assign each color theme value to a different task. If you import a PowerPoint 2003 or older deck, this gets generated automatically to keep the deck looking as expected.
This reverses the order of accent colors from the master, giving charts, fills and shapes a whole new look for the slides based on this layout.
We used to tell clients "Sorry, we have to set the color order to match only one of your designed charts." Now we have a different message: "Different chart color sequences? No problem. Just use a different layout!"
If XML hacking doesn't interest you, Brandwares can do it for you. We're a full-service template creation service for all Office programs. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your project details.
Please note: Microsoft has modified the nature of OLE links. It's no longer possible to maintain relative OLE links (linked Excel and Word) in current versions of Office. The directions below will allow you to re-establish a broken link, but when you update the linked file, PowerPoint will write an abolute path. If you're relinking other object types, like images, audio or video, this article will allow you to create permanent relative, semi-relative and absolute paths.
Someone sends you a presentation linked to an Excel file. The links don't work and you can't fix them without redoing them. Here's how to fix broken PowerPoint links with a one minute of XML Hacking.
This article is really just for PowerPoint for Mac users. If you have the Windows version, you can fix broken links by choosing File>Info, then clicking on Edit Links to Files in the right-hand column under Related Documents. (Please note, the Edit Links option only appears if you actually have a link in the open presentation.) Word and Excel for Mac already have utilities to fix links.
If you haven't hacked XML before, please read XML Hacking: An Introduction and XML Hacking: Editing in macOS. This article mentions Excel, which I've used as an example, but the same advice is true for Word files linked to PowerPoint. OLE Links to other formats, like PDF, are simply not supported on macOS.
In Office, links to documents include the complete path. Of course, when you move those linked files to a new computer, the path is always different, so the links must be corrected. The symptoms of a broken link depends on the type of link that was created. If the file creator selected a workbook section or chart, then used Paste Special to paste in a link, you'll see this message when you double-click on the Excel excerpt:
But the creator may have used Insert>Object instead, and chosen to link rather than embed the file. Then you'll see this when you try to edit:
Then after dismissing that dialog, you'll see the first one about the server error.
Fix Broken PowerPoint Links - The Steps
The issue is that a path is embedded in the PowerPoint file, and that path must be edited. Open the file in BBEdit.
The XML we need to change is associated with the slide(s) on which the Excel item is placed. So lets look. In the left-hand window, click on ppt. Then select slides then the _rels folder. Rels is short for relationships, and it's the mechanism in every OOXML folder that tells PowerPoint where to find the objects in use.
The _rels folder has a .rels file for each slide in the presentation. Open the file for the slide containing the linked Excel. If the link was inserted using Paste Special, it will look like this (Pay attention to the third line and scroll all the way to the right. The path to be edited is in bold):
Since the Excel item was inserted on a Windows computer, the path uses backslashes instead of forward slashes. There are two path syntaxes that are acceptable. If both the file linked to and the presentation containing the link are in your User folder, you can use a relative path and the linked file will open up immediately. If the file linked to is on a network share or somewhere on your disk outside your user folder, you will have to use an absolute path and you will get a challenge from Office when you open the link.
Let's do the relative path first. In this example, the Excel file is in my user Documents folder and the PowerPoint is in my user Downloads folder. So I edit:
In Unix/DOS speak, the 2 dots mean "go up one level", out of the Downloads folder where the presentation is into the main user folder. Then the slashes lead you down into the Documents folder and subfolders to the Excel location. Once you set a relative path, you must leave the PowerPoint file in the same folder. Moving it will break the path.
Fix Broken PowerPoint Links - The Best Relative Path
For a linked file that you know will be moved from desktop to desktop, the best strategy is to place both files in the same folder. Then use this path:
Now even if you move it back to Windows, the linked Excel file will open as expected. As I noted above, when you open or update the linked Excel (or Word) file, PowerPoint will replace your relative path with an absolute one. This only happens with OLE links. For picture, audio, video and other file types, the relative link will remain unless you manually update.
