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Getting Started with Google Slides


When it comes to presentations, PowerPoint and Keynote get all the press. Google Docs is often mentioned as a great Word alternative, and there's tons of tips out there about unique ways to use Google Sheets, but Google Slides barely ever get mentioned. That's a shame since it's actually a very good presentations tool for free.

In this tutorial, I will teach you how to create a presentation in Google Slides, as well as walk through the benefits of using Google Slides over your standard desktop presentation apps.

Getting Started

Google Slides is Google's flagship presentation app that lives inside the browser as a part of Google Docs. It's completely free—the only requirement to use is to have a Google account.

Due to being a free web app, Google Slides isn't as full featured as desktop apps like Microsoft PowerPoint and Keynote. However, it makes up for a lack of aesthetic features by boasting very strong collaboration features—if not the best. 

The learning curve for Google Slides also much lower than that of a full-featured desktop app due to the fact that it hosts the most essential of features and gets rid of most of the fluff.

Creating a New Presentation

Once you've signed into your Google Account, head to Google Drive. There, create a presentation by clicking Create > Presentation. You will be redirected to a new page with a blank presentation.

Create a new presentation
Create a new presentation.

Formatting a Presentation

The first step in creating a new presentation is configuring the looks, so let's take a look at the Choose a theme window that pops up upon creating a presentation.

Google Slides comes preloaded with 20 different themes for slides. While most of them are not as aesthetically pleasing as those found in desktop apps—especially those found in the latest version of Keynote—they are functional and there is a wide enough selection for just about any sort of presentation.

A few of Google Presentationss default themes
A few of Google Slides' default themes. 

If none of the themes suit your fancy, Google hosts hundreds of additional themes in the Template Gallery. Themes found in this gallery can easily be applied to the presentation by clicking Use this template. This creates a new presentation, outfitted with the selected theme.

Googles Template Gallery hosts a stock of additional themes for presentations
Google's Template Gallery hosts a stock of additional themes for presentations.

Moreover, you may upload an original theme to Google Slides by pressing the Import theme button on the launcher. Google supports uploads up to 50MB in .ppt, .pptx, and Google Slides formats.

Once you've selected the theme, determine the aspect ratio of the slides. From the Slide size drop-down menu, there are the options of Standard 4:3, Widescreen 16:9, and Widescreen 16:10. Select the aspect ratio that best fits the screen you'll be using when you present the slideshow. Typically, the standard aspect ratio is best if the presentation is being projected, and the widescreen aspect ratio is best suit if you're presenting with a computer or widescreen TV.

Select the slide size best fit for the mode of presentation
Select the slide size best fit for the mode of presentation.

Click OK once you are settled with the theme and aspect ratio of the presentation. For this tutorial, I will use the Paper Plane theme and the 16:9 aspect ratio.

Note: Themes and aspect ratio may be changed later on by clicking the Theme button in the toolbar.

I'd recommend renaming the presentation once you have decided on the initial theme. To do so, click on Untitled presentation in the top lefthand corner of the screen, and type in a new name in the Rename document window that appears. Click OK when done.

Rename the presentation
Rename the presentation. 

Navigating Google Slides

Google Slides works much like desktop presentation applications. The left sidebar of Google Slides displays the slides that you have made, and the body of the screen displays the slide you are currently working on.

Google Presentations interface is similar to that of desktop presentation applications
Google Slides' interface is similar to that of desktop presentation applications. 

For our purposes, the first slide will be the title slide. To add a title, click where it says to and type in the title of the presentation. You may also add a subtitle or leave it blank. Fields left blank will not show in the final presentation, so you don't have to delete the extra elements.

Add a title
Add a title.

When selecting text, new options appear in the toolbar above. The icons on the lefthand side allow for editing the appearance of the text box, such as background color and a border. The icons on the righthand side allow for editing the appearance of the text itself, such as typeface, font size, color, and stylings like bold, underline, and italic.

1 Functions that edit the appearance of the text box 2 Functions that edit the appearance of the text
1. Functions that edit the appearance of the text box; 2. Functions that edit the appearance of the text.

Adding and Deleting Slides

Once you're happy with the appearance of the title slide, you can add to the presentation. To add new slides, click the + button on the lefthand side of the screen. This creates a new slide with a Title and Body layout.

Press "+" to add a new slide. 

Conversely, slides may be deleted by clicking Edit > Delete, right-clicking on the slide thumbnail in the sidebar and clicking Delete, or simply by pressing the Delete key while the slide is selected. 

Adding Text

The new slide will be an information slide. Add a title that's relevant to the information that will be put on the slide.

