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introduction to Google slides

Create slideshow presentations, guides, and reports using Google Drive’s slide presentations. Either entirely from scratch or use one of the many templates.

Google slide example
Google slide example

Once created, our slides are not limited to google’s format. We can download or email them in a range of formats, including Microsoft PowerPoint and images.

As we can download them as images, we can also add them to other file types such as Google Docs. I often use them to create company headers for Google forms.

First of all let’s start the ball rolling by looking at the ways we can create a new slide. Both from a blank template and from a template.

Creating a blank slide

You may want to create a folder for slides, or a specific project as discussed in the Drive and folders section T open it up, double click on the folder you want to place the slide in.

Dropdown that appears when clicking New

To create the file, the most intuitive way is to click on the New dropdown in the top left. Then select Google Slides. This will create a new blank slide under the name of Untitled slide.

Obviously we need a better name. To change the name, click on Untitled Slide and rename it. You can change the name as often as you like,

Preview of a blank slide

The image below is on a blank slide. As you can see it’s still in need of some work. Which we’ll deal with shortly. But first let’s take a look at using preconfigured templates.

A newly created blank slide

Using a slide from the template gallery

Google gives us access to a gallery of templates submitted by the community, this requires an extra step in the creation process.

Open the New dropdown as before, but don’t click on Google Slide. Instead:hover over the chevron to the right. There you see the From a template option.

Dropdown that appears when clicking New from template

Clicking this will open up the template library. Once you click on your desired template, it will be installed into the same folder you’re in now.

The next time you visit the gallery, you’ll see the slide you’ve just installed appears under the Recently used section.

If you’re using one of the business versions you’ll also see another gallery for templates uploaded by people in your organization. This is a valuable feature should you want to maintain the company branding.

If you do see a layout you want, but it doesn’t match your desired colour theme, don’t worry, the colours are all fully editable

Another way to create slides

Instead of using the new option to create a slide, right-click on an empty space in the folder. Here you’ll have the same create options detailed above.

Backgrounds, layouts and themes

Much of what we do here concerns the use of images. If we want to apply the images to each slide we can add it as a background to all the slides. If we want add different images to different slides, we need to follow a different path

Layouts and themes provide ways of structuring the appearance of our slides. Be careful here. The layout we choose will affect which themes are available to us. To ensure maximum control, I prefer to build my layouts from scratch and duplicate it.

How to add a background colour to your slides

When adding a coloured background, we can add it to an individual slide or the entire range. The difference is a single button click,

At this point we only want to focus on the 2nd of the two toolbars. If you have any elements, such as shapes or images on your slide, clicking on them will change the available settings on the 2nd toolbar,

The first image below shows the toolbar as we want it to be when adding a background, the second one shows what happens to the toolbar when you have an active element on the slide. Essentially allowing you to style the element.

The slide toolbar when no items are highlighted
The slide toolbar when items are highlighted

If you’re good to go, the lower toolbar will look like the one in the image with the Background option. After clicking this you then get the option to add a colour or image. I’ll deal with the image later.

Popout that appears when clicking 'Background'

Once you’ve set a colour, you can add it to the other slides by clicking the Add to theme button at the bottom.

How to add a background image to your slides

We can insert images from our Drive, upload them from our desktop, by URL, or carry out a Google search. Then follow the same path if we want to add it to every slide. Once you click the Choose image option, you’ll be presented with a variety of image source options.

Options for inserting an image

If the image colours are too sharp, they could interfere with any text we place over them. We can adjust the transparency and effectively dull the background. This requires us to take another route.

Inserting a semi transparent background image

To ensure our image blends smoothly into the background by making it semi transparent, we need to add the image as if adding it to the slide and not the background. Then adjust the transparency before adding it as a background.

In the top toolbar open the Insert dropdown and select Image. Load your image using any of the options. Then right-click on the image and select Format options. This will open a sidebar on the right with a range of drop down headings,

Image formatting options

The heading that concerns us is the Adjustments one. Once this is opened we see the Transparency slider. Slide this over to your desired opacity.

