A NEW BOOK! (and an update on XML editors)

Categories: PowerPoint 2013, PPT 2010, Themes and Templates, and XML editing.

My latest book, Building PowerPoint Templates: Step by Step with the Experts, was released last October. (Get it here or here.) Co-author Julie Terberg and I spent the better part of a year working on it, and it’s exciting to see all our hard work finally come to fruition.

One of the chapters I did covers editing PowerPoint’s XML. I swear, that was the hardest chapter for me to write – in fact, I think I completely redid it at least three times! And of course, as so often happens, some of the information is already out of date.

In this case it’s the information about XML editors. In the book I recommended using Visual Studio LightSwitch to edit PowerPoint’s XML because it’s free and because it supports an add-in (Open XML Package Editor ) that lets you access PowerPoint’s XML guts without going through the trouble of manually unzipping and re-zipping the file. Since the book’s publication, Microsoft has discontinued Visual Studio LightSwitch and has released Visual Studio 2012. VS 2012 does NOT support add-ins, so if you’re using it and trying to follow my instructions to access PowerPoint’s XML, well, it won’t work.

Visual Studio Express is available, but unfortunately it also doesn’t support add-ins, so it won’t work either. So what’s a fledgling XML geek to do?

I recommend that you grab 7-Zip and set it up to use Visual Studio Express (2012 or 2010, it doesn’t matter) as its XML editor. Both are free. Install both, then use the following steps to set yourself up for easy XML editing.

1. Open 7-Zip and choose Tools | Options


2. Click the Editor tab, then the Browse button to navigate to the veexpress.exe file. For reference, mine’s in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\Common7\IDE\vbexpress.exe. Your path might be slightly different depending on your version of Windows and the edition of Visual Studio you installed.


3. Select the PPTX or POTX (or other Office file) you want to edit and choose File | Open Inside.


4. Now you’re inside the file and you can view the guts just as described in the XML editing chapter of the book.


5. Navigate to and select the XML file you wish to edit and choose File | Edit. This will open the XML file in Visual Studio for you to edit as described in the book.

6. When you close the XML file after editing, you’ll be prompted to save the file (in Visual Studio) and update the file in the archive (7-Zip). No need to use Windows Explorer to unzip the file and put it all back together again Humpty-Dumpty style, yay!


  1. Brett Ellingson

    I like the website!!

    When you said above that Visual Studio 2012 doesn’t support add-ins, I was confused. I know next to nothing about visual studio but that said here’s my confusion/comment/question.

    On this site http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/ there is a huge list of extras that you can use in Visual Studio. On this link it talks about how to register an Add-In with visual studio http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/vstudio/19dax6cz.aspx

    Can you help me understand what you meant by add-ins not working with the new version of visual studio? I don’t mean to call you out on your own blog, just trying to understand.

    Any clarity you can provide would be great.


    Brett Ellingson
    Houston, TX

  2. Echo Swinford

    Hi, Brett,

    A few weeks after posting this blog, I learned that Visual Studio 2012 DOES support add-ins. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support that specific add-in (Open XML Package Editor) we need in order to open PPTX/PPSX files directly.

    So my blanket statement about Visual Studion 2012 not supporting add-ins was wrong, and I do apologize for the confusion.

    I’m really glad you asked about this, because I kept meaning to post an update about it but hadn’t managed to find a tuit yet. Thanks!

  3. Echo Swinford

    Oh, and I will have to see if registering the package editor add-in with VS as described in the link you provided works. Thanks for that also.

  4. Julie Terberg

    Note: as of fall 2015, the Open XML Package Editor does not work with Visual Studio 2015.

  5. Echo Swinford

    Thanks for the update, Julie — it’s nearly impossible to keep up on this stuff! I suspect that this add-in isn’t used very often so it gets neglected until folks bring it to their attention. I’ll try to ping the ‘softie who let us know about the add-in update for Visual Studio 2012 and 2013.

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