Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve received, say, 30 separate PowerPoint slides from 30 individuals and needed to combine them into one polished PowerPoint presentation? This often happens for lightning rounds or PechaKucha presentations, where multiple people are contributing to a talk (usually in a very fast-paced manner).
Another common use for combining PowerPoint slides is in the classroom, with student-created slides that a professor wants to merge into one presentation for demonstration or teaching purposes. In one of my recent PowerPoint workshops, I received exactly this question from an instructor: How do I take 30 disparate slides, arrange them how I’d like, and quickly insert them into a single PowerPoint presentation?
The first answer is: the hard and long way. In both PowerPoint for PC (2010 and 2013) and Mac (2011), there is a button called “New Slide” with a drop-down option to “Reuse Slides” (on PC) or “Insert Slides from Other Presentation…” (on Mac). This function then allows you to choose a slide or presentation from your computer to add to your own PowerPoint presentation. While you can select a whole PowerPoint presentation to insert, unfortunately PowerPoint does not allow you to select multiple, individual slides at once. So, if you have 30 different slides, you will be performing this function 30 times.
Enter the Automator. Basically, it’s a Mac application that makes process-intensive tasks much quicker and easier. To create an application that will load many different PowerPoint slides right where you want them in a presentation, follow these steps:
- Type “Automator” into your Spotlight bar at the top right (looks like a magnifying glass) and open the application.
- The Automator will ask what kind of document you want to create. Click on Application and then select “choose” at the bottom right.
- In the search bar on the left, start to type in “ask for…” and choose “Ask for Finder items,” which appears as an option in the menu. Click on this option and drag it into your workflow area on the right.
- Make sure to check off the box that says “Allow Multiple Selection,” as this will enable you to select many things at once. You can customize this function to where on your computer you would like to search first (i.e. Desktop), and what kind of materials to search (i.e. Files versus Folders).
- Again in the search bar, start to type “Combine…” and select “Combine PowerPoint Presentations.” Drag this over to your workflow on the right, underneath the Ask for Finder Items workflow item.
- Hit the “run” function in the top right-hand corner (looks like a play button). When prompted, select PowerPoint files from anywhere on your computer (hold down the Command key while clicking to select as many as you’d like).
- Be amazed as you see many PowerPoints opening up simultaneously, ending in one presentation that combines them all (hint: to have the slides appear in the order you prefer, select them in that order when running the application).
- Save this application for the future. Go to File -> Save, give it a name you’ll remember, and save to your Desktop or another place where you’ll remember it.
And voila! You’ve just created an application that you can use whenever you need to combine many different PowerPoint slides in a matter of seconds. You can program your Automator to perform just about any task. PC users: fear not. There are a couple of programs that perform this same function in Windows: Action(s) and “Automator” for Windows to name a couple of popular ones.