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How to Use Google Slides (Quick Start Guide)

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This post is part of a series called How to Use Google Slides (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).

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 and it's available for free.

You may be thinking to yourself, "what is Google Slides?" In this Google Slides tutorial we answer that question, and I teach you how to create a presentation in Google Slides, as well as walk you through the benefits of using Google Slides over your standard desktop presentation apps.

If you'd like to see a deeper comparison between PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides refer to this article:

Also, for a helpful companion to this tutorial, download our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It's available for FREE with the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. Learn how to write, design, and deliver the perfect presentation.

Free eBook PDF Download Make a Great Presentation

Now jump into this tutorial to learn more about what Google slides is and how to start using it.

Step 1. 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 is 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. 

Let's look at how to use Google Slides to make your presentation, as it's a great choice of online presentation software to work with.

Step 2. Creating a New Presentation

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

How to use google slide to create a new presentation
Create a new presentation.

1. Formatting a Presentation

The first step in creating a new presentation is configuring how it looks, so let's take a look at the Themes sidebar that pops up upon creating a presentation.

Google Slides comes preloaded with 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 good selection of many kinds of basic presentation themes available.

The Themes sidebar appears on the right side of your blank presentation. Use the scroll bar to move through the various themes available.

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

If none of the basic themes in Google Slides suit your needs, you have plenty of additional options.

You can find dozens of beautiful new Google Slides themes at GraphicRiver, which are made by professional designers. Or, browse through our collection of the latest best-selling presentation themes to find those that are trending, like these best-sellers: 

Best Google Slides Themes on GraphicRiver
Best Google Slides templates, available for sale on GraphicRiver.

Moreover, you may upload an original theme to Google Slides by pressing the Import theme button on the launcher. The Import theme window appears. You can use a theme from a previous presentation, drag a theme onto the Import theme window from your computer, or Select a file from your computer.

The Import theme window appears
You can upload an original theme to Google Slides using the Import Theme window.

Google supports uploads up to 50MB in .ppt, .pptx, .pptm, .ppsx, .pot, .potx, .odp, and Google Slides formats.

Once you've selected the theme, determine the Google Slides aspect ratio of your slides. From File > Page setup, there are the options of Standard 4:3, Widescreen 16:9, Widescreen 16:10, and Custom

Select the aspect ratio that best fits the screen you'll be using when you present the slideshow. Typically, the standard Google Slides aspect ratio is best if the presentation is being projected, and the widescreen aspect ratio is best suited 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 your mode of presentation.

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

Note: Themes and aspect ratios may be changed later on by clicking Slide > Change theme.

I recommend renaming your presentation once you have decided on the initial theme. To do so, click on Untitled presentation in the top left corner of the screen, and type in a new name.

Rename the presentation
Rename your presentation.

Step 3. Navigating Google Slides

Let's look at how to use Google Slides tools. 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.

How to Use Google Slides interface
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 to your Google Slides presentation
Add a title to your Google Slides presentation.

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

How to Use Google Slides Toolbar formatting functions
1. Functions that edit the appearance of the text box. 2. Functions that edit the appearance of the text..

1. Adding and Deleting Slides

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

Press  to add a new slide
Press "+" to add a new slide.

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

2. Adding Text

The new slide will be an information slide. Add a title that's relevant to the information that you'll put on your 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 > Explore.

The Explore sidebar allows you to Google search in-app. You may also filter the search to only include material from the Web, Images, or Google Drive. Using the See all results on Google link at the bottom of the sidebar sends you to a full Google search window. You can preview the links right from the sidebar and insert links directly into the presentation right from the sidebar itself.

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

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

3. 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.

How to Use Google Slides and Select a slide layout
Select a slide layout.

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.

Let's look at how to use Google Slides to add images to your presentation. To add an image, click the Image button in the toolbar, or go to Insert > Image.

There are several ways to add images to your 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.

The Insert image panel in Google Slides
Select an image source from the Insert image panel.

Note: When downloading images, pay attention to any intellectual property restrictions. For example, below the Stock images search the words "Results shown are available for personal or commercial use only in Google Drive, and may not be independently redistributed or sold" display.

Once you find the image you like, click on it and press Select (from archives or stock images) or Open (from the Upload option) 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
Images may be easily resized using the anchors alongside the photo.

4. Adding Animations

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

Here's how to use Google Slides to add animations to your presentation. 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 your 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 Transition to add transitions between slides
Click Transition 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 Select an object to animate in the Animations sidebar.

Click Select an object to animate to animate individual objects
Click Select an object to animate 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.

Step 4. Collaboration

Now we cover how to use Google Slides collaboration features, which are top-notch to work with. Since it's 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 right corner of the screen. The Share with others a screen will pop up and offer different ways to share the presentation. If you click the Get shareable link icon (it looks like a chain), Google generates a link for your presentation which can be shared with people via Mail, Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.

You can also invite people to the document your presentation by entering their email addresses (or, if they are in your contacts, their names) in the People field. Click the Advanced link in the lower right of the screen to view all the sharing options.


Google Slides sharing settings
How to use Google Slides sharing settings.

The presentation can be opened to the public further by clicking the Change link under the Who has access field. The Link sharing window displays. 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
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 Can view drop-down menu.

Once you're happy with the collaboration settings, click the Save button on the Link sharing window. Next, click the Done button on the Sharing settings window. You may now begin collaboration in real time.

Step 5. Present Your Google Slides Presentation

Now that you've finished the presentation, click the Present button to show off what you've got.

A completed Google Slides presentation
A completed Google Slides presentation.

If you're presenting somewhere without internet access, you may export the presentation as a .pptx file by clicking File > Download As > Microsoft PowerPoint.

Now that we've covered what is Google Slides, as well as how to use Google Slides, you can see that it makes it easy to create web-based presentations. Though in using Google Slides you may lose some 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.

To learn even more about Google Slides, refer to these Google Slides tutorials:

Also, if you need a professional presentation theme to start with, browse through our best Google Slides themes on GraphicRiver to find a great design. They're robust, packed with loads of design features, beautiful graphics, and made to work with quickly.

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

Download Our Free PDF eBook on Making Great Presentations

Keep in mind though, presentation software is only one component you need to master. We have the perfect compliment to this tutorial, that will help you learn how to write, design, and deliver great presentations. 

Download The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations for FREE with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. Get your ideas formed into a powerful presentation that will move your audience. 

Free eBook PDF Download Make a Great Presentation

Editorial Note: This post was originally published in 2014. It has been comprehensively revised to make it current, accurate, and up to date by our staff—with special assistance from Laura Spencer.

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