OOXML Hacking: Text Box Styles

PowerPoint's text boxes could really use styles. But wait: they already do! Text boxes styles are built right into the file format, but there is no access to them thorough the program interface. Formatting text boxes using PowerPoint's user interface is primitive compared to the styling that can be applied to placeholders in PowerPoint. There is no master where you can format text box defaults. The program interface only allows you to set one style, then right-click and choose Set as Default Textbox. And even this default disappears if you click on the Clear All Formatting button (Home>Font group, look for the icon with an eraser over 1 or 2 letters).


Text Box Styles XML

First, let's clarify our terminology. Text styles in PowerPoint don't work like any other program, because there's no Style menu to apply to selected text. Instead, there are levels that you get to by clicking on the Increase List Level (Windows) or Indent More (Mac) buttons. Each level can have a different style.

Fortunately, with some judicious XML editing, you can create 9 preformatted levels of text for your text boxes. They can become nearly the equivalent of a text placeholder that you can add to any slide. This formatting includes line spacing, bullets, indentation, alignments and many other parameters, so this will have to be a 2-part article.

These text box styles will be saved in a theme, so they can be used in other presentations. However, if the theme is applied to Word or Excel, those programs ignore the custom styles and use their standard single-style text boxes. I guess we could expect that when all these settings are storing in a component called presentation.xml. If you're new to this subject, read XML Hacking: An Introduction. If you're using a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X.

The XML component that contains the text box text levels is ppt/presentation.xml. This component also contains presentation parameters like slide size, slide master ID and a list of slide IDs for all slides in the deck. Below those items is a tag called <p:defaultTextStyle> that contains 9 levels of text formatting. This structure is nearly identical to the text formatting used for default table text, covered in this article: XML Hacking: Default Table Text

Each of the text levels is identical except of a single digit in the name tag, so we can extract one level for an example that will work for all levels. When this is set up, you'll be able to insert a text box, then click on the Increase List Level button (called Indent More in OS X) to move between styles, just like a text placeholder. Here's a sample default level:

<a:lvl1pPr marL="0" algn="l" defTabSz="914400" rtl="0" eaLnBrk="1" latinLnBrk="0" hangingPunct="1">
  <a:defRPr sz="2400" kern="1200">
    <a:solidFill>
      <a:schemeClr val="tx1"/>
    </a:solidFill>
    <a:latin typeface="+mn-lt"/>
    <a:ea typeface="+mn-ea"/>
    <a:cs typeface="+mn-cs"/>
  </a:defRPr>
</a:lvl1pPr>

This contains 2 different sections: the first line, called an element, with a string of parameters, called attributes, plus the list of additional parameters on separate lines below, called child elements. It's important to create the right data in the correct location, so for this article, I'm only going to cover the first line.


Text Box Styles: Attributes

From left to right, the default attributes are:

  1. marL - Sets the left margin for that text level in EMUs. 914,400 EMUs equal 1 inch, while 360,000 EMUs equal 1 centimeter.
  2. algn - Horizontal alignment. A value of l means left aligned. You can also use r for right aligned, ctr for center aligned, just for justified text and dist, which distributes text evenly across the line width, kind of like an extreme form of justification.
  3. defTabSz - Default tab size, again in EMUs.
  4. rtl - Is the language right to left? 0 means no.
  5. eaLnBrk - East Asian Line Break: East Asian languages have rules about where a line break occurs. The 1 value turns this attribute on. A 0 breaks the line wherever needed, without consulting the rules.
  6. latinLnBrk - Similar to the eaLnBreak, a 0 will not break the line without a hyphen, a 1 will break the line wherever needed without a hyphen.
  7. hangingPunct - Theoretically, this forces puctuation to be on the same line as text or allows it to drop to a spearate line. Online documentation for this is poor and I couldn't detect any difference in setting this to 0 or 1.

Those are the defaults. Then there are several optional parameters that you can add manually:

  • marR - You can set the right margin of text, in EMUs.
  • indent - Set the first line indent of each paragraph, in EMUs.
  • fontAlgn - Vertical alignment. Acceptable values include auto and base which both set text on the font baseline, which is the default. You can also use b to align with the bottom of the descenders (like the bottom of a g or y), t to align with the ascenders or ctr to center text vertically. This latter setting solves the issue that when you increase PowerPoint bullet size, you also increase the bullet elevation above the baseline. Using fontAlgn="ctr" forces the bullet to stay aligned with the text whatever size it is.
  • lvl - Determines the numbering level for this text level, independent of the level's position in the hierarchy of text box styles.

The picture below illustrates 5 levels of formatting in a text box. There is no local formatting applied, all I did was type the text and click on the Increase Indent button to move between levels, exactly as with a text placeholder.

Text box styles from the first line parameters

5 levels of text box text formatted with only the first line <a:lvl#pPr> tag.


Text Box Styles: Obscure Gotcha

This XML group is called p:defaultTextStyle for a reason: it's for other items besides text boxes. If you save you template and a PowerPoint theme (File>Save As>Save as type>Office Theme (*.thmx)), the slide master and layouts are saved in the file. Double-clicking on the theme creates a new presentation. But Handout and Notes masters are not saved in a theme, only in a template. PowerPoint creates new Handout and Notes Masters on the fly using its plain vanilla defaults. The Header, Footer, Date and Page Number placeholders are recreated from the p:defaultTextStyle levels. If the first level uses bullets, the placeholders will have bullets as well!

To get around this, format the first level without bullets, or distribute a template instead, which includes Handout and Notes masters that you can format to the design specs. I prefer templates, because you can also include sample slides.

We're here to help. Brandwares can improve your PowerPoint project: We teach the pros! Contact me at production@brandwares.com.

OOXML Hacking: Custom Picture Content Controls

Recently I was creating a white paper template in Word for a client and needed to insert some custom Picture Content Controls for photos that would be inserted by users. The designer had specced round-cornered pictures, but Picture Content Controls (PCC) have square corners. It didn't take long to figure out that after selecting the PCC, I could choose the Picture Tools>Format tab of the Ribbon, then apply a Picture Style. I chose the rounded corners with reflection (fifth icon over in Word 2010), then removed the reflection.

Now I had rounded corners, but also another problem. Word keeps the corner radius in proportion to the box size, so resizing the PCC up to the right size made the radius much larger than the design. Unlike AutoShapes, Content Controls will not display a yellow radius handle to adjust the radius. I also tried resizing the PCC before applying the Picture Style, but got the same big corners.

Default Picture Content Control

A Picture Content Control with default corner radius.


