Microsoft Powerpoint How-to: 5 Steps to Smaller Files

powerpoint file size 01So you've been toiling for a week over your latest and greatest Powerpoint presentation, and you're sure it's going to get you booted right into that corner office you've been drooling over. Just to make sure you haven't misspelled the new CEOs name, you decide to e-mail your creation to a trusted co-worker for proofreading. That's when you discover it: You've created a 50 mb monster! The last thing you want to do is to delete that cherry graph showing your main competitor's tanking stock market valuation. But you need to get it under your company's 2 mb e-mail attachment limit, and you don't have time to burn it to a CD and FedEx it. What's a wannabe-executive to do?

Do yourself a favor before you start, and make a copy of the offending over-sized presentation before you try out any of these modifications. That way you can always go back to the original, in case you're not happy with the results.

  1. Trim and compress your images - There are several items to look at here:
  • Dimensions - If you find that you're reducing the dimensions of your images when you bring them into PowerPoint then your image was too big to begin with. Now, some minor tweaking is fine, but I've seen images that started out being well over 3000 pixels wide, with the final image only taking up a small corner of the slide. Typically an image that is 960 pixels wide by 720 pixels high will fill a slide from edge to edge. Here's a guide that I use to help make sure that I'm starting out with images that are about the right size:

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  • Resolution -There is really no reason to have images with a higher resolution than 96 ppi in your presentation. While some might argue that images should be 300 ppi for printing, I would argue that PowerPoint is not the right tool to use for printed documents. People will forgive you for supplying handouts with images that are a little grainy.
  • Compress your images with PowerPoint - PowerPoint has a built-in image compression and cropping utility. To access it right-click over the top of any image in your presentation, then select 'Format Picture...' from the popup menu:

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    From here click on the 'Compress...' button in the 'Picture' tab:


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    Then select the options you want. You can compress just the current images, or all of the images in the presentation. If you are not sure of the resolution of the images you can modify it to a low or high setting, or you can leave it unchanged. You can also have it crop any unused areas of the images:


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    I've had limited success with this feature. It will probably reduce the file size a small amount, but you are always better off to pay additional attention to your images before you bring them in to PowerPoint.

  • Turn off the fast save feature - This will force PowerPoint to remove excess data from the file when it is saved. To do this select Tools -> Options from the main menu:

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    Then select the 'Save' tab, and remove the checkmark from the 'Allow fast saves' option:


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    After you have turned off the fast save feature you will need to save the document under a different name in order for it to take effect. Select 'Save as...' from the 'File' menu, then save the presentation under a new name.

  • Be wary of embedded objects - There is usually no point in embedding an entire Excel spreadsheet in your presentation just to show a graph. If you copy and paste or drag and drop the graph from Excel into your presentation, PowerPoint will create an embedded OLE object, which include the entire spreadsheet. It is better to copy the graph into any graphics program, where you can adjust the size and resolution of the image. From there you can insert the image into PowerPoint without the extra baggage.

    It is easy to turn an embedded object into an image. Simply right-click on the object, then select 'Grouping -> Ungroup' from the popup menu:


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    Powerpoint will give you a warning about not being able to edit the source document, just click on OK and it will be converted into an Office drawing object instead.

  • Do not save for PowerPoint 95 - When you save your document you can select the option to save the presentation to be compatible with PowerPoint 95:

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    Versions prior to PowerPoint 97 did not compress images, so saving it in this older version will force PowerPoint to uncompress the images. If you need to share your presentation with someone that is using an old version of PowerPoint you will be better off to have them use the PowerPoint 2003 viewer, which will preserve any of the features that may not be compatible with the older versions.

  • Watch out for items not on the screen - You can place items in your presentation that do not show up on the screen:

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    This is a common practice in page layout programs, where you can dock items off of the printed page while you are working on the document. These can get lost in PowerPoint, especially if someone resizes the image to a very small size. The easiest way to find these is to decrease the magnification of the document using the zoom box on the main menu:


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    Select a zoom setting small enough so that you can easily see the work area around the presentation, then press 'Ctrl + A' on your keyboard, or select 'Edit -> Select all' from the main menu. This will highlight all of the objects on that page, and you can delete anything that isn't needed.
    Don't forget to check the slide master while your at it. Select 'View -> Master -> Slide master' from the main menu, then perform the same operation.

  • Review your presentations using these tips and you should be able to shave off all of that un-wanted excess baggage, creating lean and mean presentations.