PowerPoint’s implementation of the Widescreen aspect ratio has changed somewhat over the last few versions. Although this is a small change, it is important to understand what is happening behind the scenes.
Before we proceed, let’s understand a few principles:
- Widescreen aspect slides typically use 16:9 proportions, whereas conventional Standard aspect slides use the 4:3 width:height ratio.
- This Widescreen implementation changed in PowerPoint 2013 for Windows for the better. This is also similarly implemented in subsequent versions including PowerPoint 2016, 2019, and 365 on Windows and Mac, as well as the web version.
PowerPoint 365, 2019, 2016, 2013 and Any Newer Versions
Fortunately, the widescreen implementation was improved in PowerPoint's newer versions. Let’s learn more:
- Open any existing presentation that has a Standard 4:3 ratio slide size in PowerPoint, as you can see in Figure 1, below.
Figure 1: A typical slide in PowerPoint
- Access the Design tab of the Ribbon, and click the Slide Size button. This brings up the drop-down gallery that you can see in Figure 2, below. You can straightaway click the Widescreen (16:9) option available in this gallery. However, we want to take a closer look, and we will click the Custom Slide Size option instead.
Figure 2: Custom Slide Size option
- This will bring up the Slide Size dialog box that you see in Figure 3, below. Do note that this dialog box is identical to the Page Setup dialog in PowerPoint 2010 and older versions (see Figure 7, shown later on this page).
Figure 3: Slide Size dialog box
- Click on the Slides sized for box, and you will see a drop-down list as shown in Figure 4. We did not choose the On-screen show (16:9) option (highlighted in blue within Figure 4) since that will result in reducing the slide height from 7.5 inches to 5.63 inches (see Figure 6, shown below on this page).
- Rather, we chose the new Widescreen option, highlighted in red within Figure 4.
Figure 4: The new Widescreen option
- The result can be seen in Figure 5, below. Notice that the Height value is retained at 7.5 inches. However, the Width value, highlighted in red has changed from 10 inches to 13.333 inches (compare with Figure 3, shown previously on this page).
Figure 5: Widescreen option retains the height and changes only the width
- What does this mean? This means that your text no longer needs to be made smaller! Moreover, you end up with a larger screen area as well.
Figure 6 below explains this perfectly. You can see part of this image in Figure 10, later on this page. Note the extra green area on the slide. This is the additional slide area you benefit from when using the Widescreen option in PowerPoint 2013 and newer versions. Do note that the older On-screen show (16:9) option is also still available!
Figure 6: New Widescreen option provides more slide area
PowerPoint 2010 and Previous Versions
We realize that very few people use PowerPoint 2010 now, but if this interests you, let's explore how things worked in PowerPoint 2010 and previous versions.
- We begin with a default presentation that uses the 4:3 Standard aspect ratio that you can see in Figure 6, below.
Figure 6: A typical slide in PowerPoint 2010
- Now let us check the slide dimensions. To do that, access the Design tab of the Ribbon, and click the Page Setup button. This brings up the Page Setup dialog that you can see in Figure 7, below. Notice that the Width of our slides is 10 inches and the Height is 7.5 inches. It is OK if you see centimeters here rather than inches, that’s because the units you see depends on your Regional Settings.
Figure 7: Page Setup dialog box
- Click on the Slides sized for box, and you will see a drop-down list as shown in Figure 8. We chose the On-screen show (16:9) option.
Figure 8: Change to 16:9 aspect ratio
- You would expect that the Height of your slide will remain the same, and the Width would increase to give you a larger slide size? Unfortunately, that is not true, as you can see in Figure 9, below. Notice that your Width now is still 10 inches but the Height has reduced to 5.63 inches (see area highlighted in red in Figure 9). This means that a Widescreen slide ends up with a smaller overall area than a Standard slide!
Figure 9: Your slides get smaller
Page Setup in PowerPoint 2010 and Earlier Versions
To learn more about the options in this dialog box, see our Change Presentation Aspect Ratio from Standard to Widescreen in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows tutorial.
Figure 10 below explains what exactly is happening! The entire area represents the original Standard slide and the overlapping violet box represents the widescreen slide.
Figure 10: The Widescreen slide is smaller than the Standard slide
To make this change, PowerPoint squishes graphic objects and reduces text sizes. The end result is scary, and was corrected in subsequent PowerPoint versions, as explained in the preceding section.
Slides: Widescreen Implementations in PowerPoint (Glossary Page)