Custom Picture Content Controls XML

When I'm stuck, I crack open the XML. Can't leave it alone! If you've never opened Office files to edit their XML, read XML Hacking: An Introduction. If you're using a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X. All document content is in word\document.xml, so I opened it and started searching. In some respects, a PCC is handled like an ordinary picture, so I found it inside a <w:drawing> tag. The information I was looking for was in this subsection:

<pic:spPr bwMode="auto">
  <a:xfrm>
    <a:off x="0" y="0"/>
    <a:ext cx="3222172" cy="4576355"/>
  </a:xfrm>
  <a:prstGeom prst="roundRect">
    <a:avLst>
      <a:gd name="adj" fmla="val 8594"/>
    </a:avLst>
  </a:prstGeom>
  <a:solidFill>
    <a:srgbClr val="FFFFFF">
      <a:shade val="85000"/>
    </a:srgbClr>
  </a:solidFill>
  <a:ln>
    <a:noFill/>
  </a:ln>
  <a:effectLst/>
</pic:spPr>

When I spotted the line <a:prstGeom prst="roundRect">, I was pretty sure that's what I was looking for. But inside that tag, there were only 2 parameters. I went for the fmla tag and changed the value from "val 8594" to "val 4000". Because I'm experimenting, I make only 1 change, then zip the XML to test. If you make several changes and the file doesn't open, it can take a long time to find the error.

I reopened the Word file. Success! The corner radii were about half the size. Then I just had to try several values until I found one that match the designer's intent. Keep in mind that the fmla value is not setting any particular radius size, it's setting the ratio of the curve to the size of the picture. So you should make the placeholders the correct size first, then try out fmla values to get the radius you want at those dimensions.

You don't always get lucky with parameters. A few lines down I spied another setting that looked like it could be useful. While you can set the PCC border in the program interface, you can't set the fill color. However, in the XML, I saw these tags:

  <a:solidFill>
    <a:srgbClr val="FFFFFF">
      <a:shade val="85000"/>
    </a:srgbClr>
  </a:solidFill>

Unfortunately, changing these values had no effect on the color of the Content Control. So what do these tags do? Search me, maybe someone at Microsoft knows. But I was happy to be able to set the radii to my preference. Here's the final result:

Custom Picture Content Controls

A custom Picture Content Control with smaller corner radii.

We can provide custom Content Controls and much, much more. Get pro help with your PowerPoint project by emailing me at production@brandwares.com.

Multiple Color Themes, One Template - Best Practices

Multiple color themes in the same PowerPoint template are useful for companies with several divisions or for presenters who need color-coded sections. Here are 3 ways to add that capability to your presentations.


Multiple Color Themes: Using Super Themes in PowerPoint

PowerPoint 2013 and 2016 for Windows and Mac all feature a new theme format developed by Microsoft: the Super Theme:

Super Theme Color Variants
Super Theme Color Variants

The user sees a preview of the color palette that will be used, then picks the variant they want to use. It's an elegant, attractive interface and makes the design variants plainly visible on the Ribbon. Super Themes also allow the inclusion of size variants, so that resizing a deck doesn't distort the logos.

Brandwares now creates custom Super Themes, so we can make these for you. However, the technique is tricky, so if you're an independent designer without the budget for professional assistance, you'll have to find another way. Fortunately, there are other methods to add multiple color themes.


Multiple Color Themes: Hacking XML

This technique works to add multiple color themes to PowerPoint. You can also add them to Word and Excel files, but those programs will simply ignore them. These extra color themes will travel with a theme saved from such a Word or Excel file, but you already knew that PowerPoint is the program to use for creating theme files. To hack the XML, start by reading XML Hacking: An Introduction. If you're using a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X.

Now, expand your Office file to see the XML. Open the ppt folder, then open the theme folder inside that. PowerPoint saves every theme that's ever been applied to the presentation, starting with theme1.xml, so you'll have to check the theme name in each variant to get the right one. If you're trying this with Word or Excel, look in word\theme or xl\theme respectively, where you will find only one theme1.xml file.

Format the XML to be readable, then go right to the bottom of the listing, where you'll find the self-closing stub called <a:extraClrSchemeLst/>. First, open up the stub:

<a:extraClrSchemeLst>
</a:extraClrSchemeLst>

Then add a color scheme:

<a:extraClrSchemeLst>
  <a:extraClrScheme>
    <a:clrScheme name="Red-Tan Chart Colors">
      <a:dk1>
        <a:srgbClr val="000000"/>
      </a:dk1>
      <a:lt1>
        <a:srgbClr val="FFFFFF"/>
      </a:lt1>
      <a:dk2>
        <a:srgbClr val="082948"/>
      </a:dk2>
      <a:lt2>
        <a:srgbClr val="FAF9F9"/>
      </a:lt2>
      <a:accent1>
        <a:srgbClr val="C46158"/>
      </a:accent1>
      <a:accent2>
        <a:srgbClr val="E69779"/>
      </a:accent2>
      <a:accent3>
        <a:srgbClr val="699BC5"/>
      </a:accent3>
      <a:accent4>
        <a:srgbClr val="6E9C82"/>
      </a:accent4>
      <a:accent5>
        <a:srgbClr val="1F497D"/>
      </a:accent5>
      <a:accent6>
        <a:srgbClr val="4A8363"/>
      </a:accent6>
      <a:hlink>
        <a:srgbClr val="1F497D"/>
      </a:hlink>
      <a:folHlink>
        <a:srgbClr val="699BC5"/>
      </a:folHlink>
    </a:clrScheme>
  </a:extraClrScheme>
</a:extraClrSchemeLst>

The syntax is exactly the same as for the clrScheme listing that every theme includes as its main color theme, so you can simply copy and paste the whole block of XML. The theme file can hold any number of extra color schemes. When you are using the final file, you can change the theme colors by choosing View>Slide Master>Colors in PowerPoint (actual menu names change in different versions of Office).

Multiple Color Themes

Clicking on the Colors dropdown shows the extra color themes.

When you choose a new color theme, all elements keyed to the color theme will change throughout the presentation.


Multiple Color Themes: Multiple Masters (PowerPoint only)

For Word and Excel, a document can have only one color theme applied at a time, and that theme affects all pages in the file. PowerPoint allows more flexibility, since it can have multiple master slides and each of those master slides has its own color theme. This means that different parts of a PowerPoint file can have different color themes. This is often used to color-code different sections of a presentation.

