Skip Navigation
Honoring Patricia Friedel Steele Read More Here

5 Lesser-Known PowerPoint Features to Use in Your Trial Presentations


PowerPoint is a software with a deep end and a shallow end. It can be very powerful, but Microsoft has built it to allow novice users to create decently polished presentations without a huge learning curve.

And because it was developed to appeal to a wide range of user abilities and familiarities, some of the tools most useful for frequent tasks applying to our litigation context are buried behind menus and settings, making them tough to find and tedious to get to for repeated use.

So, to make your life easier as you build your next presentation, this blog will cover a number of handy PowerPoint features that tend to go unnoticed or forgotten, and how you can make them immediately accessible for yourself in the future:

5 Useful PowerPoint Features and When to Use Them

1. The Quick Access Toolbar

What it does / when to use:

This is the best feature to learn about first, because it will help make all your most-used tools readily available for repeat use. Especially when such tools are normally hidden behind a few steps or menus, adding them to your Quick Access Toolbar brings them to the forefront, so you can access them with one click instead.

You likely won’t want an extremely cluttered Toolbar, so the tools you decide to add to it will vary based on your needs. Examples of things we find most useful to have on there are alignment tools, order tools (placing objects above and behind others), and some of the others we’ll describe further below.

Where it is:

The Quick Access Toolbar can appear above the ribbon…


…or below the ribbon.


To change its location, click the small downward carat symbol to the right of the ribbon to access “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.” At the bottom of the drop-down menu you can toggle between “Above” or “Below” the ribbon depending on your preference.


How to use it:

To add tools to your Toolbar, just right click on the item you want to add and select “Add to Quick Access Toolbar.” It’s surprisingly versatile, so click around on icons, certain sub-options within dropdown menus, or entire “galleries” to see all of the things you can potentially add.


• How to customize and re-organize it to suit your needs:

To re-order the commands, click the small downward carat symbol to the right of the ribbon to access “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.” You can check or uncheck items in this menu to show or hide them from the toolbar.


Clicking on “More Commands…” at the bottom opens the following two-column menu that allows you to select virtually any PowerPoint command and place it on the Quick Access Toolbar. The left column is a sortable list of the commands, while the right is a representation of the Quick Access Toolbar that allows you to modify the order and add and remove commands.

To organize the order of the commands on the Quick Access Toolbar, select the command you’d like to move and use the up or down arrows to change its position in the order.


To add a command, select from the left list and click on “Add” (as shown below). To remove a command, select from the right column instead, and click on “Remove.”


You can also reset the Quick Access Toolbar to its default by clicking on “Reset.”

• How to export for use on other computers:

This is a great thing to know, given that you may be editing a deck on a secondary computer or a new computer. It will ensure your Toolbar looks the same everywhere, so you always know where to quickly find what you need.

To export your Toolbar, just select the same Customize menu as above, then go down to the bottom right and select “Export.” The computer’s “Save Document” window will appear to create a file at your default location (generally, the PC > Documents folder). A “[Your Title].exported UI” file will be created there that you can transfer to another computer on a jump drive or email as an attachment.


On the new computer, copy the UI file to some convenient location, open the Customize menu as before, click on “Import customization file,” then locate and select your “[Your Title].exportedUI” file. You now have access to the same Quick Access Toolbar options you had on your original computer.


2. The Format Painter

What it does / when to use:

With the time-saving Format Painter, you can copy attributes from any element, such as font color, font size, shape fill, shape outline, shadow settings, glow settings, etc., and apply or “paint” them to any target element.

There are many instances where this can be useful. For example, when you bring a photo from one presentation into your new deck, you’ll often want to make any formatting treatments on the photo consistent with the new presentation. Of course, the feature works on text as well as graphics – any element in PowerPoint (text boxes, AutoShapes, etc.) is fair game.

The Format Painter is also a tremendous help when you’ve changed the design of something that appears throughout a slide deck – like a map label, photo caption, or graph legend – and need to quickly make them all look the same.

Where it is:


How to use it:

To use the format painter, identify an element whose attributes you want to apply to another element. In this case, the original photo (left) has a heavy black frame, a pink glow, and a shadow, all of which we want applied to the right photo. Click on the left photo to select it – this will be the “source” formatting. Then, click on the format painter icon; you will then notice a paintbrush icon appear next to your cursor.


You can now click on any “target” object and apply the same formatting as the left source object (border, pink glow, shadow).


After the click, you will notice the attributes from the left photo applied to the right one.


You can even use the format painter to move formatting from a source object in one deck to a target object in a different deck; just switch to that other presentation, navigate to the object you’d like to change, and click on it. This function clears after you’ve clicked on your target – one shot and the paintbrush function turns off.

• Applying the Format Painter to multiple selections:

So, if you want to apply the formatting of your source element to multiple other objects, follow the same steps as above, but double-click on the Format Painter. The paintbrush cursor will now persist as you click on however many objects you would like to reformat. To turn off this multiple function, simply click on anything other than an object, or press the “Esc” key.

