4 best practices for powerpoint handouts with send to word

Categories: Editing and Formatting, Handouts, PowerPoint 2013, PPT 2002-2003, PPT 2007, PPT 2010, Send to Word, and Tutorials.

PowerPoint handouts leave a lot to be desired. You can print slide thumbnails 3 per page. You can even print notes pages – which have one slide per page plus its notes. But if you want to print multiple slide thumbnails per page and include the speaker notes, you’re outta luck. Or are you?

This is where Send to Word comes in handy. Well, that’s what it used to be called back in the day – from PowerPoint 95 through PowerPoint 2003, that is. Nowadays the name – and the location – runs the gamut. In PowerPoint 2007, find it under Office Button | Publish | Create Handouts in Microsoft Office Word. In PowerPoint 2010 it’s File | Save and Send | Create Handouts. And in PowerPoint 2013 it’s File | Export | Create Handouts.

Regardless of what it’s called and where you find it, the feature itself hasn’t changed much – if at all – over the years. When you click Create Handouts, you’ll see this dialog:


It’s pretty straightforward, and the icons are fairly accurate – that is, the first one gives you multiple small thumbnails with speaker notes beside them, the second is the same but with blank lines, the third is one slide with speaker notes below, and the fourth is one slide with blank lines instead of notes. The last option exports an outline of the text which is included in placeholders. (Text in manual textboxes, diagrams, other objects, etc., is not included in the outline.)

Below is a 2-page example of what the Notes next to slides option gives you in Word. You’ll get the slide number, a slide thumbnail and any speaker notes laid out in a table. You won’t see the table borders, though – I added them here so you can see the table structure more easily.


Now, the default option at the bottom of that Send to Word dialog is Paste. DO NOT USE THAT! The best best practice I can give you is to select Paste Link at the bottom of this dialog before initiating the Send to Word process.



Well, when you choose plain ol’ Paste, Word creates an embedded OLE object for each thumbnail. This causes your Word file size to be HUGE compared to the PowerPoint file. For example, I had a 3.3MB file with 20 slides, and I Sent to Word using Paste. The resulting Word document was nearly 19MB!

Using the same PowerPoint file and choosing Paste Link instead, the resulting Word file is only 9.6MB – half the size of the file created using plain ol’ Paste.

So, best practice #1: Use Paste Link

Paste vs Paste Link (heading)

If you selected Paste, you can right-click each slide thumbnail in Word and choose Open to open the slide and edit it inside PowerPoint, but at that point it’s a one-slide file that’s divorced from the original PowerPoint file. Changes will appear on the thumbnails in Word, but they will not appear in your original PowerPoint file.

Paste Link, on the other hand, creates linked slide thumbnails in the Word file. Double-click one (or right-click and choose Linked Slide Object | Edit Link), and it will open your original PowerPoint file.


Make changes in the PowerPoint file and save, and the thumbnail will update in Word. Or vice-versa – open the PowerPoint file, make changes and save. Then in Word, go to File | Edit Links to Files (or right-click a thumbnail, choose Linked Slide object | Links) to open the Edit Links dialog, where you can update the links. The linked slide thumbnail will reflect the changes you made in PowerPoint.

Let’s talk a minute about the edit links dialog in Word. Here’s what it looks like by default after using Paste Link with the Send to Word process.


I personally don’t leave my links set to Auto. When I do, Word has a tendency to hang whenever it decides it needs to check for any slide updates. At the very least, I suggest you select all items in the slide list (you can press Shift and click the first and last items to select all) and change the links from Automatic update to Manual update.

And to be completely honest, I generally go all the way and remove the links altogether by selecting all items and clicking the Break Link button.

Best practice #2: Break the links (or at least set them to manual update)

I break the links because I think Word’s more responsive when I do (although that could be my imagination, sure) – and because there’s really not much reason to keep the handout file linked to PowerPoint. This is because, even though Microsoft says the Send to Word feature lets you “automatically update slides in the handout when the presentation changes,” this is practically useless (and completely misleading).


  • It doesn’t recognize when slides have been reordered.
  • It doesn’t recognize if slides have been hidden.
  • It doesn’t recognize if slides have been deleted or added.
  • And it acts like speaker notes don’t exist – they’re not linked at all.

The only thing that updates if you make changes to the linked presentation is the content of slide thumbnails that are already there in the handout. That can be useful, sure, but I find it more problematic than not, so I break the links altogether and re-do the send if the presentation changes.

You might also notice that in the Edit Links dialog it says Link type: Microsoft PowerPoint 97-2003 Slide. See? I told you this feature hasn’t been updated in ages – and I promise you I’m working with a PPTX file created in PowerPoint 2010 for this exercise!

Best practice #3: Make your handout look better in Word

In Word, I usually resize the slide thumbnails and the column they’re housed in. I either resize or remove the slide number column. I add headers and footers to the Word pages, and sometimes I adjust the speaker notes.

If you’ve broken the links, you can resize a slide thumbnail in Word using the size options on the Picture tab and then run through the rest of the file selecting a thumbnail and hitting F4 to repeat the resize – so it takes just a couple of minutes to resize all the thumbnails, even on a large file. If you haven’t broken the links, you’re limited to dragging the corner of each and every thumbnail to resize it. (Much slower than hitting F4!)

