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How to Format and Print Handouts of Your Presentation

PowerPoint Versions 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2003

By Ute Simon, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP

Though you will concentrate primarily on your slides when preparing a presentation, do not neglect the materials you will need as a script for the presenter and as handouts to distribute to the audience. These documents may serve as:

  • Summary of the presentation, so that the audience can concentrate on the presenter and does not need to take notes
  • Documentation to review the presentation later on
  • Material to work with during the presentation.

PowerPoint printout options

Printing slides in full size uses a lot of paper and does not leave room for additional information. These are the alternatives that PowerPoint offers:

  • Handouts, with 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 or 9 slides per page
  • Notes pages, with slide image and room for notes
  • Outline, no images, but slide title and text.

How to print handouts

Before discussing which format is ideal for which situation, these are the general steps to format and print handouts in PowerPoint:

  1. Select File – Page layout and choose portrait format for notes pages, handouts and outline. This selection is independent of slide orientation, which is usually landscape.
  2. Click on File – Print. Options in the lower part of the dialog box let you choose the type of your printed material.
  3. For handouts you may select the number of slide images per page.
  4. The preview button allows a view of the output before printing.

WHen to use which format

Handouts will show miniature images of your slide. Their size depends on the number of images per page and cannot be influenced:

  • Six slides per page provide a good overview for presenters and facilitate navigation within the presentation.
  • Use three slides per page to distribute handouts to your audience, so that they can take notes beside the images.
  • Two slides per page are a good size to discuss your slides with your co-workers when preparing a presentation together.
  • Nine slides per page are a paper-saving alternative to print your presentation for archiving purposes (this option is only available in PowerPoint 2002 and newer).

Notes pages allow to adjust the size of the slide image in the notes master.

Click on View – Master – Handout master or View – Master – Notes master to customize these masters. You can format handout and notes master independently. Using View – Headers/Footers you can hide or show the placeholders in these masters and to add additional information to be printed on every page.

Please note: from PowerPoint 2002 onward, you may use more than one slide master, but you can only use one handout master and one notes master.

For example, you can add a headline with topic and speaker's name to facilitate archiving for your audience. Or put conference title, venue and date in the footer of all print-outs of a large conference. If printing handout pages for your own archives, you might want to add folder and filename information for easy retrieval.

If you branded your slide master with your company logo, you should consider doing the same with your handout master to create a corporate identity.

The page size of handout and notes masters is the same as the slide size. White margins will be added when printing. Keep this in mind when placing text and logos. They may be placed quite close to the edges of the master to be printed with a considerable offset to the paper edges.

How to show slide numbers on handouts

For quick reference and easy navigation, it would be desirable to show slide numbers on handouts. By default, only a page number is printed. There are two workarounds to make the slide number visible:

  1. You use a single-color background and print on a black-and-white printer: In slide master view click on View – Header/Footer and check slide number. Move the slide number placeholder to one corner of the slide and use a large font size (e.g. 36 pt or more). Format the font color to be the same as the background color. Change to View – Color/Grayscale to adjust the settings, so that the slide number shows in good contrast to the background. Thus the page number will be visible on grayscale print-outs, but invisible in slide show view.
  2. You use a multicolor background and/or print on a color printer: Insert the slide number placeholder on the master as described above. Choose a font color that contrasts to the background and a large font size. Drag the number placeholder to the gray area around the slide master. Thus, it will be invisible during slide show. Before printing handouts, open slide master view and drag the slide number placeholder back onto the slide.

Quick Overview: The right format for every purpose

Situation Solution

Overview and navigation for the presenter

Outline or handout with 6 slides per page

Script and additional information for the presenter

Notes pages

Draft to be discussed with co-workers

Handout with 2 slides per page

Handouts for audience providing overview plus room for notes

Handout with 2 slides per page

Handouts for audience with plenty of room for note taking

Notes pages

This article was first published in issue April 2005 of the German magazine PowerPoint aktuell, www.powerpoint-aktuell.de

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Ute's article helps you make the right decisions about handout formats and printouts for pre-PowerPoint 2007 versions. Thank you, Ute, for providing this useful information and guidance. This is the first of a two-part article. Next month we will look at the handout formatting and printing capabilities in PowerPoint 2007. We'll also look at on-screen presenter views and their benefits.

Ute Simon started working with PowerPoint in 1997. She is working in IT training and support with a large international advertising agency. Training the employees in PowerPoint and other Office programs and helping them to solve their software problems is her daily business. Furthermore she develops templates and optimized presentations for clients and colleagues. But she also shares her knowledge in the German and international Microsoft PowerPoint newsgroups and other communities. Together with a team of nine other PowerPoint experts she maintains the website http://www.ppt-user.de, offering tips and tricks for users and presenters and issuing a monthly newsletter. She regularly contributes articles to the monthly magazine PowerPoint aktuell and video tutorials for the podcast PowerPoint-TV.