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 for logos are a good idea, 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 can add just 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.

This is a super-simple technique, but it has a potential down side. Many add-ins and VBA macros work on a presentation by going through every shape on a slide until it finds the one it needs to revise. The noSelect tag can play havoc with code like that and possibly cause the programming to fail for no apparent reason. So here’s a more professional lock that has the same effect, but won’t disrupt any add-ins:

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

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 noMove="1" noResize="1" noRot="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 noMove="1" noResize="1" noRot="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:

<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&gt> information between the two. The noTextEdit parameter should mean the text can’t be edited, and to a limited extent it does that. A single click on text box text does not put it in edit mode, as would normally happen. But if you double-click, you can still edit the text. So this parameter on its own is not enough to do the job, it will only provide a little discouragement.

<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>

Unlocking Graphics: Design Ideas

PowerPoint users who can’t afford a graphic designer love the Design Ideas feature in PowerPoint. As I write this, this feature is only available in Microsoft 365, the subscription version of Office. Microsoft uses AI technology to present the user with designs that Microsoft thinks are relevant to your content. Any company with branding guidelines should turn this feature off for their users.

Many Design Ideas have shapes that are locked in the XML. When Microsoft locks a shape, they throw the kitchen sink at it:

<a:spLocks noGrp="1" noRot="1" noChangeAspect="1" noMove="1" noResize="1" noEditPoints="1" noAdjustHandles="1" noChangeArrowheads="1" noChangeShapeType="1" noTextEdit="1"/>

Some of those locks don’t even make sense for most shapes, like noChangeArrowheads. The only lock they don’t apply is noSelect, avoiding the macro problem I mentioned earlier. To turn the lock shape into something you can copy, paste and revise, just delete all the attributes:

<a:spLocks />

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: 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

OOXML Hacking: Table Styles Complete

Custom Table Styles are probably one of the more detailed hacks you’ll have to write. See the constructions details in my previous post. Besides the basic table format, there are 6 optional format layers you need to at least consider. In a minimal table style, you’ll need to include at least the Header Row, First Column and Banded Rows. Most users will expect to see these options. Total Rows, Last Columns and Banded Columns are less requested, you only need to include them if a design or client specifically requires them.

As mentioned in part 1, if you haven’t hacked XML before, please read XML Hacking: An Introduction. If you’re using a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X. In addition, an essential companion to this pair of articles is the post on setting Default Table Text, which is set in a different XML component..

Let’s take a look at how our work appears in the PowerPoint interface. First, we’ll insert a plain vanilla table. By default this takes on colors and fonts from the current PowerPoint theme:

Default Table Style

Next, we choose the Table Tools>Design tab, open the Table Styles gallery. Up at the top a new Custom section has appeared with our new custom table style:

Select Custom Table Style

Select the custom table style and the default table changes to match our design. This screen shot has all formatting options turned off, so effectively we are seeing the Whole Table formatting only.

All Table Style Options Off

Table Style Options: Banded Rows and Header

Using the options panel in the upper left corner, we can add some of optional formatting layers we created in XML. First, let’s turn on banded rows. If you remember, we only formatted odd-numbered rows, so the banding only changes rows 1 and 3 in our example:

Table Style Banded Rows

Next, we’ll leave banded rows on and also add the Header row. This row doesn’t count as part of the table body, so the banding moves down 1 row:

Banded Rows and Header

Table Style Options: First and Last Columns

Next, we’ll turn off banded rows, leave the Header as is and add the first column:

Table Style Header Row and First Column

Here’s the table with First and Last Columns checked:

Table Style First and Last Columns

Table Style Options: Header and Total

And finally, Header and Total Rows:

Table Style Header and Total Rows

As you can see, with some pre-planning, one table style can cover quite a few related table looks. The layer options for different features make the table useful for many different purposes and the options panel makes it fast and easy for users to try different combinations. This feature is a major advance over tables in PowerPoint 2003 and earlier, which were quite crude by comparison.Table styles a similar way in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. While Word and Excel include table style editors in their interface, PowerPoint needs to be hacked to create them. Sadly, the table style specs for the different parograms are dissferent, so it’s not possible to trasfer tables style OOXML among Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Table Styles: What You Can’t Do

You cannot set vertical cell/row alignment or cell margins in default taxt table text or a table style. It would have been possible given the OOXML spec, but Microsoft just didn’t bother.

Of course, if the process is too complex, we’re here to help. The current price on a custom table style is US$120. Just email me production@brandwares.com