In its most basic form, this is the simplest technique. No XML hacking required:

  1. In PowerPoint, choose View>Slide Master to view the masters.
  2. Right-click on the Slide Master (the larger slide at the top of the left-hand display) and choose Duplicate Slide Master. The new master is added below the slide layouts for the first master. (In Windows versions, right-click and check that each Master has the Preserve Master attribute checked, or they'll vanish later.)
  3. Select the new master, then choose Color>Customize Colors.
  4. Revise the color theme, or apply a color theme you created earlier. OK out.

Repeat the steps above for each different color theme you need to include. In the program interface, the user will see a group of slide layouts for each slide master. Here is a presentation where only one colors changes in each color theme:

Each master has its own color theme and slide layouts.
Multiple Master Color Themes

While this is the simplest method to use, it's not self-evident to all users that you change color themes by choosing a different set of slide layouts. So you'll probably have to include at least an explanatory note with the template when you distribute it. But what if you want a premium solution for a high-end client? Read on...


Multiple Color Themes: XML Hacked Multiple Masters (PowerPoint only)

A solution that is simpler to use is to combine techniques 2 and 3. Create multiple masters, each with a different color theme. This will create a theme#.xml file in ppt/theme. Open all the theme#.xml file and copy the clrScheme for each to an extraClrScheme tag in all the others. So if you have 3 masters and color themes, copy the clrScheme tag for theme1.xml to an extraClrScheme tag in theme2.xml and theme3.xml. Then copy the clrScheme from theme2.xml to extraClrScheme tags in theme1.xml and theme3.xml.

The result is that it doesn't matter so much which master you choose, you can change the color theme later. Of course, changing the color theme affects all slides based on the same master. This is an easy-to-use method for providing presentation with sections in different colors.

My thanks to Timothy Rylatt for his assistance with fact checking and corrections in this article.

Brandwares employees are world experts in PowerPoint template and theme creation. Send me a line at production@brandwares.com for assistance with your project.

OOXML Hacking: Locking Graphics

Locking graphics in Office documents must be #1 on most designers' wish lists, judging by the number of requests we get. While Word and Excel already do a fairly good job of locking, they can still benefit from this technique. PowerPoint remains wide open. If you can see it, you can move, resize or delete it. Placing items on the Slide Master or Layouts helps, but this is minimal protection against a savvy user. Your users love to be "creative", so how can we protect the brand from their enthusiasm?

Fortunately, it's possible to provide protection for important logos and maintain slide layout integrity by editing the template XML. But this power comes with a responsibility to design the protection carefully. It can be a very thin line between a deck that is protected and one that is unusable. If you decide to protect your presentation, it is incumbent on you to test it repeatedly to ensure your users can still get work done with it.

Before trying this, please read my Introduction to XML Hacking. If you're using OS X, it's also important to read my notes about Editing XML in OS X.

Locking takes place mostly in the Slide Master and Layouts. A minimal approach is best, as each additional locked item will create more feedback from your users with the potential to increase tech support costs. On the Slide Master, you will probably only lock a company logo.


Locking Graphics: Logos

Start by placing a logo on the Slide Master. Of course, you're not using a JPEG file, because you already know that's the worst format for line art. If you still think JPEGs are the best, please read JPEG Logos? Fail! and Logo Production Secrets. After the logo is in place, expand the presentation to view the XML. Open ppt\slideMasters\slideMaster1.xml. All the placeholder coding comes first, so scroll down about halfway until you see XML that looks like this:

<p:pic>
  <p:nvPicPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="Picture 6"/>
    <p:cNvPicPr>
      <a:picLocks noChangeAspect="1"/>
    </p:cNvPicPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvPicPr>

To lock this, we just add one small parameter (in bold):

<p:pic>
  <p:nvPicPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="Picture 6"/>
    <p:cNvPicPr>
      <a:picLocks noChangeAspect="1" noSelect="1"/>
    </p:cNvPicPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvPicPr>

Test this out by re-zipping the files and opening in PowerPoint. Try to select the logo. noSelect="1" has the effect of making it unselectable, so the user can't do anything creative with it, even if they open the master.


Locking Graphics: Shapes

Different graphic objects use a slightly different syntax. The noSelect="1" parameter remains the same, but you have to expand a tag and add a new line to include it. For all AutoShapes except lines, the default XML will resemble the following:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="9" name="Rectangle 8"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr/>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvSpPr>

Editing the p:cNvSpPr tag as shown below will make the shape unselectable:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="9" name="Rectangle 8"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr>
      <a:spLocks noSelect="1"/>
    </p:cNvSpPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvSpPr>

Locking Graphics: Lines

At the XML level, lines are referred to as Connectors rather than Shapes. The original XML will look like this:

<p:cxnSp>
  <p:nvCxnSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="8" name="Straight Connector 7"/>
    <p:cNvCxnSpPr/>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvCxnSpPr>

To lock this, edit the p:cNvCxnSpPr tag:

<p:cxnSp>
  <p:nvCxnSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="8" name="Straight Connector 7"/>
    <p:cNvCxnSpPr>
      <a:cxnSpLocks noSelect="1"/>
    </p:cNvCxnSpPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvCxnSpPr>

Locking Graphics: Placeholders

Placeholders are the boxes on slide layouts that can hold different types of content. The layouts are found in ppt\slideLayouts. They are numbered in the order that they appear in the left-hand list of layouts in Slide Master view. By default slideLayout1.xml is the Title slide. The XML tag is <p:sp> instead of <p:pic>, but otherwise the syntax is the same for locking. Placeholders do not inherit the lock parameters, so locking a placeholder on the master doesn't affect the layouts and locked placeholders on the layouts have no effect on the slide placeholders.

You can see what other parameters are possible for the spLocks tag at Datypic's a:spLocks page. There are options here to prevent grouping the image, rotating, moving or resizing it, changing it's aspect ratio and several other less useful options. Let's use some of the other parameters to lock down the shape. Here is the start of a Title placeholder:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="2" name="Title 1"/>
      <p:cNvSpPr>
    <a:spLocks noGrp="1"/>
  </p:cNvSpPr>

After we add parameters to prevent moving and resizing, the XML looks like this:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="2" name="Title 1"/>
      <p:cNvSpPr>
    <a:spLocks noGrp="1" noMove="1" noResize="1"/>
  </p:cNvSpPr>

Don't expect that slides based on this will still have unmoveable placeholders. The lock parameters are not included when a slide is created from a layout. This locking ensures only that the layout remains the same, so when a slide is reset, it will always return to the correct format.

