PowerPoint: Mac vs Windows

In my now, not so new role at Mindset Digital we have both Mac and Windows people. Both doing a LOT of work in PowerPoint.  In general, it seems that the odd of needing to share slide decks between Mac and Windows computers are much higher today than ever before.


If you’ve ever compared PowerPoint Mac vs the Windows version you’ll, know that they are totally different. So if you ever run into that situation here are a few things that can help you navigate it successfully.

Check out this Microsoft article on “Cross Platform PowerPoint Compatibilty” by Geetesh Baja for the full details and here are some of the his top items.

THINK FOLDERS: The first thing you should do to do is create an empty folder for every presentation you create to hold all the media assets, including pictures, sounds and movie files – put them in this folder before inserting them as a link within the PowerPoint. If you need to link to Word documents, Excel sheets, PDFs, or other documents – copy them all to this folder before you create links to them from your PowerPoint slides.

Be sure to share the entire folder and all of it’s contents. Dropbox or something similar makes this super easy.

STAY CURRENT: You should keep all your software up to date. Compatibility issues are often fixed in updates. You can check for the latest service packs for Microsoft Office installed for Windows here: http://www.microsoft.com/powerpoint or for macs here:  http://www.microsoft.com/mac

UPGRADE: The latest version of PowerPoint (2013 for Windows and 2011 for Mac) have fewer compatibility issues than previous versions.

USE THE COMPATIBILITY CHECKER: PowerPoint for the Mac includes a Compatibility Report option that checks for compatibility issues with profiles of all versions of PowerPoint on Windows and Mac – right back to PowerPoint 97 and 98 – it then tells you exactly what features may be compromised, and what will not work.

PowerPoint 2013 has a similar Compatibility Checker that can be accessed from File | Check for issues – but this option only looks at compatibility issues with older versions of PowerPoint on Windows –  no help on problems with Mac versions.

VIEW ONLY FUNCTIONS: You might find some functions that allow editing on one platform but can only be viewed in slideshow mode of the other. For example, Motion Path animations in PowerPoint for Windows – they’ll play on a Mac but you can’t add or edit motion path them.

FONTS: Use fonts that can be found as standard on Windows and Mac – these include Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New, Verdana, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, or Calibri.

Don’t space out your text too tightly – font rendering differences may add an extra line to a text box on either Windows or Mac versions of PowerPoint.

EMBEDDED OFFICE DOCS:  Most embedded objects in PowerPoint presentations created on Windows do not translate very well to the Mac version. Insted of embedding these files (Word, Excel, PDF, etc.), use hyperlinks to link them to the presentation file. Make sure those files always stay in the same folder as the PowerPoint presentation.Microsoft Word tables and Excel spreadsheets pasted inside PowerPoint can cause cross-platform problems. Either redo the table using PowerPoint’s native table engine, or create a link to the Word or Excel document. This is not as much an issue between PowerPoint 2007 for Windows and PowerPoint 2008 for Mac – but can be a problem in earlier versions on both OSs.

TABLES & SPREADSHEETS: Microsoft Word tables and Excel spreadsheets pasted inside PowerPoint can cause cross-platform problems. Either redo the table using PowerPoint’s native table engine, or create a link to the Word or Excel document. This is less of a problem now than it used to be but you still might want to keep an eye on it.

COLORS:  Macs and PCs have differences in how colors are displayed. That means slide colors created on a Windows PC will not been seen as the same on a Mac. They’ll be lighter on a Mac.

Published by Mike Taylor

Born with a life-long passion for learning, I have the great fortune to work at the intersection of learning, design, technology & collaboration.

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