About a year ago I was informed by an acquaintance that Google Slides—the free-to-use, online, collaborative presentation app—was the poor man’s version of PowerPoint.
This observation took me back a bit because I couldn’t understand where the animosity was coming from. I also found the critique unfair. Google Slides is a great program that allows you to create everything from workplace presentations to cookbooks. The only requirement is that you have a Google account.
However, this critique got me wondering about how many people are unfamiliar with Google Slides. To clear up some of these misconceptions, here’s how you can create a basic presentation from start to finish.
Step 1: Set Up Your Document
The first thing you’ll want to do is open up the Google Slides application. If you don’t have an account or you’re an infrequent user, here’s our beginner’s guide to Gmail, which will explain how Gmail is useful when controlling the associated app.
If you’re in Google Drive, click New > Google Slides > From a template.
You can use a blank presentation if you want, but for this tutorial, we’re just going to tweak a pre-existing design. There are fewer steps involved and it will be quicker for you.
Once you click on From a template, you’ll be taken to the template gallery.
Like Canva, Google groups templates according to the purpose. One of the most common uses for a slideshow is a work presentation, so for this tutorial lets go with a General presentation.
When you open up your template, you’ll see a screen that looks very similar to this one.
Along the top, you’ll see your navigation bar. To the left side of your workspace you’ll see your template pages in the order they are currently laid out.
In the center of your workspace, you will see a larger version of the page you currently have active. To the right side of your workspace, you should see another dropdown menu called Themes.
Step 2: Know Your Navigation Bar
Google Slides is expansive, but one of the most important things you’ll need to know is the navigation bar at the top of your workspace, and what each dropdown menu contains.
Under File, you’ll see the basic options for controlling your Google Slides presentation. This includes sharing, importing slides, downloading slides, basic page setup, print settings, and language.
Under Edit, you’ll find the basic tools to control each individual page. This will include options to undo an action, redo an action, cut, copy, and paste.
Under View, you’ll see the different ways that you can view your presentation. You can also see the option to go to Animations.
If you want to include animations in your presentation, check out our tutorial on how to add animated GIFs to Google Slides.
Continuing on: if you click on the Insert menu, you’ll see different options for content that you can include in your presentation.
Under Format, you’ll find all the tools that you will need to adjust your text, from font styles and alignment to bullets and numbering.
The Slide menu allows you to make large changes to your overall presentation. The Arrange menu allows you to organize the elements on each individual page.
The Tools menu lets you fix your spelling, look up words in the dictionary, and add accessibility options to your presentation.
The Add-ons menu is a shortcut to special features you can add to your Google Slides.
Lastly, there’s the Help menu. By clicking here you can receive additional training or search for updates.
Step 3: Change Your Theme
Once you finish browsing through the menus and get a general idea of what each one does, you’ll want to look at your Themes. As mentioned earlier, Google Slides groups presentations according to a purpose. Inside each group, you will find visual themes you can apply to your slideshow.
Themes can include specific fonts, colors, and styles. When you click on one, it’s a quick and easy way to make sure everything looks uniform.
To change your theme, simply scroll the options available on the right-hand side of your workspace. Click on the one that suits your needs.
Step 4: Change Your Font
After you pick your theme, you’ll want to start inputting your own information into your slideshow.
To change the placeholder text, simply click on each box and start typing. You can also change the font and font color, too.
To change the color, make sure the font you want to change is selected. Then click on the font color option, seen here in red.
When you click on it, a dropdown menu with swatches will emerge. From here, you can choose the colors that are already available to you in your color palette, or you can create a brand new color by clicking on Custom.
If you want to change the font style, once again make sure your text is selected. Then click on the font dropdown menu. Choose the style you want.
A word of warning: make sure the font you choose is easy to see. Most presentations are viewed from a distance.
Step 5: Change Your Background
When you’re putting together this presentation, you might decide that the background is boring or that you don’t like the way that it looks.
To change the background, right-click on a slide’s page. When you do, make sure the text on that page is not selected. Then choose Change Background.
Once the new dialogue box pops up, you can change your background color, put an image in the background, or reset the background a previous default state.
Under Color, you can also choose a solid color or a gradient for your background. You can create custom colors and gradients too.
Once your background is finalized, you can either choose Done or Add to theme.
If you add this background to your theme, any pages in your presentation that have a matching background will mirror these new changes you’ve made.
Once it’s applied, click Done.
Step 6: Replace an Image
What if there’s a placeholder image in your template, and you want to swap it out?
To do this, click on the image to want to replace so its blue bounding box appears. Next, click Replace Image, seen here in red. You can then choose to upload an image from your computer, search the web for an image, or insert an image via URL.
A word of warning: make sure you have permission to use the photos you’re inserting. If you’re struggling to find images, here’s a list of sites where you can find royalty-free stock photos.
Step 7: Delete a Slide
While you’re working through these slides, you may notice that there’s a page or two in the template that you don’t need.
To get rid of these pages, go to the left-hand side of your workspace. Right-click on the page you want to remove.
Step 8: Move a Slide
Sometimes you’ll see a slide that you really like the layout for, but it’s in the wrong place for your presentation.
To move a slide to the end—for example—right-click on the page you want to move, then choose Move slide to end. It’s that simple.
Step 9: Add Transitions
Once you’re done setting up your presentation, you can start thinking about how you’ll “present” this slideshow. How do you want it to progress? Do you want a little animation between each of the pages?
To add a “transition” between two of your slides, right-click on the page you want to adjust, then click Change Transition.
When you do, your toolbar on the right-hand side of your workspace will show you new options that you can use. Choose the option you want from the dropdown menu. You can also choose to apply this transition to the whole presentation or just an individual slide.
And that’s it. You’re done your basic presentation.
Good Luck on Your Google Slides Presentation
Google Slides is an expansive application, and while we didn’t cover all the bells and whistles we did run through the basics. With this application on your side, you’ll never need to worry about your work looking unprofessional, whether you have access to other slideshow programs or not.
Want to learn more about Google Slides? Here are tips you should know before your next presentation.