3. Custom underlining for text selections

What it does / when to use:

Even a longtime PowerPoint user may not realize there are options for changing the underlining. But if you’re ever in a situation where you want to add a custom touch – red underlining beneath black text, double underline, what have you – there is a way to do so, and it works great.

There are many litigation situations where this is handy. For instance, different underlining styles can provide just the right amount of emphasis on elements with varying degrees of importance. Likewise, color coding can help you distinguish terms/categories from one another as well as draw connections between different elements underlined with the same color.

Where it is:

To locate the underlining styles/colors tools, first select the text you’d like to change. Then, right-click, and from the resulting menu, select “Font.” That should take you to this menu:


How to use it:

In the middle of the box, you’ll see options for “Underline style” and “Underline color.” Select your desired style from the drop-down and then the color you’d like to use from the adjacent paint-bucket button.

custom-underline-style-and-colorWith both style and color selections applied, this would be the result:


Finally, if you want to remove any custom underlining you’ve added, select “(none)” from the “Underline style” drop-down.

4. The Highlighter Tool for text blocks

What it does / when to use:

Highlighting text is one of our primary tools for guiding our audience’s focus when presenting text. It’s an easily understood and effective method for pointing out the crucial elements of a contract, email, or other document.

The highlighter tool lets you use multiple colors – a great asset to help color code items for the jury, like portions of evidence that support different arguments, or references to different claims in a patent case.

Where it is:


How to use it:

There are three main ways to use the highlighter tool:

  1. Highlight the entire text block by selecting the full block and then clicking on the highlighter tool. If you want to select a specific color, click the arrow next to it to open a menu with color options.


  1. Highlight one piece of selected text by selecting the text you want in the block and then selecting your chosen highlighter color from the highlighter tool menu.


  1. Alternatively, if you need to highlight several areas in a long text block, you can highlight selected text at will by clicking into the text block and then selecting the highlighter tool. Your cursor will turn into a highlighter icon, and any text you select throughout the block will be highlighted. This function will stay active until you cancel it by clicking out of the text block or clicking again on the highlighter tool.


Additional functions:

  1. UN-highlighting: To remove highlighting, select the highlighted text, then click on the Highlighter button to toggle the highlighting off. Alternatively, click on the arrow next to the Highlighter button, then click the “No Color” option. A third method is to select the text box itself (nothing inside, simply make the box “active”) and click on the Highlighter button; this will toggle off all the highlighting in that text block – your quickest option to remove highlighting from multiple areas in the same text block.
  2. Custom highlighter colors: The ability to use color coding with text highlighting can be quite valuable. While unfortunately you can’t add a custom highlighter color directly (as of this writing), there’s a quick workaround if you’re not seeing a color you want to use among the existing options in the highlighter drop-down menu. First, create a shape on your slide by clicking the “Insert” tab along the top of the screen, then selecting a shape from the “Shapes” dropdown menu. Once you click and drag your mouse to place the shape, click on “Shape Fill” > ”More Fill Colors” > “Custom” tab to create your custom color and fill the shape with it. Then, use the eyedropper tool and click on the shape’s color field. You can immediately delete the shape, as it’s not needed anymore – but the result of this is that when you revisit the highlighter drop-down menu, your custom color will now appear under “Recent Colors.”The following image depicts the major steps in this process (in this case, we’re creating a “tan” custom highlighter color).


5. Unifying typefaces throughout a deck with Replace Fonts

What it does / when to use:

There are countless situations that can lead to a “Battle of the Typefaces”: multiple authors, multiple sources, last-minute edits, additions from other slide decks, you name it. Building consistency into the deck when you have hundreds of slides and no time can be a nightmare. Luckily, with this tool and a few button clicks, you can, at minimum, help ensure there are no instances of Comic Sans sucking the gravitas from your motion in limine.

Where it is:


How to use it:

In the “Replace Fonts” menu, select the typeface you want changed from the “Replace:” drop-down list – in this case, we’ve selected “Impact.” Helpfully, only the typefaces that are currently being used in your deck will appear in this list.


Then, select the preferred typeface – in this case, “Arial.” When you click “Replace,” it will replace all instances of Impact with Arial in your deck, while maintaining any other attributes (such as bold, italic, underline, etc.).


Keep replacing until only the typefaces you want used remain in the “Replace:” list.

IMPORTANT: Check your results for potential formatting issues – the new typeface can change the relative size and spacing of your text in both minor and major ways.


These are just a few of the tools PowerPoint has that can save you time, improve your presentations, and ensure your lengthy slide decks have consistent formatting. Try them out to discover which ones work best for your needs (and don’t forget to add your favorites to the Quick Access Toolbar).

As we’ve said, PowerPoint is a very powerful program – if you know where to look. So stay tuned, because we’ll have even more useful PowerPoint features to share with you in a future blog.



By: Adam Wirtzfeld – Director of Visual Communications and John Ilg – Visual Design Consultant




Subscribe to Our Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.