Fix Broken PowerPoint Links - Absolute Paths
If the file to be linked to is on another disk, use an absolute path. With an absolute path, you can move the PowerPoint file anywhere on your computer or to other machines and it will still be able to find the linked file. Here's what an absolute path looks like:
Important! A macOS absolute path must begin with Volumes, followed by a slash and the name of the disk. If your network is set up for different operating systems, you'll probably use an IP address instead, as shown in the original file path. Consult with your IT department.
Office 2016 for Mac applications are sandboxed applications, so when you first open an Office file linked with an absolute path, you'll see a warning:
Click on Select..., then you'll see:
Select the correct file if it isn't already selected, then click on Grant Access. Now double-click on the linked Excel item to edit and you'll see this again:
OK, that's something of a hassle, but the good thing is that you won't see those warnings again as long as the linked file says in the same place with the same name. You also only get warned once per placed file, even if there are multiple uses of that file in your presentation.
Linked files are a huge benefit when you have a data source that is constantly being updated. Using them means your presentation can always be up to date. Now that you know how to fix the links, you have a very useful new tool.
In Word for Windows, you can select a Table of Contents and then add it to the TOC Gallery using References>Table of Contents>Save Selection to Table of Contents Gallery (highlighted in red below):
Unfortunately, Mac versions of Word do not share this feature. But it's a super-simple hack. If you are new to XML editing, please read XML Hacking: An Introduction. MacOS users should also read XML Hacking: Editing in macOS to avoid a couple of Mac-specific XML issues. The latter article now mentions the free XML editing plugin for the Chrome browser in the July 2018 update.
You can also use this hack to add content to other Word Galleries, like the Cover Page Gallery. Please see the last section of this article for the details.
Add a Table of Contents to the TOC Gallery - The Steps
Make sure you're working on a template rather than a document. We'll be using AutoText, and AutoText is saved to the template. If you're working on a document, the AutoText would get saved to the template attached to the document, not the document itself.
Start by making the invisible characters visible, using Word>Preferences...>View and checking All in the Show Non-Printing Characters section.
Now select the custom Table of Contents, making sure to include the paragraph mark just below it.
Set the Look in: dropdown to the name of the template you're working on.
In the Enter AutoText entries here: field, give the AutoText entry a sensible name like Clientname Custom TOC.
Click on the Add button and save the template. Close Word.
Open the template file in your text editor or Chrome browser with the OOXML plugin.
Navigate to word/glossary and open document.xml, the home of all AutoText.
Search for the name you gave the TOC AutoText entry. The first few lines should look something like this:
Make 2 changes in the <w:category> section:
1. Change the w:name value from General to a more meaningful name like Custom TOC. This will display as the heading under which your custom TOC appears.
2. Change the w:gallery value from docParts to tblOfContents. This is the crucial step that makes the TOC appear in the TOC Gallery.
Resave the template file, close the editor and open it in Word.
Choose References>Table of Contents, scroll down to the Custom TOC section and choose your custom TOC.
Add Content to the Other Word Galleries
You can use exactly the same steps to add a custom cover to the Cover Gallery. Just change the w:category w:name value to Custom Covers and the w:gallery value to coverPg. Use the table below to find the values used for other gallery type.
Please note, the category names are Microsoft defaults, and yes, they are inconsistent whether they spell it Built-in or Built-In. Using these will group your entry with them. If you want your own category, just use a different word or phrase and Word will add it on the fly. To make the category pop to the top of a list, include a space in front of the name (Thanks to Timothy Rylatt for the suggestion):
w:category w:name Values
Page X, Page X of Y, Plain Number, Plain Text, With Shapes
Page Numbers (Bottom of Page)
Page X, Page X of Y, Plain Number, Simple, With Shapes
Page Numbers (Margins)
Page X, Plain Number, With Shapes
Page Numbers (Top of Page)
Page X, Page X of Y, Plain Number, Simple, With Shapes
Table of Contents
Confidential, Disclaimers, Urgent
If this looks too geeky for you, we're glad to help! Brandwares is full-service template creation service specializing in working with graphic designers and corporations. Contact me at email@example.com.
Last time, I wrote about how to make great color themes. But what about if you (or your client) have discovered that an existing color theme has a problem. If you catch them early, most issues with color themes can be corrected using PowerPoint's user interface. Say you've created a theme or template, but some of the tests in the last article show problems. Repairing color themes requires rearranging the theme colors, then recoloring any graphic elements on the Slide Master and Slide Layouts.
