PowerPoint Tip: Start Your Presentation with an Outline

PowerPoint presentations are much like college essays. They present cited, relevant information that is meant to educate and inform. They are made for a wide audience. Do you remember what your teachers used to advise you to do when they assigned an essay writing assignment?

“Don’t forget to make an outline before you write.”

You can use the same concept in your next presentation. Just because it contains pictures and encourages interactivity doesn’t mean that it can’t be approached in a similar fashion. Outlining key points is a powerful strategy, and PowerPoint 2013 has a very useful tool to help you do it. This article will explain the importance of outlining and how to use the PowerPoint Outline View.

Why Create an Outline?

The answer is fairly simple: outlining focuses your presentation. It acts as a sort of pre-first draft, giving you leeway to throw ideas on the table and figure out which ones work best for your presentation. By putting everything you’ve thought of in one space, you can see your ideas and points side-by-side and more efficiently eliminate ones that don’t contribute to your overall message. By tightening the screws and oiling the gears, you will have a more cohesive presentation that works well both in presenting (on your end) and receiving (on the audience’s end).

PowerPoint Outline View

When you switch to Outline View in PowerPoint, you will see all the text currently within your title and text placeholders in a document-style format that appears on the left side of the screen. This will allow you to go through all the text and edit it without having to locate your text boxes one by one, slide by slide. It is a very useful tool to use when you want to focus on both text and image in a single go, consolidating your work from different areas of the screen.

Outline View in PowerPoint 2013

Outline View can easily be switched on and off by using the Ctrl+Shift+Tab key combination or via VIEWOutline View.

PowerPoint Outline View Ribbon Button

Text typed in Outline View will appear in the title of the current slide. Press Enter to add a new slide. By pressing Tab the current item will be indented and become a subitem of the previous item. Shift+Tab removes the indentation. All of these features are also accessible via the context menu, which can be accessed by right-clicking an outline item.

Importing an Existing Outline

If you have already created an outline in Microsoft Word, you can easily convert it into PowerPoint slides. PowerPoint will use the heading styles that you assigned to your text in Word to determine which paragraphs are titles and which are content. Heading 1 lines will become slide titles, Heading 2 lines will become bulleted items on the slides, and Heading 3 lines will become sub-bulleted items.

To import an existing outline file, click the drop-down menu under New Slide on the HOME tab, and select Slides from Outline. Navigate to the outline file, and click Insert.

Import Slides from Outline in PowerPoint 2013

Another option is to create an outline in .txt format using Notepad (or any other text editor), as shown in the screenshot below.

PowerPoint Outline in Notepad

Normal paragraphs will be converted into slide titles, whereas paragraphs indented by tabs will result in bulleted lists.


All of the best presentations include three things: research, quality, and purpose. PowerPoint’s Outline View can help you achieve the quality work you desire as you create your presentation and impress your audience with your vision. By consolidating all of your important content into a single segregated window, you can more easily weed out the text you don’t want and refine the text you do want. That way, by the end, you’ll achieve your goal.

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