8 handy tips for Microsoft PowerPoint 2010

The last time you saw someone give a dynamite PowerPoint presentation, filled with video clips and text that was actually large enough to read at a distance, you probably made a mental note to teach yourself some new Microsoft Office skills. Perhaps you made the same mental note the last time PowerPoint crashed before you had a chance to save your document. It's time to tick "Learn to do more with PowerPoint" off your to-do list.

The eight tips and tricks in this article, which read best consecutively, are aimed at those of you still using PowerPoint 2010, and will teach you how to broadcast a slideshow, insert screenshots without ever opening Photoshop, turn your presentation into a video, and more.

We'll also explore some accessibility features – which help ensure that your presentation is accessible to visually-impaired people, an important consideration if you're going to make your presentation publicly available – as well as a neat little feature in Microsoft 2010 PowerPoint, called the Animation Painter.

Broadcast a Slideshow from PowerPoint

PowerPoint 2010 introduced the built-in broadcast feature, which you can launch by opening a Presentation, clicking File, Save & Send, Broadcast Slideshow, clicking the Broadcast Slideshow button, and then Start Broadcast. The first time you do this, you'll need to log in to Microsoft's free broadcast service with a Windows Live ID, but you can choose the option to log in automatically in the future.

When the broadcast is ready, the dialog box will display a Send in Email link, which you can use to send an invitation link to your audience (buttons on the ribbon let you send out additional invites). To begin the broadcast, click the Start Slideshow button.

Insert screen clips in PowerPoint (or Word)

Word and PowerPoint 2010 make it easy to insert screen captures into a document by selecting Screenshot from the Insert tab. Doing so launches a gallery of currently open windows, and you can click one to insert an image of the window into your document (or you can click Screen Clipping, and drag the mouse to select the screen region that you want to clip and paste into your document). When you press Enter, the screen capture gets inserted automatically.

Bonus tip: Here's how to get a screenshot of the app you're running – something that's normally impossible because Word and PowerPoint disappear while you drag the mouse to make a screen clip. If you want to make a screen shot of PowerPoint to use in PowerPoint (as I did in the above image), simply use Word to take the screenshot, and drag the image from Word into PowerPoint.

PowerPoint Animation Painter

Expert Word and PowerPoint users know about the Format Painter tool, which you use to copy formatting from one paragraph in Word (or one object in PowerPoint) to another. PowerPoint 2010 has a time-saving Animation Tool that works in essentially the same way. Click on the object that has an animation you want to use to animate another object; then click on the Animation Painter tool; finally click on the object to which you want to apply the animation.

Customise the PowerPoint status bar

This tip applies to all the Office apps, but we've illustrated it with PowerPoint. You can control exactly what categories of information any Office app displays on its status bar. Right click on the status bar, and turn the features you want to see on or off. At the right edge of each item in the menu, you see the information that would currently appear on the status bar if that item were enabled – for example, the name of the visual theme used in the presentation currently opened.

Create a video of a presentation

PowerPoint 2010 can create a video file that displays a slideshow of the current presentation. To use this feature click File, Save and Send, Create a Video, and select from the options on the right hand side of the menu. Notice that you can change the number of seconds that every slide will display, but you can't make some slides appear for a shorter or longer time than any others.

Selection and visibility controls in PowerPoint

Click on any graphic object in a slide – the Drawing Tools tab will appear. Click on the tab, then click on Select at the far right of the ribbon. Finally, click on Selection Pane. The pane at the far right will open. If there is any object on the slide that you want to make invisible (perhaps because you might want to reuse the slide, or a copy of it, with the same object made visible again), click on the eye icon to toggle the object between being visible and being hidden. You can also click on the automatically assigned name of any object and give it a more descriptive name to make the objects easier to manage.

Check the accessibility of a presentation

When a document is "accessible," that means that it can be used easily by visually-impaired people who rely on screen-reading software to speak the text aloud. A well-designed presentation includes alternate text for graphic elements, so a visually-impaired user can know what the graphic contains. To check whether your presentation is accessible enough for all potential users, start by clicking File, then Info, then Check for Issues, and click on Check Accessibility. Now read the next tip...

Use PowerPoint's accessibility report

When you've performed the step described in the previous tip, PowerPoint opens the Accessibility Checker pane. Every object that isn't adequately accessible is listed as an error. When you click on the name of the object in the Inspection Results window, PowerPoint displays advice on why it's an error, and how to fix it.