If you didn't test the template or theme and you've already created a presentation before finding the theme problem, it's more work to fix. Follow the same sequence: rearrange the colors in the theme, fix the Slide Master, then the Layouts and finally repair any element on each slide that still needs help.
But what about if there are multiple templates, or several decks that have been created from a faulty theme? Repairing color theme problems manually quickly becomes an ordeal. It's time-consuming and error-prone to try to make all the changes by hand. Searching and Replacing using a text editor would be much quicker and more thorough. It's time to hack some XML!
We're going to fix all the color theme problems by searching for XML text and replacing it with corrected values. Professional test editors really shine for this kind of work because of their abilities to do search and replace on multiple folders full of files, saving you hours of work. NotePad++ for Windows and BBEdit for macOS are 2 excellent choices for this work, they both have multi-file search and replace.
If you're using Windows, unzip the files in a separate folder. On a Mac, open the theme or template in BBEdit.
Start by correcting the color order of the theme file located in ppt\theme\theme1.xml. During design, you may have applied more than one theme and PowerPoint hoards them all. If you have more than one theme file, check the name attribute to ensure you're changing the one actually used in your deck. (If the theme is called Office Theme, that's a Microsoft default, you don't have to update it.) You may also have more than one theme if your presentation contains more than one slide master. Here are before and after examples, showing only the first 4 colors:
This has blue in the lt1 (Light 1) slot and white in the dk2 (Dark 2) spot. One symptom is inserted SmartArt that shows blue text instead of the expected white.
If a presentation uses Chart Templates, you may also see files in the Theme folder like themeOveride1.xml. This override component allows a chart template to have a color theme different from the presentation into which it's placed. All chart templates created from a template contain this themeOverride component, which is simply a copy of the main color theme. If the template color theme is bad, then you'll also have to open all the chart templates and update chart/theme/themeOverride1.xml.
Repairing Color Themes - The Slide Master
For our simple example, we can skip this step, but for more complex repairs, it may also be necessary to adjust the color map in the slide master. If the presentation was based on a color theme exported from Word or Excel, this is necessary. It's also often needed for legacy decks that have been imported from PowerPoint 2003 and earlier.
The Slide Master has 2 parts. First is the slide formatting that displays in the Slide Master view of PowerPoint. It's tagged with <p:cSld>. Immediately after that are parameter storage sections holding references to the slide layouts, title, body and other text formatting, etc. The very first section <p:clrMap is what we're looking for. The full default color map looks like this:
You can see that the dark colors dk1 and dk2 are mapped to the background instead of the text, while text is formatted with lt1 and lt2. The color theme hasn't been altered, just the way it is mapped to the presentation elements. There is nothing in the program interface to fix this, you must edit the XML. Mental organization becomes very important when changing both the theme and the color map, you can easily get confused.
Repairing Color Themes - Search and Replace
The above steps are preparatory to making the actual changes. Now we need to change the color tags attached to all affected elements in the Slide Master(s) and all Slide Layouts and Slides. Let's use the example of switching the blue and white. The blue was in the lt1 slot, which is mapped in the Slide Master to bk1 by default. The white was in the dk2, mapped to tx2. After switching the color order, we need to change all bk1 color tags to tx2 and all tx2 tags to bk1.
Wherever a tag is used as an attribute, it has straight quotes before and after. Include these in your search terms so you don't mess up the color map in the Slide Master. It's simplest to run this on all files in the archive:
Find what: "bk1" - Replace with: "tx22"
Find what: "tx2" - Replace with: "bk1"
Find what: "tx22" - Replace with: "tx2"
That should do it! Zip up the files with the same file ending as the original, if you're using Windows. On the Mac, just save the file. Test in PowerPoint.
This is the simplest repair scenario. Sometimes you have to move more colors around, particularly if the creator was someone unfamiliar with PowerPoint. Make notes ahead of time, to make sure you've got the right colors moving to the right slots. And always work on a copy of the file, not the original! If it gets too complicated, just send it to us, we do this kind of thing all the time.
