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Make your PowerPoint Presentation look good on a wide screen projector

The other day I attended a meeting where the presenter switched from a PowerPoint slide to demonstrate an application. When he made the switch it was quite obvious the beamer was setup to only display the 4:3 slides to the maximum of the white screen. Since his desktop was in a 16:10 resolution the application was falling off the screen on both sides. Which was quite a distraction.

While I was preparing a presentation myself I wanted to be sure my presentation would be in the same resolution as my desktop as I would be switching between my slides and Visual Studio.

Choosing your Aspect Ratio

For presentations on a beamer or screen there are 3 common at the moment: 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10. If you don’t know the ratio you can use the maximum resolution to determine the required ratio.

4:3

This is the classic resolution for computer screens. This is also the default for PowerPoint. 800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864 and 1280x960 are common resolutions used with the ratio.

If you show a slide on wide screen you will get black bars on the side.

A PowerPoint slide with a 4:3 ratio shows black bars on the side using a 16:10 screen.
A 4:3 slide on a 16:10 screen. Showing black bars on the side.

16:9

This ratio is commonly used by HD screens and beamers. 1366x768, 1280x720, 1600x900 and 1920x1080 are common resolutions used with this ratio.

If you show a slide in this ratio on a 4:3 or 16:10 screen you will get black bars on the top and bottom.

A PowerPoint slide with a 16:9 ratio shows black bars on the top and bottom using a 16:10 screen.
A 16:9 slide on a 16:10 screen. Showing black bars on the top and bottom.

16:10

This ratio was commonly used by modern screen and beamers, but is now disappearing. 1280x800, 1440x900 and 1920x1200 are common resolutions used with the ratio.

If you show a slide in this ratio on a 4:3 screen you will get black bars on the top and bottom. On a 16:9 screen you will get black bars on the side.

A PowerPoint slide with a 16:10 ratio shows no black bars on a 16:10 screen.
A 16:10 slide on a 16:10 screen. No black bars showing.

Setting the aspect ratio in PowerPoint

It’s easy to set the required aspect ratio:

  1. In PowerPoint go the Design tab on the ribbon.
  2. Click on Page Setup.
    The PowerPoint application with the "Design" tab selected on the ribbon.
  3. At Slides sized for set the desired ratio.
    The "Page Setup" dialog with the ratio dropdown box displaying several ratio's including 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10.
  4. Press the OK button and you’re set.

9 Comments

  1. /

    Thank you very much. That answer ratio question.

    The monitor my presentation will be shown at is a 40" LCD monitor with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080. Does that mean I have to size my pictures (or the background picture) to that size, at 72dpi, or 96dpi, or ...?

    Thank you very much.

  2. /

    Extremely helpful. I use a widescreen on my laptop and although I am not projecting I am recording my desktop and having the widescreen fill out appropriately makes for a better presentation.

    Thank you.

  3. /

    I am using a 3.9 Unilumen LED screen that is 22 meters wide by 4 meters high, and has a pixel count of 5632 x 1152 which will be hooked up to a media server. We will have different scenarios such as single PIP (picture in picture) full screen, 3 PIP graphics & video, 3 PIP PowerPoint and Live camera etc.

    My question to you is what would be the best way to produce the PowerPoint taking into consideration the above information. I have to advise the graphics production and don't want to give false information?

    Lee

  4. /

    It my dimensions are 1920 x 800 what ratio would i have to use??

    Thanks

    • /

      That's a really weird resolution as it would translate to 12:5 or 2.4:1. If you look at the list of common resolutions at Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_resolutions) you will see nothing like that is listed.

      If you want slides which match your screen you can choose a custom size with a width to height ratio of 12 to 5. So for example 24cm x 10cm.

  5. /

    Thanks, that was so helping.

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