If the placeholders must remain in place on the slides, then you must first create the slide, then edit the XML before distributing the deck. For this, look in ppt/slides. The files are numbered in the order they appear in the presentation, so slide1.xml is usually the title. Here is the XML for a locked title placeholder.The noRot parameter prevents rotation:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="2" name="Title 1"/>
      <p:cNvSpPr>
    <a:spLocks noGrp="1" noMove="1" noResize="1" noRot="1"/>
  </p:cNvSpPr>

When the user clicks on this, all the adjustment handles have a diagonal through them and the user is unable to change the shape size or position:

Locked Title Placeholder


Locking Graphics: Other Objects

By default, the picture and placeholders already include a p:locks or sp:locks tag, which is where we add the locking information. But what if you insert a text box on a layout for a legal disclaimer and want to make it ineditable? The text box XML initially looks like this:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="TextBox 6"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr txBox="1"/>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvSpPr>

To lock this, we need to expand the <p:cNvSpPr txBox="1"/> tag. In case it's not obvious, to expand a closed tag, you must first delete the slash at the end that closes it. Then you create a new closing tag and put the <a:spLocks>> information between the two. The noTextEdit parameter means the text can't be edited. Even if a clever user gets to the slide layout, they can't change the text, though the shape is still moveable.

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="TextBox 6"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr txBox="1">
      <a:spLocks noTextEdit="1"/>
    </p:cNvSpPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvSpPr>

Locking Graphics in Word and Excel

The principles are very similar to locking in PowerPoint. This can give you locked graphics and/or ineditable text boxes in both those programs without have to apply any document protection.

In Word, picture locks must be applied to the graphic frame that holds the picture, not the picture itself. This works:

<wp:cNvGraphicFramePr>
  <<a:graphicFrameLocks xmlns:a="http://schemas.
openxmlformats.org/drawingml/2006/main" noSelect="1" />
</wp:cNvGraphicFramePr>

This does not:

<pic:cNvPicPr>
  <<a:picLocks noSelect="1" />
</pic:cNvPicPr>

To lock a text box in Excel, expand:

<xdr:cNvSpPr txBox="1"/>

To:

<xdr:cNvSpPr txBox="1">
  <a:spLocks noSelect="1"/>
</xdr:cNvSpPr>

You can make the text in the box ineditable while still allowing it to be selected and moved:

<xdr:cNvSpPr txBox="1">
  <a:spLocks noTextEdit="1"/>
</xdr:cNvSpPr>

Locking Graphics: Gotchas and Exceptions

After a few months of practical testing, some real-life limitations on shape locking have become evident. Adding the noChangeAspect="1" has the same effect as checking the Lock aspect ratio option on the Size pane of the Format Shape dialog. But just as when you check this option manually, clicking on the shape and dragging the adjust handles will still distort the shape. On top of this, I found this page on MSDN: 2.1.1255 Part 4 Section 5.1.2.1.34, spLocks (Shape Locks). The pages states that "Office ignores attributes noChangeArrowheads and noRot when applied to a shape. PowerPoint additionally ignores the attribute noAdjustHandles when applied to a shape and noChangeShapeType when the converting the shape to a freeform." So a user can circumvent noChangeAspect by dragging on the handles and you can't prevent the handles from displaying either. Office simply doesn't implement Microsoft's own spec completely. There's nothing you can do about this. It should be noted, that the accuracy of Microsoft's information is not the best. Their statement that Office ignores noRot="1" when applied to a shape is not true, you can successfully prevent rotation with this parameter. You really have to test everything to really know what works and what doesn't.


Locking Graphics: The Designer's Responsibility

Powerful? Yes. But with power comes responsibility. Company presentation templates need to be revised, but after you lock items in XML, those shapes can no longer be revised through the program interface. So it's essential that if you use these techniques, that you document your changes when you send the file to your users. Using these methods secretly to get repeat business from captive clients is dishonest and is definitely not a best practice.

Brandwares knows every detail about shape locking and we can do all this for you. Email me with the details of your requirements at production@brandwares.com.

OOXML Hacking: Graduated Color Table Borders

I'll admit right off the bat, graduated color table borders is a trick you might need only once every ten years. But it's a good illustration of the little touches you can add with XML Hacking that you just can't do any other way. If you're unfamiliar with XML hacking, please read XML Hacking: An Introduction. If you're using a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X.

I was working on a presentation for a designer and the theme used graduated color rules. Most of the layout only need a rule below the title, which was simple to do with user interface. But then the designer included a slide that clearly needed to be a table and that table had the same graduated colors used as horizontal borders. At first, I informed him this wasn't possible, but as I researched the issue, I found there was a way.

The answer was in a 10-year-old blog post by Mike Fried. Back then Mike was one of the engineers creating Office 2007 and his 2 posts on PowerPoint table styles have lots of good information. Toward the bottom of the article, he included garish graduated color table borders. It was enough to crack the code.

As an aside, I'd like to mention that you can find out the details on any Open Office XML parameter by Googling it. There is extensive documentation on the web, even though some of it is terse database excerpts. The essential command for a gradient line is a:gs. The GS stands for Gradient Stop, the points on the line that define where a particular color appears in the graduated line.

Googling ooxml a:gs gets you the Datypic site that lists elements and attributes, but explains almost nothing about them. However, this site can be useful because all XML elements are hyperlinked, so you can quickly find related parameters.

Further down the page is the openofficexml.com page on a:gs. This site has relatively verbose explanations of the element, a clear example of useage and definitions of the elements included in the xml object.

Finally, many searches will turn up links to the Microsoft MSDN developer pages about Open Office XML. These discuss Themes and XML in a more conversational style that is great for picking up the overall concepts. Occasionally, you'll also find a valuable blog post, such as Lars Corneliussen's explanation of Open Office measurements units.


Graduated Color Rules

But back to graduated color table borders! First, let's look at a graduated color rule, which you can create using the program interface. Here is the dialog box showing the settings. The central point of the gradient has been shifted to the left to have more solid color on the right side and a rapid dropoff to white on the left:

Graduated Color Rule Settings

Here's how the rule looks:

Graduated Color Rule

When we examine the XML for this rule, it looks like this:

<a:ln w="19050">
  <a:gradFill>
    <a:gsLst>
      <a:gs pos="0">
        <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/>
      </a:gs>
      <a:gs pos="25000">
        <a:srgbClr val="B7E6FF"/>
      </a:gs>
      <a:gs pos="100000">
        <a:schemeClr val="accent1"/>
      </a:gs>
    </a:gsLst>
    <a:lin ang="0" scaled="0"/>
  </a:gradFill>
</a:ln>

The pos (position) parameter is a percentage of rule length, with 100000 representing 100 percent. The colors are straightforward, with bg1 being the white background and accent1 the cyan. For the midway color value, I used the handy RGB Tint Calculator on this site, but then moved that value to the 25% mark.


