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Using Microsoft Office’s Clipboard Tool within PowerPoint: Moving Slides from Presentation to Presentation with Ease

One of the most common challenges our clients face is taking slides from one PowerPoint presentation and putting them into another.  Most of the time it works just fine, but occasionally copying from one presentation and pasting into another will change elements of the slides.  The results can range from merely frustrating and unpleasant to look at to completely illegible, depending on how different the slides are.

In this month’s Insights, we will show you the Clipboard tool in Microsoft Office, which will help you resolve this situation if you encounter it. We will also explain how to avoid this problem in the first place.  Many of our clients have found this tool tremendously useful. 



Here’s a typical example.  The first slide  is a timeline from an old presentation.  When attempting to copy it into a new presentation, PowerPoint attempts to make it match the slides in that new presentation.  Sometimes this is a good idea and desirable outcome, but frequently PowerPoint’s well-intentioned efforts to make the presentation consistent end up backfiring and creating a mess.  Note in this case that the font of the title has changed, and the colors of the background and timeline are different.   Worst of all, some of the text has changed from white to black making it completely impossible to read.

Don’t panic!  This issue is easily addressed.  Basically, what PowerPoint has done is applied the formatting of the destination presentation to the slide that you are pasting.  Sometimes you may want this to happen, but in many instances you want your slides to look the way they were originally designed.

Here’s how to paste the slide as it was when you copied it.  First, undo your latest paste operation (Ctrl + Z is a good way).  Now, select the slide (or slides) you wish to add to your new presentation and copy it.  As soon as you have pasted the slide to its new location, look carefully for this icon:


It can be tricky to locate, but it’s worth finding.


Note that this clipboard icon appears after you paste almost anything in Microsoft Office (not just PowerPoint), and can be used in much the same way.  Importantly, it is only visible briefly.  If you do not click on it, but click elsewhere to start a different operation, it will disappear and you will need to redo your paste to get it to appear again.  For this reason, it is very easy to overlook – it disappears the moment you click on anything other than the Clipboard icon.  So, whenever you paste, remember if things don’t look correct right after pasting, the very first thing to do is correct them using the Clipboard tool.

Once you’ve found the Clipboard icon, and clicked on it, it will expand to present you with a few options.  These options allow you to let PowerPoint know how you would like to handle the slide you just pasted.


Let’s take a look at the three options you have:


First on the left is “Use Destination Theme,” which PowerPoint typically does by default.  If you click on this option, the new slide will “inherit” the slide theme from the slide immediately preceding it.  In our original example with changed colors and illegible text, this was the option PowerPoint selected automatically.   Editing and creating themes is a subject  beyond the scope of this Insights, but if your goal is to easily make the slide or slides you are adding to a presentation look the same as they did in the presentation they came from this is NOT the option to select.


The middle of the three Clipboard options is “Keep Source Formatting,” which is frequently the option you will want to use.  Clicking on this option will tell PowerPoint to make the slide or slides look like they did originally, instead of trying to change the slide to match the new presentation.  For the purposes of our example, this is the option we will want to select.



Now the slide in our new presentation matches the original.


The final option on the Clipboard when you are pasting a slide is “Picture.” This option can be very useful, but is probably used much less frequently than the other two.  This selection will paste an image of the slide within the previous slide:


This could be useful in a situation where you wanted to refer to a previous slide and comment on it, or in an interactive presentation where you wanted to create a thumbnail to use as a link to a particular portion of the presentation.  The pasted image can be moved or resized within PowerPoint as with any other inserted picture.

Note that if you click on one of these options, the slide will change instantly, but the Clipboard tool icon will remain until you click off of it.  You are able to click on it again and try one or more of the other options without limitation until you click elsewhere.  So don’t hesitate to experiment to find the option that best suits your situation.

Not only can the Clipboard tool be used for slides, it can also be used for 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 unless your next click is on the Clipboard icon.


Note there is another option available when using text.


On the far right, we see “Keep Text Only” (indicated by a letter “A”).  If this option is selected, the newly pasted text will change to exactly match the text immediately preceding it, in terms of font, boldness, underlining, etc.  This can come in handy if you want to paste some 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 have detailed its use in PowerPoint here, the tool’s use is very consistent across the 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.

Adam_W_RoundBy: Adam Wirtzfeld, Director – Visual Communications

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