Different Formats for PowerPoint Presentations

By Darrin Koltow

Familiarize yourself with PowerPoint's format options.
i IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Knowing the different formats available in PowerPoint yields many benefits, such as preventing compatibility errors when trying to import files into your presentations. Also, knowing PowerPoint’s file formats, themes and page layout presets can give you a deeper understanding of what you can do with this program. For example, knowing that there are different themes means you don’t have to settle for a design that’s inappropriate for your presentation.

File Formats

PowerPoint’s file formats, which appear in the “File” menu’s “Save as” dialog box, fall into three categories: formats for presentations that open in the design environment, template formats for stylizing slide content and slideshow formats. File extensions can help you recognize specific formats and the PowerPoint versions they apply to. Three-character file extensions tend to refer to pre-2007 versions of PowerPoint, while four-character extensions are for 2007 and 2010 presentations. Four-character extensions that have an "X" in them, such as PPTX, can’t contain Visual Basic for Applications programs, while those with "M" in their file extensions can contain such programs.

PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 design environment files: PPTX and PPTM Pre-2007 design environment files: PPT Templates, 2007 and 2010: POTM and POTX Templates, pre-2007: POT Slideshows, 2007 and 2010: PPSX and PPSM Slideshows, pre-2007: PPS


PowerPoint offers a variety of visual formats, called Themes, for your presentations. You can view these in the Themes group of the Design tab. Themes create visual unity and a mood for your entire presentation by making fonts, colors and graphics the same for all slides. For example, the rough-edged graphics of the Paper theme create a rustic ambiance. If you're looking for a bare-bones visual style, try the Office theme. You can get more themes from Microsoft by clicking the "More themes" button at the bottom of the gallery.

Page Layout Presets

The different formats in the Page setup group of the Design tab change the shape of your slides. The "Slides sized for" control of the Page Setup dialog has presets that impact this shape, with the default set to "On-screen show (4:3)." This preset sets the width-to-height ratio of all slides at 4-to-3. Other "On-screen show" formats let you quickly change from the 4-to-3 ratio to 16-to-9 and 16-to-10. Other presets for the “Slides sized for” control include those available in wordprocessors, and include “U.S. Letter," "A4" and other paper sizes. After choosing a preset format for the page setup, you can customize it with the Width and Height controls of the Page Setup dialog. The Page Setup box also lets you change the orientation format through the controls in its Orientation heading; the options here are "portrait" and "landscape."

Multimedia Formats

PowerPoint lets you import a variety of multimedia formats into your presentations, including WMV, SWF (Flash), AVI, MPEG and others. Audio formats include WAV, MP3, MIDI, WMA and others. You can view the available video formats in the Insert Movie dialog, which you open by clicking the "Movie" command in the "Insert" tab. Clicking the "Sound" command of that tab displays the Insert Sound dialog, which lists possible audio formats. You can import static images in the JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG and other formats. These are raster graphics formats, which means they degrade in quality if you enlarge them. Vector formats you can import in PowerPoint, and that don’t degrade, include WMF and CGM.