Graduated Color Table Borders

The XML for a rule translates exactly to the XML for a table style. Here is the style for the top border, the same XML is applied to the inside border so that all interior rows show the same rule:

<a:top>
  <a:ln w="19050">
    <a:gradFill>
      <a:gsLst>
        <a:gs pos="0">
          <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/>
        </a:gs>
        <a:gs pos="25000">
          <a:srgbClr val="B7E6FF"/>
        </a:gs>
        <a:gs pos="100000">
          <a:schemeClr val="accent1"/>
        </a:gs>
      </a:gsLst>
      <a:lin ang="0" scaled="0"/>
    </a:gradFill>
  </a:ln>
</a:top>

Here's what the final table rules look like with the table style applied:

Graduated color table borders

For more information on how to create table styles, please read XML Hacking: Custom Table Styles, XML Hacking: Table Styles Complete and XML Hacking: Default Table Text.

OOXML Hacking: Document Repair

You have a crucial thesis or presentation that's due in the morning, but when you try to open it, you get a message saying the file has an error. It may seem like the end of the road, but with a little XML hacking, you can repair your file in just a few minutes and be back to work. Document repair is something you can do yourself.

First, let's look at different causes of file corruption. The number one cause is working on files while they are on temporary or removable media. A USB or flash drive is a convenient way to carry data. The common alternative is to keep your information in the Cloud. But both of these are hazardous if you're editing files. Accidentally ejecting a USB stick or losing your Internet connection while a file is open in Office is a near-guarantee of corruption. This type of corruption is also disastrous, because the file contents are so thoroughly scrambled, there is no way to recover the data.

But there are also files that get scrambled by software and usually these are recoverable. We'll use the same techniques covered in previous posts. Windows users should review XML Hacking: An Introduction, while OS X hackers need to follow these instructions: XML Hacking: Editing in OS X


Is the File Recoverable?

When opened in Office, unrecoverable files may give you errors like these:

Recover Text
Parts Missing

The first step is to rename a copy of the file with a .zip ending and expand it. An unrecoverable file (one scrambled by a USB or Cloud drive) will almost always raise an Zip error. Cut your losses, you're not going to be able to fix this. As a second-best alternative, try opening the original damaged file in NotePad (on Windows) or Text Edit (OS X) to recover whatever text you can. You also might be able to extract some contents by opening in a different word processor, like Pages on a Mac.

By contrast, if you see the following messages, document repair is possible:

Illegal Character
XML Corruption Warning

You can see that the first 2 messages are generic, while the second 2 give a specific location for the error. This means the file is at least partially readable by the program.


Error-finding

There are quite a few document repair articles on the web that are worth reading for the variety of tools that people are using. I prefer a combination of a good text editor (NotePad++ on Windows, BBEdit on OS X), plus a modern browser like FireFox or Chrome. The text editor is where you do the editing, while the browser parses the XML and finds any errors.

You've already unzipped the document or presentation, now look for the XML portion that contains the error. Most of the time, with a Word file, document.xml will be the culprit. Open document.xml in the text editor and Prettify (NotePad++) or Tidy (BBEdit) it to make it readable. A raw document.xml file only has 2 lines, which is why the XML errors are invariably reported as being on line 2. Making the text readable also adds useful line numbers to error reports, making the errors much quicker to find. Now the file should look like this:

document.xml

Save document.xml, then open it in your choice of browser. This is how FireFox and Chrome show where the first error is:

Browsers View XML

As you can see, the report is a little more informative in FireFox. The error is a mismatched tag: a tag was opened but not closed. It expected to see the closing tag </mc:Fallback> and it tells you exactly where it thought that tag should be. The arrow points to the first character that is in error. The correct way to interpret this is that the expected end tag should be inserted immediately before the tag pointed to.


Document Repair Technique

Here's what the error location looks like in the text editor:

Document Repair Error Location

Then here is what it looks like after inserting the closing tag (you can copy and paste directly from the browser window):

Step 1 Document Repair

Save document.xml in the text editor, then refresh the browser. The next error is shown:

Step 1 Result

Repeat the steps. Some files have only a couple of errors, others may have dozens. You'll know when you're done, because refreshing the browser will give you a different screen, displaying the XML instead of an error message:

Final Document Repair Result


Rebuild the File

Close the text editor and browser, then re-zip the folders and [Content_Types].xml, giving the zip file a new name and a file ending that matches the original. Open it to ensure it works. Office does not tolerate XML errors well and doesn't give you clear error messages, so if the file doesn't open, you missed something. In addition, Mac users have to use Terminal to zip and view files, as noted on the XML Hacking: Editing in OS X page.

Lots of people ask "How can I prevent this?", but there isn't a really good answer. If a file can be repaired, it's almost always due to a program bug that writes malformed XML. In the Word file used for example, this is often when a placed graphic has no fallback information, which is supposed to help with graphic depiction in older file formats. It appears that the program omits the closing fallback tags when saving and you get the error. It's not your fault, but Microsoft has not been able to find and eliminate this bug since the 2007 version.

OOXML Hacking: Linked Excel Charts

Time marches on and this post is obsolete. Please check out XML Hacking: Fix Broken PowerPoint Links for more current information on this topic.

OS X versions of Microsoft Office have always been the poor step-children in the Microsoft family. Always missing important features found only in the Windows alternatives. One of these obvious disparities has been in the area of linked Excel charts. In Windows, Microsoft uses their OLE technology to allow, for instance, an Excel workbook to be linked to a PowerPoint presentation.

The Excel workbook can still be edited independently. The charts can be revised based on new data, and when the presentation is opened, the updated information will be displayed. This is a powerful tool in many situations where information is changing rapidly and the presentation must stay current. This approach also leverages the inheritance of data. This allows users to have only one data source that drives updates in many different places.

Of course, OLE being a proprietary Microsoft technology, it has almost no support on other operating systems. The only way it appears in OS X is if an individual software vendor creates an instance that works with their code. Office for Mac has had its own tiny version of OLE that allows some, but not all the features found in Windows. You could only insert Office objects (forget about PDFs) and you couldn't link, only embed.

Until now. With the release of Office 2016 for Mac, the tiniest crack of linkability has finally opened. Try these steps: Open Excel 2016 for Mac and create a chart. Select that chart and copy it. Open a presentation in PowerPoint and click on the down-pointing arrowhead beside the Paste button. Now your options include all of the following:

  • Use Destination Theme & Embed Workbook
  • Keep Source Formatting & Embed Workbook
  • Use Destination Theme & Link Data
  • Keep Source Formatting & Link Data
  • Paste as Picture

Options 1, 2 and 5 have always been available. The news is with 3 and 4, where linked data for charts becomes a new possibility. But along with this fresh opportunity comes a problem that hasn't been addressed by Microsoft. It's very nice to link charts, but the Microsoft default is always to hard code the link path. This means that moving the presentation and Excel source to a different computer destroys the links. The charts are no longer editable, because the link path has changed.

