Secrets of PowerPoint for Beautiful Research Reports
For every dozen people who hate using PowerPoint, there is a weird person who loves it. That weird person is me. PowerPoint has surprisingly strong capabilities for charts and for displaying research data. All it takes to create beautiful and powerful research reports in PowerPoint is: (1) getting familiar with its functionality, a lot of which may feel “hidden;” (2) developing a good eye for graphic design and for the visual display of quantitative information; and (3) practice and lots of use.
To help you discover more power and beauty in PowerPoint, and to help you use it more effectively than you may be right now, here are a few secrets and shortcuts we find ourselves relying on all the time as we create research reports for our clients:
Control-Y. If you ever find yourself repeating steps over and over again, remind yourself that there must be a better way. Control-Y is one of those ways. Control-Y repeats whatever you just did. If you added 8 points of space underneath a line, and you want to do that to several more lines on the page, you can navigate again and again to the Home—>Paragraph—>Spacing—> After box and enter 8 for each line. But don’t do that. Use the Control-Y shortcut instead. Just put your cursor on the line needing space, and hit Control-Y.
Align. This is a relatively new feature in PowerPoint and one of my favorites. It helps put multiple objects—charts, graphs, shapes, tables, text boxes … whatever you want—into perfect alignment on the page. Use your control key and mouse to select the objects you want to align. Look for the context dependent Format tab, or go to the Drawing section of the Home tab and then click on the Arrange drop down menu. Align will give you lots of choices (including align top, align bottom, align left, align center, and many more). You will probably never need to align things manually again.
Eye Dropper. We often replicate the look and feel of client reports, or work with images that we need to build designs or layouts around. Finding color matches for charts and tables used to be a chore. We would use secondary applications that identify RGB values, and then manually enter them as a custom color choice. Enter the eye dropper! It is the bottom menu choice when choosing colors. Click it, and then hover the eye dropper over any color on your slide, and there it is for you.
These are just a few of the many secret treasures in PowerPoint that make building research reports far easier and more effective than many people realize. If PowerPoint has never been your friend, try using these features and shortcuts next time around. You will find that beautiful, compelling reports that turn data into stories are entirely possible (and even fun!) in PowerPoint.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.
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