A common challenge our clients face is resolving problems created when moving slides from one PowerPoint presentation to another. Most of the time it works well enough – but occasionally, copying from one presentation and pasting into another can completely mess up your fonts, colors, and more. Results range from ugly to borderline illegible, depending on the degree of difference between the source and destination decks.
This post will show you, step by step, how to undo those unwanted changes and use the PowerPoint Clipboard tool to re-paste your slides the way you intended them to look.
Using PowerPoint’s Clipboard Tool to Avoid Formatting Issues
The images above are a typical example of the problem. The first slide (the “source”) is a timeline from an earlier presentation. When we paste it into a new presentation (the “destination”), PowerPoint automatically applies the formatting of the destination to the slide we pasted in. Sometimes this produces a desirable outcome, but more frequently PowerPoint’s well-intentioned efforts to make the presentation consistent end up backfiring and creating a mess.
In this case, the title’s font has changed and the color of the background and title banner is gone. Worst of all, some of the text is now nearly impossible to read on the lighter background.
Don’t panic! This issue can be easily addressed. First, “undo” your latest paste operation (Shortcut: Ctrl + Z for Windows; ⌘ + Z for MacOS).
Now, you’ll want to paste the slide, but in a way so it stays the same as when you copied it.
Select the slide(s) you wish to add to your new presentation and copy them. As soon as you have pasted the slide(s) to their new location, look carefully for this icon:
It can be tricky to locate, but it’s worth finding.
Note that this clipboard tool icon appears after you paste almost anything in Microsoft Office (not just PowerPoint), and can be used in much the same way. Importantly, however, it is only visible briefly. If you don’t click on it, but click elsewhere to start a different operation, it will disappear, requiring a redo of your paste to get it back again. It is very easy to miss. So, whenever you paste a slide, remember: If things look odd, just undo your previous action and use the clipboard tool to correct it.
Once you’ve found the clipboard tool icon, click on it for some options. These will allow you to control how you’d like to handle the pasted slide. Let’s take a look at the three options available:
Option A: “Use Destination Theme”
First on the left is “Use Destination Theme,” which PowerPoint typically does by default. If you select this option, the pasted slide will “inherit” the Theme from the destination (specifically, the Theme from the slide immediately before where you’re pasting). In our example, with the changed colors and illegible text, this was the option PowerPoint had selected automatically.
While editing and creating themes can be worthwhile (and is a subject beyond the scope of this post), if you intend your pasted slides to look the same as they did in the source presentation, this is NOT the option to select.
Option B: “Keep Source Formatting”
The second of the three clipboard tool options is “Keep Source Formatting,” which is more frequently used. Selecting this option will leave the pasted slide as it was originally, instead of altering it to match the Theme in the destination presentation. For the purposes of our example, THIS is the option we want to select.
Now, the slide’s appearance in our new presentation matches the original:
Option C: “Picture”
The final option is “Picture.” This option can also be very useful, but tends to be used much less frequently than the other two.
This selection will paste a graphic image of the slide on top of the following slide, as shown here:
This option is great when you want to refer to a previous slide for comment, or in an interactive presentation where it can serve as a thumbnail that links to another part of the presentation. The pasted image can be moved or resized as with any other inserted picture – though because it’s an image, you can no longer make direct adjustments to its text or other elements.
Note: When you click on any of the three options described above, the pasted slide changes instantly, and the clipboard tool icon will remain active until you click somewhere else. So don’t hesitate to preview your options and experiment to find the one that best suits your needs.
The clipboard tool features can also be applied to text. If you paste text anywhere in PowerPoint, the clipboard tool will appear to the lower right of the newly pasted item. As before, it will disappear if you click somewhere else on the screen.
Note the fourth option available when pasting text:
On the far right, we have “Keep Text Only” (indicated by a letter ‘A’). When selected, the pasted text will change to exactly match the text immediately preceding it – size, font, color, underlining, etc. This feature is very handy if you wish to bring text from an email or Word document into an already formatted PowerPoint slide.
As mentioned before, the clipboard tool can be found throughout Microsoft Office. Although we’ve detailed its use in PowerPoint above, its functionality is very consistent across Office applications. So, if you need to manipulate or maintain formatting in the course of copy/paste procedures, keep an eye out for the clipboard icon and give it a try.
By: Adam Wirtzfeld, Director of Visual Communications & John Ilg, Visual Design Consultant