Remember the poor step-child analogy? Here it is again: Windows versions of PowerPoint allow you to edit the links in the program so you can fix the path problem. But no such facility exists on the Mac. To update those linked Excel charts, you need to ... hack the XML!

If you're new to XML hacking, please read my introduction to the subject. Since this topic is specific to OS X, it's also vital to read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X as well. I assume that you have figured out the correct path to the Excel file on the computer where the presentation has been moved.

Updating linked Excel Charts with XML Editing

After unzipping the presentation, you're going to look inside the folders for ppt/charts/rels. Office XML files are full of rels folders that contain the relationships between the components of the document. Each chart in the presentation consists of a file i.e. chart1.xml with a corresponding chart1.xml.rels inside the rels folder. The number in the chart name increments for each additional chart linked.

The contents of chart1.xml.rels looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" standalone="yes"?>
<Relationships xmlns="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/package/2006/relationships">
  <Relationship Id="rId1" Type="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2011/relationships/chartStyle" Target="style1.xml" />
  <Relationship Id="rId2" Type="http://schemas.microsoft.com/office/2011/relationships/chartColorStyle" Target="colors1.xml" />
  <Relationship Id="rId3" Type="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/officeDocument/2006/relationships/oleObject" Target="file://localhost/Users/server/Documents/Dockets/Test/Excel/LinkTest.xlsx" TargetMode="External" />
</Relationships>

The lines of code are long, please scroll to see where I've bolded the path and file name, this is the section you have to modify to update the linked Excel chart.

Just as a comparison, here's the analogous information from a PowerPoint 2010 file. In this case, there is not a chart folder containing chart.xml files. Instead, the charts are part of the slide files and are found in slide1.xml. The rels file is slide1.xml.rels and it looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<Relationships xmlns="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/package/2006/relationships">
	<Relationship Id="rId3" Type="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/officeDocument/2006/relationships/oleObject" Target="file:///I:\Dockets\Test\Excel\ExcelLink2010.xlsx!Sheet1!%5bExcelLink2010.xlsx%5dSheet1%20Chart%201" TargetMode="External"/>
	<Relationship Id="rId2" Type="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/officeDocument/2006/relationships/slideLayout" Target="../slideLayouts/slideLayout7.xml"/>
	<Relationship Id="rId1" Type="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/officeDocument/2006/relationships/vmlDrawing" Target="../drawings/vmlDrawing1.vml"/>
	<Relationship Id="rId4" Type="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/officeDocument/2006/relationships/image" Target="../media/image1.emf"/>
</Relationships>

A close examination shows that much of the same information in a Mac file is also here, but the file and path is Windows-style. Using this information, you're ready to update those linked Excel charts with the best of them!

OOXML Hacking: Managing Styles

Are you managing styles in your Word documents? A hallmark of a professionally-created template is the appearance of the Quick Style Gallery. If I open a template and see this:

Not Managing Styles

I realize the person who constructed the file doesn't know better or doesn't care. The clue are the 4 zombie styles on the right side. If you expand the gallery, you'll see 8 more zombie styles. These 12 are automatically generated in every new installation of Word. Nobody uses them, they just clutter the interface. If you're managing styles, you'll make them disappear.

These 12 can't be deleted, they are termed built-in styles and the Delete button is disabled in the style management dialog. But in Word for Windows, there is a Style Management panel called Recommended, where you can Hide them or optionally apply Hide Until Used. This last attribute keeps the style out of the Quick Style Gallery until the first time you apply it in a document, at which time it becomes visible.

But where is the Recommended panel in Word for Mac? Did someone Hide that too? No, it's just not an option for Mac users. Microsoft left it out (speculate at will). But all is not lost: You can still manage style visibility on the Mac, you just have to do it with XML Hacking. New hackers should read XML Hacking: An Introduction and XML Hacking: Editing in macOS before trying these steps.

When you first open an Office XML field, the content is linearized and difficult to read. In BBEdit, apply Test>Apply Text Filter>run_tidy, an add-on script for BBEdit that you can download here. Voila! Readable XML!


Managing Styles with XML Editing

Word styles are stored in word/styles.xml and word/stylesWithEffects.xml. Word 2007/2008 reads styles.xml while Word 2010/2011 and later use stylesWithEffects.xml, so whatever changes you make, do them to both files. Word doesn't always create a styleWithEffects.xml part, so if there isn't one in your file, just edit styles.xml. Word's built-in styles are in the w:latentStyles part. Let's work on that first, then deal with custom styles.

The style order in the XML file has nothing to do with the order of styles in the user interface, so it's best to search for them. Start with the Title style. The default listing looks like this: (You may see a somewhat different collection of tags from different Word versions.)

<w:lsdException w:name="Title" w:semiHidden="0" w:uiPriority="10" w:unhideWhenUsed="0" w:qFormat="1"/>
The Styles list: a good place to display occasionally-required typestyles.
Managing Styles: the master Styles List

To make this style disappear from the Quick Style Gallery, but still appear on the Styles list, just delete the w:qFormat="1" tag. If you want to remove a style not only from the Quick Style Gallery, but also from the master list of recommended styles, then don't bother with w:qFormat="1", just remove w:semiHidden="0". Finally, to give the style the ability to remain on the Styles list, then be added to the Quick Style Gallery when it is first used, leave the other tags as is and change w:unhideWhenUsed="0" to w:unhideWhenUsed="1".

Besides the Title style, the other zombie styles you'll probably want to remove are:

Subtitle
Subtle Emphasis
Emphasis
Intense Emphasis
Strong
Quote
Intense Quote
Subtle Reference
Intense Reference
Book Title and
List Paragraph

Another useful edit you can make to styles is to change the number beside w:uiPriority. Decreasing this number moves a style up the list, while increasing it moves it down. You may have noticed that editing w:uiPriority in the w:latentStyles has no effect on the position of Normal style. See Custom Styles below to solve this.

For all styles that have the same level number, they are displayed in alphabetical order. I usually rank them in the order they are likely to be used, with the body text and headings at the top, followed by bulleted, numbered and lettered styles. Often you'll have styles that serve a function in a Word file, like unique styles that are referenced by StyleRef fields. If the user doesn't need to apply a style, hide it. The simpler you make their interface, the fewer mistakes they can make.

