Powerpoint for Scientific Presentations: Tips and Trick
I use Powerpoint for almost all my computer presentations. I don't like many aspects of it, but I found workarounds for most
of the issues. Here are some of the notes I collected over the years (more to be added). These notes were written with Powerpoint 2007 in mind, but should apply to other versions as well. Newer versions of Powerpoint include an improved equation editor, which many would find satisfactory; I still find it cumbersome and prefer to follow the tricks below for entering math.
- Adding hats, bars, tildes: you can easily add a hat or a bar on top of any character. There are unicode characters meant for this. For a hat, you would need character 770. To get this character, first, make sure "Num Lock" is on. Then, press and hold ALT and type 770 on the numpad. This might be difficult to achieve in laptops that don't have a separate numpad (you might have to hold the Fn key too for that). So an alternative solution is to copy and paste it from here. For a tilde use 771, for a short bar use code 772, for a long bar use 773. For other symbols, see here.
- A superscript directly above a subscript: assume you want to write something like , with the "n" directly above the "2". Or you want to write a binomial coefficient like . So first write "2" and make it a subscript, then write an "n" and make it a superscript. In order to shift the "n" to the left, mark the subscript (SHIFT and arrow keys) and then right click on it (this is tricky since it's so small; better use the keyboard "Right Click" key, usually located two keys right of the space key), choose Font, then click on Character Spacing, then choose Condensed, and enter the number 10 (the exact number depends on your font size).
- A superscript of a superscript: In order to achieve something like , first write the two superscripts next to each other (like ), then mark the second one and right click (using the keyboard, as above), choose "Font", and set the offset of the superscript to be 50% instead of 30%.
- Precisely positioning a duplicated object: Unfortunately "copy and paste" (CTRL C then CTRL V) puts the duplicated object at an offset that is not aligned with the grid (I suspect the offset is an irrational number). Trying to move the object back with the arrow keys is futile. Similarly for duplicate (CTRL D). The solution: press and hold both CTRL and SHIFT, and then drag the object. The CTRL key creates a duplicate, and the SHIFT key makes sure that you are exactly below/above/right/left of the object. Alternatively, just use CTRL, but then make sure you are aligned to the grid (which Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, decided to bury under Home->Arrange->Align->Grid Settings, or simply ALT, H, G, A, G).
- The list of symbols (Alt, N, U): in order to increase the length of "recently used symbols", simply enlarge the window by pulling the bottom-right corner.
- Keyboard shortcuts for superscript and subscript (PowerPoint 2007 only): the built-in keyboard shortcuts for superscript (CTRL =) and subscript (CTRL +) are not of the "toggle" type; if you accidentally put something into subscript, they won't bring it back to normal mode. The fix is to create your own shortcuts. Go to the big round button (top left), then click on "PowerPoint Options" (alternatively, type ALT, F, I). Go to "Customize", and select "All Commands" from the left drop box. Look for "Subscript" and "Superscript" and "Add" them, then click "OK". This adds them to the "Quick Access Toolbar". The keyboard shortcut is ALT and their order in the toolbar (click ALT and you'll see the number associated to them).