Now we need to add the image to the theme so that it appears on every slide. Right-click on the image and scroll down to Add to theme. When you hover over it you’ll get two options: Theme and Title slide.

As the latter refers to only the first slide, select the Theme. Any future slides you create will have the image as a background.

how to create another slide

In the preview panel on the left, you’ll see thumbnails of all your slides. Just above which there’s a + sign. Clicking on that will add another slide with the same background.

If you want the same background image, but a different layout, instead of clicking the + sign, click the dropdown arrow to the right of it. This will provide you with more layout options.

How to create your own theme with a sidebar

Sometimes we want our layouts to have a little continuity. The problem is creating and positioning shapes and text areas is often a bridge too far. Fortunately we can do it once and then replicate it.

Let’s say for example we want the same sidebar the logo and branding on every slide, but then the freedom to add further content as and when needed.

I’m going to start with the background image and set it to the theme. After this I’ll add the sidebar containing company branding

I’m going to add the main image and then set it to the theme as I did previously.

Slide with semi transparent background

Then add the sidebar background shape by adding and sizing a rectangle before setting the transparency so that the image is still partly visible. I’ll also remove the black border.

Hover over the bottom toolbar icons until you reach the shapes icon. From the dropdown find and click on the rectangle. Use the drag handles to resize it. Now we have to set the colour and opacity.

Click on the shape to make it active. Then in the bottom toolbar, click the Fill colour icon and select Custom. Choose a colour and set the transparency at the very bottom of the dropdown.

Colour dropdown for setting shape colours

On the same toolbar click on the Border icon and set it to transparent

Colour dropdown for setting border colours

Next I’m going to add my brand name and logo to the sidebar, before adding the sidebar and its contents to the background so that it appears on every slide.

Adding and formatting text to a slide

To add text to the slide: click on the text icon in the toolbar then click on the slide. A resizable text box will appear on the slide. This can be resized using the drag handles.

Clicking inside the text box will place your cursor inside it. Whereas clicking on the border will allow you to style everything inside the box, including adding a background color.

Grouping slide elements together

It's often the case where we want to move elements around relative to each other. To save us having to do this individually we can group them together and move them all around as a single item.

Items highlighted to form a group

Left-click just above the top left of the group and drag your mouse over all the items to be grouped. Release the mouse and right-click on the group. Then select Group.

To ungroup them, right-click on the group and select Ungroup.

Adding a group to the slide template

Note that once any items are added this way will not be editable. Although we can overlay further items if we wish.

Right-click on the group and hover over Add to theme. You’ll then see two options. The one we want is Theme.

Now when you click the + sign to add a new slide, the new slide will contain the group as well as the background image we added earlier.

Slide preview panel

The new slide will also have two text boxes. Click inside the box to add text, or click the border to style its contents or delete it.

To delete a text box: right-click on it's border and either select Delete, or press the return key.

Text boxes, shapes and images can then be added to each slide individually, while still maintaining the original background.

A complete slide with background and text added

Creating headers for other files from a slide

Sometimes we need images set to specific sizes. Not least to preserve their aspect ratio. You may want to, for example, create document headers. Or if you’re familiar with Google forms, you may want to create a header image with your company logo.

While we do have room to manoeuvre where the actual size is concerned, keeping the aspect ratio is important to prevent the image being cropped.

Click FIle in the top left, then scroll down and click Page setup. In the dialog box that appears you’ll notice the current setting. Clicking on this will provide more presets and a custom option.

The page setup popout

We want the custom option, which will give us the ability to set the units and size. In the example below, I created an image of 800px x 200px. Which is the correct aspect ratio for Google Forms header images.

A slide made to fit the dimensions of a Google Form header image

Quick reference

  1. Click File
  2. Click Page setup
  3. Click the preset dimensions
  4. Click Custom
  5. Set your units and dimensions