Legacy Slides – Making It Work the Way You Think It Should Work
Here’s an all-too-common scenario. An organization has a library of presentations built up over the years, full of valuable content. Time passes and a branding update becomes inevitable, to keep the corporate look contemporary. A designer is hired, a new template created and distributed. Users create new decks and start pasting in old slides. Chaos ensues: the formatting is all f***ed up! It could be something minor, like regular text changing to bold. But much more often, old formatting gets pasted in, and in Slide Master view you start seeing unwanted layouts, often with names preceded by numbers like 1_Title and Content. What went wrong?
PowerPoint has several requirements for pasting to work as expected. When you paste in old slides, and you want them to map to your new slide layouts, they must meet all 5 of these criteria:
- The slide layout name must be the same. This can be set in Slide Master view.
- The slide layout type (as set in XML) must be the same. If you copy an existing Title Slide layout, it will retain the layout type. But if you delete all Title Slide layouts, then realize you made a mistake, you’re in trouble. It’s possible to recreate a built-in slide layout by running a VBA macro:
Sub RestoreLayout() With ActivePresentation.Slides .Add(.Count + 1, ppLayoutObject).Delete End With End Sub
- The number of placeholders must be the same. When there is a different number of placeholders on the slide being pasted, PowerPoint goes mental and will reassign content randomly.
- The types of placeholders must be the same. If a user is pasting a Microsoft-compatible Title and Content slide, PowerPoint is looking for:
1 Footer and
1 Page Number placeholder. No more, no less. If your old template layout has only a Title and Content placeholder, your new template must have the same.
- For corresponding placeholders in the old and new layouts, the idx number must match. Title placeholders don’t have idx numbers, because there is only one of them on a slide at a time. The idx numbers tell PowerPoint which placeholder should receive information from a particular placeholder in the old layout. This allows you to have several of the same type of placeholder on a layout and still have PowerPoint map content correctly among them.
This simplest way to guarantee that all these criteria will be met is to not create a template from a brand new file. Instead, reformat the old template to the new branding, taking care not to delete or rename any layouts (you can add new ones), and not to add or delete any placeholders on the existing layouts.
Legacy Slides – Another Possible Hiccup
An additional wrinkle can appear if an embedded image is included, perhaps for a logo. Then the XML will include a line line this:
rId numbers are used by the _rels file that corresponds with the layout to tell PowerPoint where to find the logo. If the rId number is wrong, PowerPoint will show an empty box with the text The picture could not be displayed. Of course, you could just replace the image if you see this error during file construction.
Static pictures, graphics, text boxes and shapes placed on the layout make no difference to layout mapping. Add them, remove them, they won’t stop PowerPoint finding the correct layout.
If a pasted slide does not meet all of the above criteria, PowerPoint imports the slide layout from the old deck, prepending it’s name with 1_, if it’s the first time it’s importing that layout. Very quickly, the client’s deck is polluted with multiple spurious slide layouts. When face with choices like Title and Content, 1_Title and Content, 2_Title and Content, 3_Title and Content, the user will simply give up trying to decide which one to use. Branding goes down the drain.
For maximum legacy compatibility, new templates you create for a client should include the slide layouts and placeholders of previous templates they have commissioned. Often it’s feasible to segregate these using different slide masters, one for each previous template they have used. Each slide master includes exactly the same layouts and placeholders used in a previous version, but with the branding updated to the new look. Then in the receiving template, the user is instructed to paste immediately after a slide based on an earlier version. This method can reduce the user’s pain of having to follow your shiny new template.
In a workflow where PowerPoint files are converted to Google Slides and back, none of the above will work. The XML created by Google is a mess and pasted slides will inevitably bring their non-standard Google layouts with them. There is no fix for this other than a custom VBA conversion macro.
We have years of expertise in this area and can either assess your template for legacy slide compatibility or create a template or theme for you that will work seamlessly with your old files. We’re here to help! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.