The styles/stylesWithEffects XML parts contain a list of exceptions. There are many styles that remain invisible until you add an exception to the list. As an example, if you want to make the Body Text style to be at the left end of the Quick Style Gallery, you would first copy and paste the exception for Normal, then change the name to Body Text. The w:uiPriority=0 tag will ensure Body Text pops to the left end.


Managing Styles: Custom Styles

To manage custom and special styles, scroll down below the latentStyles section. Here you'll see more verbose XML like this:

<w:style w:type="paragraph" w:default="1" w:styleId="Normal">
  <w:name w:val="Normal"/>
  <w:uiPriority w:val="1"/>;
  <w:qFormat/>
  <w:rsid w:val="00AB271F"/>
</w:style>

Here's where you can change the order of Normal. Because this XML part comes after the Normal entry in latentStyles, it over-rides those settings. Any style set to 0 will appear to the left of Normal in the Style Gallery and above Normal in the Styles List.

Here's what a custom style looks like:

<w:style w:type="paragraph" w:customStyle="1" w:styleId="Code">
  <w:name w:val="Code"/>
  <w:basedOn w:val="Normal"/>
  <w:uiPriority w:val="6"/>;
  <w:qFormat/>
  <w:rsid w:val="00A12E2B"/>
  <w:pPr>
    <w:spacing w:after="0" w:line="240" w:lineRule="auto"/>
  </w:pPr>
  <w:rPr>
    <w:rFonts w:ascii="Bitstream Vera Sans Mono" w:hAnsi="Bitstream Vera Sans Mono"/>
  </w:rPr>
</w:style>

While you could edit all attributes of the style here, it's easier to do through the user interface. But you can change the order, here set to 6.

Save the XML file. If you're using BBEdit, you're done. If you're working with another editor, re-zip [Content_Types].xml plus the folders. Change the ending of the resulting Zip file to .docx and click on the Use .docx button when OS X asks. Open the file and check out the beautifully clean Quick Style Gallery, thanks to you managing styles!

This is a complex topic, so don't feel bad if it's hard to get working as expected. If you're on a deadline, Brandwares can do this for you. Just email me at production@brandwares.com.

OOXML Hacking: Editing in macOS

Note: I've included the original article text to describe the background issues about XML editing in macOS, but to retain your sanity, be sure to follow the May 2016 and July 2018 updates at the end and use a text editor that doesn't require unzipping and rezipping the files

When you're hand-editing Office files in Windows, it's pretty straight-forward: unzip file > edit > rezip, you're done. Editing in macOS requires a couple of extra precautions. This is because the graphical user interface adds Mac attributes to files and plants hidden files in folders. Office will not tolerate either of these:

Editing in macOS - The Open XML file cannot be opened because there are problems with the contents. Details The file is corrupt and cannot be opened.

XML error message in 2008


Editing in macOS - The Open XML file cannot be opened because there are problems with the contents or the file name might contain invalid characters (for example, \/). Details The file is corrupt and cannot be opened.

XML error message in 2011


Editing in macOS - The Open XML file cannot be opened because there are problems with the contents or the file name might contain invalid characters (for example, \/). Details The file is corrupt and cannot be opened.

XML error message in 2016

If you use macOS's Archive Utility to unzip or zip the files, Word will refuse to open the resulting file. On top of that, if you look in any of the folders using the Finder, a hidden .DS_Store file will be created in the folder. When re-zipped, Word will not accept the extra file and again report an XML error. The solution to these issues is to use the command line, like the Unix warrior you want to be! Remember to run each Terminal command by pressing the Return key after typing the command.

A valuable utility for this is OpenTerminalHere. Open any Finder window, click on OpenTerminalHere and a terminal window opens pointed to the Finder window. So download and install it, then follow these steps to open, edit and re-zip Office files:

  1. Move a copy of the Office document (let's call it TestDoc.docx) to a separate folder and open that folder in the Finder.
  2. Click on OpenTerminalHere to open a copy of Terminal aimed at the folder.
  3. In the Terminal, type
    unzip TestDoc.docx

    then press Return. The file is unzipped into several folders plus a file called [Content_Types].xml.

  4. Do not look in any of the folders using the Finder, or you'll have to start over. To examine a folder's contents, use the Terminal to change the folder, then list the contents:
    cd word

    ls -l
  5. To go back up to the previous folder, type:
    cd ..
  6. To edit the files, open your text editor, then navigate using the File>Open dialog to find the file. Edit the file, then save and close.
  7. When you're all done, double-check that terminal is pointing at the original folder holding the documents and the expanded folders. If you're unsure, close terminal, then click on OpenTerminalHere to reopen in the right spot.
  8. In Terminal, re-zip the files with this style of command:
    zip -r RevisedDoc.dotx [Content_Types].xml _rels docProps word

    This example is for Word, but the correct syntax after zip -r is to type the name of the final document, followed by the file and folders, each separated by a space. The file is reassembled into an Office file.

  9. Test that you can open it. If you get an XML error notice, re-read the above steps and try again.

Please note: these editing techniques are required when editing in macOS with Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents and templates, plus Office Theme files (the kind exported from PowerPoint that combine all Theme elements.

If, on the other hand, you are editing a Font Theme or a Color Theme, those are simple XML files. They don't need to be unzipped or re-zipped and Office doesn't seem to care about macOS attributes attached to them. These plain XML files don't need to be handled through the terminal, just use the Finder.

Next time, we'll be looking at managing Word styles in macOS. Finally, a way to get rid of the zombie styles automatically created by Word! Happy hacking!


March 2016 Update

An alternative to working entirely in Terminal is to work on a network or USB disk where creation od .DS_Store files has been turned off. On a network disk, open Terminal in your choice of folder and run the command:

defaults write com.apple.desktopservices DSDontWriteNetworkStores true

To use a USB disk, run this command instead:

defaults write com.apple.desktopservices DSDontWriteUSBStores true

While this will prevent future generation of the .DS_Store files in that folder and any subfolders, it's very likely you already have such files, since they're created almost as soon as you view a folder's contents in the Finder. In addition, some important XML parts are hidden and need to be revealed. So while Terminal is open, run:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES

followed by:

killall Finder

The second line restarts the finder to force a refresh of the view. Now you can see any .DS_Store files and delete them before re-zipping the files into an Office document. You'll have still have to do the zipping in Terminal. Also, no .DS_Store files means OpenTerminalHere doesn't work, so you'll have to navigate manually via Terminal commands. Now you know why this is a lame alternative.

