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 And of course, as so often happens, some of the information is already out of date.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!