Person working on laptop and drawing.

As we update our session slides and carry out our new Quality Assurance steps I’ve been giving out lots of tips and tricks. In this post I’m going to take you through some of the things you ask me about most often.

Format painter

Need to adapt your slides to a new template fast? Format painter is your secret weapon. Format painter allows you to copy the formatting of one piece of text or image and apply it to another in a couple of clicks. So forget individually selecting font, size, colour and line spacing.

Format painter — PowerPoint 2016

To use Format painter:

  1. Highlight the text with the font and attributes you want to replicate.
  2. Select ‘Format Painter’ from the home ribbon in the top left.
  3. Click and drag to highlight the text you want to apply it to.
  4. That’s it!

Format Painter only works for ‘one use’ so repeat steps 1–3, to apply again. It also works for image attributes such as shadowing, borders and bevels. It doesn’t work for everything (such as, rotating and flipping) but it can save you a lot of time!

Editing images

Although they are not always accessible, fact is sometimes we need to use screenshots. Especially where our audience will be re-using our slides later as a guide. So how do we make sure they are as accessible as possible and look great?

High resolution images

Take your screenshots by using ‘Shift’+’PrtSc’ keys? Stop now!

Left: Screenshot taken with ‘Shift’+’PrtSc’ keys. Right: Screenshot captured using windows ‘Snipping Tool’ tool.

Take a look at the images above, see the differences in quality?

Snipping tool

The Snipping tool is also really (I mean REALLY) easy to use, just follow these steps…

  1. If it isn’t already in your Start menu, use the search bar to find ‘Snipping tool’.
  2. Click ‘New’, the screen/ window currently displayed will freeze to enable you to take an image.
  3. Click and drag around the parts of the screen you want to include.
  4. Once you have take the image the snipping tool will appear with extra options. Click the copy icon and past into your slide.

Tip: On Windows 10? Did you know you can set your ‘PrtSc’ key on your keyboard as a shortcut to open the Snipping tool? Here’s a quick guide on how to do it.

Cropping images

When including screen shots on slides think carefully about what needs to be included (clue: it is rarely the whole screen). If for example you want to highlight an icon or menu then include this plus just enough of the surrounding screen so that the location of the item/ icon is easy to find. Including the full width or height makes the screen shot less accessible and detracts from what you are highlighting. See below example:

Left: Snip of format painter in Word, cropped. Right: Screenshot of full Word window, not cropped.

To crop an image follow these steps:

  1. Select the image you wish to crop by clicking on it.
  2. Open the ‘Format’ tab from the ribbon.
  3. Click the crop icon on the far right.
  4. Black lines will appear around your image, simply click and drag these inwards towards the centre of the image until your happy with what is included.
  5. When you’re done hit the ‘Esc’ key or click on ‘Crop’ again to turn it off.

If you accidentally crop out too much of the image, follow steps 1–3 above but instead of dragging the black lines inwards drag them out.

Cropping an image in PowerPoint 2016.

The steps are the same in Word!

Tip: When you crop an image the ‘cropped out areas’ aren’t actually discarded unless you compress them or save your presentation as a compressed version. Meaning you can always go back copy and undo the crop on the image to use it again for something else.

Alt text

To help make your slides as accessible as possible you should always include an alt text descriptor. Alt text is what the screen reader will read out to the user when it gets to the image content in your slides.

‘Size & Properties’ menu PowerPoint 2016

To add alt text to an image, follow these steps:

  1. Right click on the image.
  2. Select ‘Format Picture’.
  3. If you are using PowerPoint 2016, Select the ‘Size & properties tab.
  4. Finally select ‘Alt Text’.
  5. Add your description of the image, in the title field.

Tip: Screen readers tell the user that the content is an image before it reads the alt text descriptor. So it is not necessary to write ‘image of’ or ‘picture of’ before your description.

Alt text descriptions should be kept as concise as possible. They are there to explain the purpose of the image so it is not necessary to explain anything in the image that doesn’t link to your purpose. As a general rule you will only need to complete the title field and if you find a longer description is necessary then you should consider why you are using the image. You can look at the image descriptors in this post as examples.

If an image contains essential information for understanding; that information should also be included somewhere within the text content.

Resizing images

When working with images it’s very easy to go wrong and distort or stretch the image. However if you remember this simple trick it won’t happen again.

  1. To resize your Image Click and drag the corner to re-size whilst holding down the shift key.

That’s it! No really, holding down Shift allows you to re-size the image whilst keeping the original aspect ratio.

My top tip for screen shots which show a lot of information, would be to resize where possible to the full width of the slide. You can always crop a little more off the image to ensure it fits well, ensuring you don’t take off too much of the context.

Feel free to comment below to request more tips like this.

Sharing resources for educators, from The University of Manchester Library