If you try this technique, you can always restore the clean file view by running:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles NO
killall Finder

Editing in macOS - May 2016 Update

BBEdit 11 now has the ability to open and edit Office files directly, avoiding all of the above hassle when editing in macOS. While older versions of BBEdit used Tidy to format text, that utility has been retired. The BBEdit programmers have written a script to format XML in human-readable form. You can download it from here, please be sure to read the installation instructions first: Click to download XML Tidy Script for BBEdit

Here's your working procedure:

  1. Open your Office file in BBEdit 11 or later. In the left-hand pane, you'll see a folder tree of the files contained within, so no unzipping is required
  2. Select the file you want to edit. The file opens in the main BBEdit window, displaying two lines. The first is the XML header, the second is the actual content.
  3. Click at the left end of the second line.
  4. Choose Text>Apply Text Filter>run_tidy.
  5. Make your edits and save. It's not necessary to linearize the XML. The Office program will do that anyway the first time you save it. However, if you like to leave things exactly the way you found them, click in from of the first line of content (after the header line), choose Markup>Utilities>Format..., change the Mode to Compact and click on the Format button. Save the file and test your editing in macOS.


Editing in macOS - July 2018 Update

Technology marches on! If you use the Chrome browser, there is a free XML editing alternative that avoids unzipping and rezipping files. Open this link in Chrome: OOXML Tools and download the free plugin. After installation, click on the OOXML icon to the right of the browser address bar. Drag your Office files onto the browser window to begin editing. When you're finished, click on the Save button, then the Download button in the upper left corner and give the new file an appropriate name. Chrome will place the new file in your Downloads folder and leave the original file untouched. OOXML's EMF/WMF bug has been fixed, so download the most recent version. Thanks to Bram Alkema of the Netherlands for informing us about OOXML Tools.

Please note, for any OOXML Hacking that requires adding new XML parts (Ribbon mods, creating SuperThemes), BBEdit and OOXML Tools will not work. You'll have to use the March 2016 update solution and create a network or USB disk set up for XML editing.

We're experts in XML hacking, so you don't have to be. Contact me at production@brandwares.com with the details of what you need hacked.

OOXML Hacking: Font Themes

Font themes are one of the simpler theme elements in Open Office XML, but for some baffling reason, Mac Office users can't create one. It's odd enough that the only Mac program that can create a color theme is PowerPoint, but even it can't provide an escape from Calibri and Arial! So I'm going to show you how to do it on your own.

Let's start with a dead-simple font theme. Here's the minimal file that Office will read:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<a:fontScheme xmlns:a="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/drawingml/2006/main" name="Test">
  <a:majorFont>
    <a:latin typeface="Arial"/>
    <a:ea typeface=""/>
    <a:cs typeface=""/>
  </a:majorFont>
  <a:minorFont>
    <a:latin typeface="Arial"/>
    <a:ea typeface=""/>
    <a:cs typeface=""/>
  </a:minorFont>
</a:fontScheme>

Important Note: If you copy and paste this sample, 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.

You can create this in any text editor, including TextEdit in plain text mode (don't try this with an rtf file). However, by default TextEdit will change the necessary straight quotes to smart quotes, producing a file that Office will not recognize. If you're using TextEdit, make sure you visit both TextEdit>Preferences and Edit>Substitutions and turn off Smart Quotes in both locations. A better alternative is the free version of BBEdit. When you visit this link, click on the Download link to get the free version. If you do any significant amount of XML editing, the paid version of BBEdit is well worth the $50 price tag.

The most common font theme problem is using smart quotes (Hex 201C + 201D, Decimal 8220 + 8221) other than plain straight quotes (Hex 22, Decimal 34). But you can also ruin a font theme by using non-breaking spaces (Hex A0, Decimal 160) instead of regular spaces (Hex 20, Decimal 32). Even though a font theme is encoded in UTF-8, you should only use plain ASCII characters for the text. XML has a low tolerance for non-standard characters.

Now that you're set up to edit, copy and paste the font theme file. The <a:latin> tag is the standard font for your theme. <a:majorFont> is for headings and <a:minorFont> for text. Fill in <a:ea> with a font that supports Chinese or Japanese (ea stands for East Asian), if you want to support those languages. The <a:cs> tag stands for complex scripts: Arabic, Thai, Hebrew and many more. For more detail on non-European language support in font themes, please see my article XML Hacking: Font Themes Complete. Or you can just leave those tags blank if you have a predictable user base that won't require them.

A common mistake is to get too specific with the font name in font themes. The name is only the base font name as displayed in Powerpoint's font menu. "Open Sans" will work, but "Open Sans Extrabold" will cause Word 2011 to display a blank space where the font theme should be, while Word 2016 will simply ignore the entire file.

Save the file as a text file with a .xml ending and give it the name you want to appear in the user interface. "Brandwares.xml" will appear in the Font Theme menu as Brandwares.

For Office 2016 or 2019, save this file to Users/YourUserName/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/User Content/Themes/Theme Fonts. For Office 2011, save it to Users/YourUserName/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/My Themes/Theme Fonts. In current versions of OS X, the user Library is hidden by default. To open it, hold down the Alt key, while clicking on the Go menu and choosing Library.

Once it's correctly installed, it will show in PowerPoint's Slide Master view under the Fonts dropdown. A new Custom group will appear at the top of the list, with your font theme in it. Once you apply it and a color theme to a presentation, you can save as a theme file and distribute that to your users, it will contain the font theme you just created. Happy hacking!


Font Themes - An Alternate Method

March 2017 edit: If you have any problems creating a font theme from scratch, here's a workaround. Open an existing font theme that come with Office and edit the font names to the ones you want to use. These files are the verbose style discussed in this article: XML Hacking: Font Themes Complete. For most uses, you only need to set the a:latin font in the a:majorfont and a:minorfont sections. Here's where you can find the Microsoft Font Themes:

Office 2011 for Mac - Open Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/Media/Office Themes/Theme Fonts and copy any of the XML files.

Office 2016 or 2019 for Mac - Open Applications, then right-click on Microsoft PowerPoint and choose Show Package Contents. Open Contents/Resources/Office Themes/Theme Colors and copy any of the XML files in there.

Here are the locations for 32-bit versions of Windows. If you're using a 64-bit version of Windows, check the same path inside C:\Program Files (x86).

Office 2007 for Windows - Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Document Themes 12\Theme Fonts.

Office 2010 for Windows - Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Document Themes 14\Theme Fonts.

Office 2013 for Windows - Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Document Themes 15\Theme Fonts.

Office 2016 or 2019 for Windows - Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Document Themes 16\Theme Fonts.

Too complicated? We can help! Brandwares is a full service template creation service for all Office programs. Contact me at production@brandwares.com