If you’re just getting started with Google Slides, its extensive features and add-ons can be a little overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you get going with this powerful alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint.
What Is Google Slides?
If you’ve heard of Google Slides before, feel free to skip ahead; if you haven’t, here’s a crash course on what you need to know. We’ll go over the basics and get you brushed up on what Google Slides is and how you can get started right away.
Slides is a free, web-based presentation program designed to compete with Microsoft Office PowerPoint. It’s part of G Suite—Google’s complete office suite (though some people refer to it all as Google Docs). The other main services included in the cloud-based suite are Sheets (Excel) and Docs (Word).
RELATED: What is Google Workspace, Anyway?
Google Slides is available on all devices and platforms; all you need is an internet connection and a web browser (or, in the case of mobile, the Android and iOS apps ). Google does the rest and handles the brunt of the heavy lifting, while it runs the software in the cloud.
Slides supports several file types, including .ppt, .pptx, .odp, .jpg, .svg, and .pdf. This makes it easy to view or convert Microsoft Office files directly from Google Drive or insert images directly into a slide.
And since Slides is an online presentation program, you can share and collaborate with multiple people on the same file, and track revisions, changes, and suggestions, all in real-time.
Have you heard enough? Let’s get started.
How to Sign Up for an Account
Before you can use Google Slides, you have to sign up for a Google account (an @gmail account). If you already have one, feel free to move on to the next section. If not, we’ll go over the simplest way to create a Google account and get you set up with Slides.
Head over to accounts.google.com, click “Create Account,” and then click “For Myself.”
On the next page, you provide some information—first and last name, username, and password—to create your account.
Also, you have to verify your phone number, so Google can make sure you’re not a bot.
After you verify your phone number, the subsequent pages require you to provide a recovery email address and your date of birth and gender. You must also agree to the privacy statement and terms of service. After that, you’re the proud new owner of a Google account.
How to Create a Blank Presentation
Now that you have a Google account, it’s time to create your first presentation. Head over to Google Slides and place the cursor on the multicolored “+” icon in the bottom-right corner.
The + turns into a black pencil icon; click it.
Pro Tip: Type
slides.new into the address bar from any browser and hit Enter to automatically create and open a new blank document.
How to Import a Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation
Even if you’re new to Google Slides, you might already have a collection of Microsoft PowerPoint files you’d like to be able to use. If that’s the case, then you have to upload all your presentations before you can view them. While it might not support some of the more advanced features and effects of some PowerPoint presentations, it works pretty well.
When you import a PowerPoint presentation, you can use either Google Slides or Drive to upload your files. Both methods let you drag and drop a file from your computer directly into the web browser for easy uploads. Your Drive houses all of your uploaded files, but—for the sake of convenience—when you go to the Slides homepage, it only shows you presentation-type files.
From the Slides homepage, click the folder icon in the top right, and then click the “Upload” tab. Now, drag and drop any files you want to upload directly into this window.
Once the file uploads, Slides opens it automatically, and it’s ready for you to edit, share, or collaborate.
To open a PowerPoint presentation that you want to edit, click the filename with the “P” next to it from your Google Slides homepage.
Click to either view the PowerPoint file or edit it in Slides.
After you’ve finished editing your file, you can download and export your presentation back into a Microsoft PowerPoint format. Just go to File > Download As, and then click the “Microsoft PowerPoint” option.
If you’d rather download your presentation as a PDF, ODP, JPEG, TXT, etc., you can do that here, as well.
How to Check Your Spelling in Google Slides
Now that you have a few presentations, it’s time to make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Slides is equipped with a spellchecker. If you misspell something, it underlines the error with a squiggly line and prompts you to make a change.
This should be on by default, but you can make sure in Tools > Spelling > Underline Errors.
To see spelling corrections and suggestions, right-click the word with the line underneath. Alternatively, press Ctrl+Alt+X (Windows) or Command+Alt+X (Mac) to open the Spell Check and Grammar tool.
Along with a spellchecker, Google Slides comes loaded with a built-in dictionary and thesaurus. To use them, highlight a word, right-click it, and then click “Define [word].”
While this should get you started, we have a deeper dive into Google’s spelling and grammar checker if you want more info.
How to Collaborate on Presentations
One of the best features of Google Slides is its ability to generate a shareable link. Anyone you share the link with can view, suggest edits to, or directly edit the presentation. This eliminates the hassle of sending a file back and forth between collaborators. Each person has her own text entry cursor to use on her computer.
To do this, click the orange “Share” button in the file you want to share. Next, choose how and with whom you want to send a link to the file. You can type email addresses or click “Get Shareable Link” in the top corner to hand out the invitation yourself.
From the drop-down menu, you can select one of these options for what other users can do:
- Off: Sharing is disabled. If you’ve previously shared a link with others, it will no longer work and revokes any permissions they once had.
- Anyone with the link can edit: Gives the shared users full read/write access. They still can’t delete it from your Drive, though—this is just for the contents of the file.
- Anyone with the link can comment: Allows shared users to leave comments which is handy for team projects.
- Anyone with the link can view: Shared users can view the file, but can’t edit it in any way. This is the default action when you share a file, and it’s the best option if you’re trying to share a file for download.
You can do a lot more with these shareable links, as they also work with other Drive files and on mobile. For a deeper look at how links work and how to generate them, check out our post.
How to See All Recent Changes to a Presentation
When you share documents with others, it’s difficult to keep track of all the small changes that happen if you’re not present. For that, there’s revision history. Google keeps track of all the changes that occur in a document and groups them into periods to reduce clutter. You can even revert a file to any of the previous versions listed in the history with a click of your mouse.
You can view a list of all recent changes by clicking File > Version History > See Version History. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H (Command+Option+Shift+H on Mac).
How to Link to a Specific Slide
You can also share a link to a specific slide in your presentation with a friend or coworker, without having to mention which one you’re referencing. When someone clicks the link and the presentation loads, it jumps directly to the slide you’re referencing. You do have to enable file sharing before you can link to a specific slide in your presentation, though.
Because each slide has a unique URL, all you have to do to link to one is click it in the left pane, and then copy the URL from the address bar.
How to Insert Special Characters into a Slide
Google Slides also has a character insertion tool. This allows you to insert special characters into your presentation without having to remember any Alt-codes. There are tons of symbols, characters, languages, and so much more. So, whether you want an arrow, different language scripts, or if you just want a few silly emojis to spruce up your presentation, Google Slides makes it easy to include them.
To open the character insertion tool, click “Insert,” and then click “Special Characters.”
From here, you can manually search for specific characters with the drop-down menus.
Use the search bar to find a specific character or emoji.
You can also use your drawing skills to search.
How to Use Google Slides Offline
What happens if you need to access Google Slides but don’t have an internet connection? Although Slides is a web-based product, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it offline. Any changes you make to the file offline will update the next time you connect to the internet. First, download the extension for Chrome.
To enable a presentation for offline use, go to the Google Slides’ homepage and, in the top-left corner, click the Hamburger menu > Settings. Once here, toggle “Offline” to the On position, and then click “OK.”
To save storage space on your local machine, Google only downloads and makes the most recently accessed files available offline. To manually enable a file, click the three dots icon, and then toggle “Available Offline” to On.
RELATED: How to Use Google Docs Offline
Google Slides is a powerful, feature-rich alternative to Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint. It’s also completely free to use with an internet connection and a Google Account, making it a legitimate competitor for Microsoft.