As for the body text, you'll want to do some additional formatting. It's a presentation, after all, and long paragraphs detract from the effectiveness of the body of the slide. Click the body text box to reveal text options, then click More to reveal additional text options. This allows you to create a bulleted list.

Create a bulleted list by clicking More  Bulleted List
Create a bulleted list  by clicking More > Bulleted List.

Now that the body is formatted correctly, add information to the slide. Given you haven't researched the topic the presentation is about, Google Slides has an in-app researching tool accessible via Tools > Research.

The Research sidebar allows you to Google search in-app. You may also filter the search to only include articles from Google Scholar, images, videos, etc. You can preview the links right from the sidebar and insert links directly into the presentation right from the sidebar.

Get information on the topic in-app using the Research sidebar
Get information on the topic in-app using the Research sidebar. 

Add the information you'd like to display to the slides. Presentation notes may be added in the field at the bottom for easy access to additional information without cluttering the slides.

Adding Media

The next slide will be a slide with media elements. Since media will be added to this slide, the default layout won't be the best fit. For this slide, click the arrow button next to the + button, and select a different layout for the slide, most preferably one from the bottom row. I'll use Caption.

Click the arrow button next to the
Click the arrow button next to the "+" button to view additional layouts.

Tip: Layouts may be altered later using the Layouts button in the toolbar.

To add an image, click the Image button in the toolbar, or go to Insert > Image.

There are several ways to add images to the presentation. You can upload your own image from your hard drive, your Google+ account, or Google Drive; you can take a picture using a webcam; or you can search Google, LIFE magazine photo archives, or stock photos in the Insert image panel.

A LIFE Magazine Photo Archive search for NASA images
A LIFE Magazine Photo Archive search for NASA images.

Once you find the image you like, click on it and press Select to insert it into the presentation. There, the image may be resized and rotated to your liking. 

Images may be easily resized using the anchors alongside the photo
Images may be easily resized using the anchors alongside the photo.

Adding Animations

If you wish to spice up the presentation a bit, Google Slides hosts a few different animations you can use for both slide elements and transitions between slides.

Add a transition by clicking on the Transition button in the toolbar. An Animations sidebar will appear, and from there you are able to customize the animations in the presentation.

The Slide menu controls animations between slides. There are six transition options available; pick one from the drop-down menu. You can then choose the speed at which the transition occurs using the Slow-Fast slider beneath the drop-down menu. The slider displays the transition length as you adjust it to your liking; transitions may last between zero to five seconds.

Click Transitions to add transitions between slides
Click Transitions to add transitions between slides.

Tip: Easily apply transitions between all slides by clicking the Apply to all slides button in the Animations sidebar.

Individual objects on slides can be animated, too. Select an object on the slide by clicking on it, then press Add animation in the Animations toolbar.

Click Add Animation to animate individual objects
Click Add animation to animate individual objects.

Select an animation style from the first drop-down menu. The second drop-down menu controls the toggling of individual animations. Animations may be toggled manually by selecting the On click option, or automatically by selecting the After previous or With previous options. Animation speed is controlled by a Slow-Fast slider.

Animations can be toggled manually or automatically
Animations can be toggled manually or automatically.

To preview your animations, press Play.


Google Slides' collaboration features are top notch. Since it is a web app, it's easy to invite people to join the presentation and work on it together in real time, no matter where your peers may be located.

To collaborate, click the blue Share button in the righthand corner of the screen. A Sharing settings screen will pop up and offer different ways to share the presentation. Google generates a link for the presentation which can be shared with people via Mail, Google+, Facebook, or Twitter. 

You can also invite people to the document by entering their email addresses (or, if they are in your contacts, their names) in the Invite people field at the bottom of the screen.

Google Presentationss sharing settings
Google Slides sharing settings.

The presentation can be opened to the public further by clicking the Change button under the Who has access field. There, the presentation may be made available for Anyone with the link or made totally public by clicking Public on the web. These options differ from Specific people because no one needs to sign into their Google account to view the presentation.

Control the privacy of the presentation by restricting editing and viewing powers
Control the privacy of the presentation by restricting editing and viewing powers.

You're able to restrict the powers of collaborators by selecting either Can view, Can comment, or Can edit options from the Access drop-down menu.

Once you're happy with collaboration settings, click Save, and you may begin collaboration in real time.


Now that you've finished the presentation, click the Present button to show off what you've got. If you're presenting somewhere without internet access, you may export the presentation as a .pptx file by clicking File > Download As > Microsoft PowerPoint.

Google Slides makes it easy to create web-based presentations. Though in using Google Slides you may lose a lot of desktop app features, the in-app information and photo search engines, strong collaboration tools, and ubiquity of the application make the app a strong competitor to the traditional presentation app.

If you have any further questions or suggestions about Google Slides  feel free to leave a comment!

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