Next time, I'll be discussing PowerPoint SuperThemes. Brandwares has cracked the construction of these, so I'll cover what you need to know.
Recent colors are handled inconsistently by Microsoft Office programs. Word and Outlook only retain recently used colors only as long as the program is running, and those colors are visible in every document that's open. By contrast, PowerPoint and Excel both include them in the document. As soon as you open a different file, the previous colors disappear from the color picker. Return to the first document and there they are again.
If you're creating files for clients, you may generate quite a few colors in the design process. Your work will look a little more professional if you purge the Recent Colors from the PowerPoint or Excel file before sending it on.
The row of Recent Colors that PowerPoint and Excel include in the file is a distraction for your client.
Recent Colors Removal Steps
Under Windows, begin by unzipping the file. On a Mac, open it in BBEdit or other advanced text editor.
If this is a PowerPoint deck, look in the ppt folder for the presProps.xml file. The recent colors begin on the third line of a prettified (human-readable) file. Simply delete the entire clrMru section:
After editing, rezip the files if you're using Windows or save and close in your macOS text editor. Test that the file opens as expected and no longer has Recent Colors in the color picker, that send it off to the client.
A more presentable dialog for your client.
Don't Reuse Recent Colors
Occasionally an artist will try to include special colors in the Recent Colors section, to give the client some additional color choices. This is a bad idea because the Recent Color section is dynamic. When any new color is created, it's added to the left end of Recent Colors. If the row is full, the oldest color gets pushed off the right end. A better solution is to create Custom Colors. Here's my how-to on the subject. Custom Colors don't move or change and can be named, which is a little extra help for your client.
I wrote about how to create a basic font theme in 2015: XML Hacking: Font Themes. Thanks to everyone for the comments and feedback that have allowed me to refine the article and make it more helpful.
That article covered a bare bones font theme for European languages (referred to as Latin fonts in Microsoft-speak). International and multilingual users require a theme that can work with a greater variety of languages and fonts, so in this article I'm going to cover how these work and how to create them.
A More Complete Simple Theme
There's more we can do with the very basic theme from the previous article. In the listing below, a font has been specced for only Latin fonts. Important Note: If you copy and paste these samples, you must change the non-breaking space characters to ordinary spaces. I need to use non-breaking spaces to format an HTML page, but Office will refuse to display your font theme if you don't search and replace them with regular spaces.
In both the Major (Headings) and Minor (Body) categories, there are also ea (East Asian) and cs (Complex Scripts) entries. These theme entries are inactive until text is formatted as a relevant language. As long as your text is marked as US English (either by using the Review>Language>Set Proofing Language, or by setting the language in a Style), only the Latin theme fonts will be active. But if you mark text as Chinese, the Office program will check the theme and use the font in the ea tag instead. Likewise, Persian text will activate the cs theme font.
What will not work is to try to set an East Asian or Complex Scripts font in the Latin tag. Depending on the version and platform of Office, you'll only get European characters showing, or the program will completely ignore your theme. Here's a simple font theme that will work with Japanese, Arabic and European languages:
Depending on which ea or cs font you choose, it may support one or several languages. As an example, CJK fonts will support Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Of course, in a collaboration scenario, the fonts chosen should be available on both Mac and Windows, or the display of one of the langauges may get mangled with a font substitution. The best idea is to stick with fonts distributed by Microsoft with Office.
Complex Font Themes
When you crack open the XML on a document or theme, the font theme information is contained in theme/theme1.xml. This illustrates a font theme that is ready to take on the world:
For brevity, I've omitted the Minor font section. Instead of setting the ea and cs fonts, this font theme has entries for more tightly defined language groups and different fonts assigned to each one. This level is detail is necessary for a font theme that can be used around the world. Since I copied this listing from theme1.xml, it doesn't have the XML opening that a standalone font theme would have.
Setting up and testing a complex font theme like this is not a simple task. The font switching is automatic and is triggered by the language input setting on your computer, the language set in your template styles and the language set in the text being edited. Please post your comments, let me know of any hiccups or problems you notice and I'll try to answer your questions.
Brandwares creates font themes to help global corporations support every language. Send me a message for ensure your files have worldwide useability: firstname.lastname@example.org