Best practice #4: Think about the view

Oh, one other thing! Microsoft keeps breaking the ability to put your PowerPoint file into Grayscale (or Pure Black and White) View and send grayscale images to Word. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It works fine in PowerPoint 95, 97, 2000, 2007 and 2010: you get grayscale/black and white slide thumbnails. It does not work in PowerPoint 2002, 2003, 2007 or 2013: If you put your presentation into Grayscale View and Send to Word in these versions, you still get color slide thumbnails.

Yeah, I know I listed 2007 as both working and not working. As of January 2010, Send to Word in black and white did NOT work in PowerPoint 2007. But when I tested it today, it did. I suspect this was fixed in a service pack or hotfix or some such, but I don’t think it’s worth the time to track that down. If you’re smart, you’re not using PowerPoint 2007 any more anyway! (I have SP3 for Office 2007 installed, for what it’s worth.)

And finally, you must be in Normal (editing) View to Send to Word. PowerPoint won’t send if you’re in Slide Sorter View.


  1. Wendy

    Thanks, Echo! This is really helpful and I will definetly use these tips. Hope you are doing well!

  2. Kim

    Can you explain how I can break links in Word? Got the handouts but I can’t figure out how to break the links in Word 2013.

  3. Echo Swinford

    @Kim: to break links in Word 2013, right-click the slide thumbnail in the document and choose Links. This opens the Links dialog, where you can break all the links at once.

  4. PeterK

    Outside of a macro, is there any way to resize all at once PowerPoint slides imported into Word. I’m using Office 2013. Thanks.

  5. Paula

    I can’t get this to work, and have made multiple attempts. It only sends the first page of the PPT presentation to Word. How do I get the entire thing copied into Word?

  6. Echo Swinford

    @Paula: I don’t know — hard to say without knowing more about your setup, version of PPT and Word, etc. Maybe try making a copy of your presentation and delete the slide it chokes on to see if that allows PPT to send the entire file to Word. If so, then you’ll need to recreate that slide.

    If that doesn’t do it, then you’ll want to ask your question in the PowerPoint forums at answers.microsoft.com: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/powerpoint?tab=Threads

  7. Anissy

    Thank you this is very helpful. I have re-sized the slide thumbnails. Is there a way to edit the blank lines? I want to make them a bit longer.

  8. Echo Swinford

    @Anissy: Sure. The blank lines are just underlines in Word. You should be able to adjust the tabs (or add spaces) to extend them.

  9. Malcolm Harrison

    I thought the article was excellent. Thank you

    I want to create handouts in Word but NOT to include hidden slides. is this possible d’ya know

    Thank you

  10. Echo Swinford

    Glad you guys are finding this article helpful. Malcolm, to not include hidden slides, you’d have to delete them, either in PPT before sending or in Word after sending. (But they won’t be indicated as hidden slides in Word.) This is one of the shortcomings of the Send to Word feature.

  11. Malcolm Harrison

    Very helpful. Thank you.

    I find that when I ‘Publish’ handouts in MS Word that hidden slides are also ‘published’ . Do you know of an easy way to prevent this.


  12. Echo Swinford

    Hi, Malcolm — unfortunately, there’s no easy way to prevent this. You could create a copy of the file and delete the hidden slides, then send that to Word.

  13. Sharon

    Your article is very helpful – thanks for providing these tips.

    I have images and tables in my presentation that will show up on the screen when I “create handouts” but they don’t print out in the WORD document. Do you know of a work around?

  14. Echo Swinford

    Images, tables and charts *should* show up when you send to Word. You might try copying that slide (or creating a copy of the deck and deleting all but that slide) and then sending it to Word. Then cut/paste the thumbnail into the main document.

    Another thing to try is to copy the object and Paste Special as PNG. I’d definitely do that on a copy of the file, not the original, because you won’t be able to edit the tables and charts once you do this.

    I know all of those are a hassle, but I can’t think of any other things to try.

  15. Daniel Regan

    Echo – you certainly seem to know your way around PPT and Word! Here’s another challenge for you.

    I’ve been trying to output some PPT decks to Handouts (3-up; with notes) – something I have done successfully dozens of times. Now suddenly, I’m finding the Word doc begins building, then the whole processes crashes (say, 35 slides into a 100-slide deck) with an error pop-up in PPT saying “PowerPoint could write to Word.” That’s it. End of the line. Have tried breaking the deck down into smaller pieces; backwards-saving into PPT 1997-2003 format, etc. What’s going on here – any ideas? (Currently working in Windows 10/Office 365).

    Thanks in advance for any ideas!

  16. Kerri

    I am trying to print this article off and it got all garbled up. I tried copying and pasting it into Word 2010 with no luck. any ideas?

  17. Dave Stephens

    Echo…Do you know how to do the export into Word and end up with 2 slides on a page and speaker notes on a separate page? This way when put in a binder and opened up flat, slides page would be on one side and notes on the other (facing) side.

  18. Gabriel

    Do you know how to change multiple slide sizes at the same time? I haven’t had any luck changing the pasted slides.

  19. Echo Swinford

    @Dave Stephens
    re exporting to Word and getting 2 slides / page and notes on the opposite page: Sorry, I don’t know of any way to do that easily. I think you’d have to manually move things around in Word to get that to work.

    re changing multiple slide sizes at the same time: I think you mean the slide thumbnails in Word, right? I don’t think you can size multiple thumbnails at the same time. What I do is size one, then select the next and hit F4 (which repeats the previous action) all the way through. It’s a hassle, but it’s sure easier for me than trying to write a macro to do it! :-)

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