Lately I’ve been seeing lots of questions around the web asking how to change a presentation’s template. Or is it a theme? Or maybe it’s a slide master? There seems to be a lot of confusion around this.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter if you apply a template or a theme – they’re pretty much the same thing. The only real difference is a template contains content and a theme doesn’t. Oh, and a theme can be applied to any Office file (Word files, Excel files and PowerPoint files), but a template is for a specific program (Word, Excel OR PowerPoint).

As you can see in the diagram, a theme includes colors, fonts, effects and the slide master. Every template is based on a theme, so a template also includes colors, fonts, effects and the slide master – and you can add dummy data (sample slides) to a template.

So, if you have a THMX, you can use it to apply or change a slide design. If you have a POTX with or without dummy data, you can also use it to apply or change a slide design. For that matter, if you have a PPTX you can use it to apply or change a slide design, too.

Applying a theme or template

There are a number of different ways to apply a theme or template to change your slide design. How you do it depends on what you’ve got to work with.

Apply a theme (or template) from the Ribbon

  1. Open your presentation.
  2. On the Design tab of the Ribbon, click the More button to expand the theme gallery
  3. Click a theme to apply it to all slides OR right-click a theme and choose Apply to Selected Slides

  4. If your theme or template does not appear on the Ribbon, choose Browse for Themes at the bottom of the themes gallery and navigate to your theme (THMX), template (POTX), or PowerPoint file (PPTX, PPSX, etc.).
  5. Note: When you apply them from the Themes Gallery, templates (POTX) and PowerPoint files (PPTX, etc.) behave like themes – no dummy content is included.

    Copy and apply a design (theme or template) from another slide or presentation

    1. Open both files – the presentation you’re working on (target presentation) and the one you want to copy the formatting from (existing presentation)
    2. On the View tab, click Arrange All to position the two decks side-by-side
    3. Select a thumbnail in the existing presentation and double-click the Format Painter on the Home tab
    4. Click the window of the target presentation to activate that deck, then click on any slide thumbnails you want to apply the formatting to
    5. When you’re finished, click back on the existing presentation window to activate it and press ESC on your keyboard to exit the Format Painter

    If you want your theme or template to show up in the Themes Gallery on the Design tab so you can use the first method to apply it, save it here: C:\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\Document Themes

    If you’d like to learn more about PowerPoint templates and Office themes, check Stephanie Krieger’s blog post. If you need the real nitty gritty, check out my book!