I’ve been building Google Slides templates for clients for quite a few years, but I seem to be getting more requests for them lately. There are differences between PowerPoint and Google Slides that affect certain graphics and features. I think that a lot of this information isn’t readily available, so this is an attempt to publish template-specific information about Google Slides in one place.
I understand the appeal of easy collaboration with Google Slides (really, I do!), but I’m still not a fan of working in GSlides. And let me tell you, creating a template (not just a presentation) in GSlides can be frustrating and fiddly and inflexible and often makes me feel like I’m working in PowerPoint 2003.
I kind of feel bad comparing GSlides to PowerPoint for template creation, because, to be completely up-front, PowerPoint Online doesn’t even let you open slide master view, much less create a template. So yeah, I’m comparing GSlides (online) to PowerPoint (desktop) for template creation.
It’s also unfortunate that I can’t seem to find any help! There are many fantastic resources for Google Slides functionality (shoutout to BrightCarbon and SlideRabbit), but there’s not very much information about template-specific features. For that, I’m sent to the GDocs help, where they don’t really separate Docs from Slides from Sheets, and where there aren’t many answers anyway – at least on the subjects I searched. In fact, I actually ended up answering some of the questions I saw there!
So here is my list of things I want to keep track of when creating GSlides templates. They’re essentially features that work differently in GSlides than in PowerPoint. That doesn’t always make them bad! It just makes them different. But I do admit to often feeling hamstrung when creating presentation templates in Google Slides. Of course I will continue to create them for my clients, because even Google Slides users deserve a good starting point!
Google Slides uses slide size 5.63 x 10. Since 2013, PowerPoint’s default slide size has been 7.5 x 13.33. Both are 16:9 widescreen ratio, but 7.5 x 13.33 makes it easier to switch between 4:3 and 16:9 ratios.
This may or may not be an issue. It really depends on how many slides will need to be converted to the new template and what size they are. Also, if you’re going to be relying on PowerPoint as part of your workflow, or if you’re going to be switching between 4:3 and 16:9 ratios, I’d definitely make the Google Slides slide size 7.5 x 13.33 inches.
Here’s an old blog post about slide sizes if you’re interested in the details. https://echosvoice.com/size-matters/
In Google Slides, the default shape uses Light 1 for the fill color and Dark 1 (1-point weight) for the outline. Default font for shapes seems to be Arial, not the theme font. I have never been able to find a way to change this. I also cannot find a way to center align the text in the shape by default.
Default text box
The text in the default text box is based on the font used in the body placeholder on the master slide. You may need to select all levels of text in that master body placeholder and apply the theme font in order to force it to be used, otherwise the default text box seems to just use Arial.
Default font size is 14 point.
Chart fonts and colors
In PowerPoint, charts rely on the theme colors, using a tint of Dark 1 for the font color and Accents 1 – 6 (in that order) for data series. You can export the theme colors – or the whole theme – and apply it to Excel workbooks as well.
In Google Sheets, you must set up a color scheme specifically for sheets, and you must do that in Sheets. You can spec the text color, the chart background, accents 1-6, and a hyperlink color. There doesn’t seem to be a way to use a custom Slides theme as a Sheets theme.
Sheets chart text seems to use the color you specified for text with the exception of the chart titles and subtitles, which are a tint of the text color. (So if your chart text is black, the chart title and subtitles are grey. In PowerPoint, if Dark 1 is black, all text in the chart will be grey.)
However, your default font options in Sheets are limited to Arial, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, Georgia, Roboto, and Verdana. Interestingly, there seem to be more font options if you choose Edit Chart > Customize, but do you really want to do that for every single chart? Even if you do, you won’t get many more choices: add Serif, Sans Serif, Wide, Tahoma, and Garamond to the initial six.
Oh, and even if you choose the same stock theme for both Slides and Sheets, they don’t use the same fonts or colors! I mean, it’s kind of nice to be able to specify different color order for charts in the Sheets, but I dislike that it doesn’t use the same fonts or let me start with the theme I created in Slides.
Bullets and line spacing
New slides in Google Slides start with no bullet, even if you’ve specified a bullet character in the slide master body placeholder. I kind of like that, to be honest. Unfortunately, adding bullets is so fiddly and frustrating, I can’t even explain it.
If your users will just click the bullet button (or use CTRL + * (which is CTRL + Shift + 8)), it will add the bullet you specified on the master. But if they expand that bulleted list option, they’ll apply one of the default bulleted lists, which are … ugly, to say the least.
Oh, and when you add bullets to the text, Google Slides adds some margin to the placeholder, so the bullets are slightly indented.
Line spacing, specifically space before and space after, is also different. Google Slides does not ignore the space before setting on the first bullet point the way PowerPoint does. If you add space before to the first level text, the text will start lower in the placeholder. So if you’re going to add space between paragraphs, it’s generally best to use space after. (Of course you can use both space before and space after, but I prefer to use one or the other for simple ease of use – unless I’m setting up a document template.)
However, if you add bullet points to the text, that space before or space after is removed. The user can manually add space before or after, but when they do, Google Slides ignores your space before/after settings and simply adds 10 points space, no matter what font size you’re working with or what before/after space setting you want. Because of this, I generally don’t set space-between at all on Google Slides templates.
Also, if you do add space before to your first level text, this setting will also be applied to any subtitle placeholders you’ve created. You may need to go back through the file and remove those if that happens.
Google Slides doesn’t let you apply any special indentation settings to the text on the slide master. If you start your template in PowerPoint and upload it, Google Slides will ignore the hanging indent settings you’ve specified. Additionally, if you’ve “stacked” levels (using the same indent settings) as we often do with the lower levels in PowerPoint, Google Slides will ignore this.
On the slide master, Google Slides will always show all nine levels of text.
I do need to add a note here that the indent settings in Format Options > Text Fitting are available only at the slide level; they are not available when you’re working in master view.
Also, I have sometimes been able to upload PowerPoint files and have the indent maintain – but then I’ll turn around a day or two later and the indent settings are not maintained. Because this seems to be so unreliable, I have to just assume that Google Slides will not respect any indent specifications you might be able to set. And they’ll more than likely be different when you download the Google Slides file as a PowerPoint PPTX file.
Google Slides lets you add a subtitle placeholder, which is awesome. You’ll have to add it to every layout rather than putting it on the slide master, but that’s a small sacrifice.
Google Slides doesn’t support custom prompt text, so all placeholders will show “Click to add text” on the slides. I like to use prompt text to help users know what type of content they might want to add to a placeholder. Think about a slide with a large number for numerical metrics and a small description below. There’s no way to add ### as the prompt text in that short metrics placeholder, and “click to add text” isn’t terribly helpful. (In this particular case, you can copy the big number placeholder from the default “Big number” layout and paste it onto your own custom layout. But of course this won’t work in all situations.)
Also on the master, Google Slides doesn’t let you delete those lower levels of text, which I like to do simply to clean up the back end and make it easier to see what the slide master and layouts really look like. Nine levels of text! That’s a lot of text messing up the back end, especially for short placeholders that are intended to hold numbers or small headings. It just looks sloppy and actually makes it difficult to work.
I find that the masters don’t really look exactly like the layouts, either. For example, the hanging indent between the text and bullet might be small on the master (especially if I started in PowerPoint), but it’s back to .25” when you actually create the slide.
There are no content placeholders of any type on Google Slides. I really miss picture placeholders! They make life so much easier for users because the picture is positioned appropriately and cropped to fill the placeholder. On Google Slides, I can put an image on the slide itself, but that’s not super helpful. Recently, a client requested that I add a text placeholder to the slide to help with this because the image will snap to its edges so it can help serve as a sizing guide.
If you’re starting your Google Slides template in PowerPoint, my recommendation is to turn on footers on all layouts. You can delete the footer text and date placeholders if you want, because GSlides doesn’t support them. But you definitely want a slide number placeholder. In GSlides, when you choose Insert > Page Number, if there’s no placeholder, the page number gets added to the layout in the lower right, using black text.
Inserting page numbers in GSlides does give you an option to skip title slides. If this isn’t checked, and if there’s no placeholder on the title slide, then the number gets added in the lower right in black text. So, basically, I recommend that you add the slide number placeholder to all layouts so you can control its formatting and placement.
Gradients and background images
First, Google Slides doesn’t recognize background styles from PowerPoint. GSlides will set up a new master for each background style in use. So if you’re starting in PowerPoint, just stick with one background style and format the fonts manually. (Note that I am not discussing simple slide backgrounds here. I’m talking about background styles, which you should set up in PowerPoint if you’re mixing dark and light layouts.)
Next, be sure to check your backgrounds by downloading the GSlides file as both a PDF and as a PowerPoint file. I sometimes find weird issues with gradients. I also see weird gaps sometimes between images and gradients. To resolve these issues, you’ll want to create one solid background image rather than using discrete pieces like you often would in PowerPoint.
Layouts cannot be reordered in GSlides. They can be deleted and renamed, and you can add new custom layouts.
I recommend that you think about how you want to name your layouts before you go too far. In Google Slides, layouts appear in this order:
- Default layouts (whether Google Slides or PowerPoint)
- Custom layouts that start with special characters (e.g., + 3 Boxes, # 3 Boxes. See note below for more info.)
- Custom layouts that start with a number (e.g., 3 Boxes, 4 Content, etc.)
- Custom layouts that start with an underscore or an @ symbol (e.g. _3 Boxes, @ Agenda, etc.)
- All other custom layouts in alphabetical order
Note: I have tried layout names such as + 3 Boxes, # 3 Boxes, ! 3 Boxes, and * 3 Boxes. Those layouts appeared after the default layouts and before the custom layouts that start with a number. Spaces or no spaces between the special character and the layout name don’t seem to make a difference. I haven’t tried other special characters. I don’t recommend that you use special characters to prepend your layout names, but this info may come in handy if you’re desperate. You never know! If you’re going to leverage this, you might want to test the various characters you plan to use to determine how it affects the layout order.
If you’ve started your template in PowerPoint, you can fool Google Slides into thinking that the default layouts are actually custom layouts so they appear in the alpha list of layouts. To do so, before uploading the file to Google Slides, turn off the slide title and then turn it back on again in PowerPoint’s master view. I do like leaving the Title Slide layout as the first layout, though.
Tip: If you screw up and decide you want Google Slides to recognize a PowerPoint default layout as a default so it appears at the top of the layout list, delete the layout from your PowerPoint file. Then open a new blank presentation, switch to Master View, and copy the layout. Put your PowerPoint-Google Slides template into Master View and paste the layout. PowerPoint will consider that a default layout, and once you upload the file, Google Slides will, too.
If you start your template in GSlides, the default Google Slides layouts appear in this order: Title slide, Section header, Title and body, Title and two columns, Title only, One column text, Main point, Section title and description, Caption, Big number, Blank. These are the default GSlides layouts.
A note about editing
I tell my clients that they need to pick a program and stick to it, at least for editing. Either edit their presentations in PowerPoint or edit them in Google Slides, but don’t try to go back and forth. Editing in Google Slides breaks things in PowerPoint and vice-versa. Users can of course download their Google Slides files and present them in PowerPoint. Before presenting, they should double-check to ensure that things look as expected, because often things will change. Your tolerance for this will probably vary depending on the importance and extent of the difference.