PowerPoint Template versus Theme

%3CLINGO-SUB%20id%3D%22lingo-sub-301766%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3EPowerPoint%20Template%20versus%20Theme%3C%2FLINGO-SUB%3E%3CLINGO-BODY%20id%3D%22lingo-body-301766%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3E%3CP%3EOur%20company%20has%20historically%20pushed%20out%20branded%20templates%20for%20PowerPoint%20that%20people%20can%20use%20for%20creating%20company%20branded%20material.%26nbsp%3B%20Unfortunately%20with%20Templates%2C%20it%20doesn't%20seem%20like%20there%20is%20an%20easy%20way%20to%20apply%20those%20styles%20to%20an%20existing%20PPTx%20file%20-%20which%20is%20becoming%20a%20more%20common%20requirement%20as%20people%20start%20their%20content%20creation%20using%20PowerPoint%20online.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3ECan%20someone%20help%20me%20understand%20what%20the%20differences%20are%20between%20using%20templates%20versus%20custom%20themes%3F%26nbsp%3B%20And%20is%20it%20now%20recommended%20to%20use%20themes%20going%20forward%20for%20this%20kind%20of%20activity%3F%3C%2FP%3E%3C%2FLINGO-BODY%3E%3CLINGO-LABS%20id%3D%22lingo-labs-301766%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3E%3CLINGO-LABEL%3EPowerPoint%3C%2FLINGO-LABEL%3E%3C%2FLINGO-LABS%3E%3CLINGO-SUB%20id%3D%22lingo-sub-310239%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3ERe%3A%20PowerPoint%20Template%20versus%20Theme%3C%2FLINGO-SUB%3E%3CLINGO-BODY%20id%3D%22lingo-body-310239%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3E%3CP%3EYou%20actually%20can%20deploy%20themes%20as%20part%20of%20a%20corporate%20image%20or%20in%20a%20user's%20roaming%20profile.%26nbsp%3BIt's%20just%20a%20matter%20of%20where%20you%20store%20the%20THMX%20file.%20If%20it's%20saved%20in%20%25USERPROFILE%25%5CAppData%5CRoaming%5CMicrosoft%5CTemplates%5CDocument%20Themes%2C%20then%20it%20will%20automatically%20be%20added%20to%20the%20%3CSTRONG%3EDesign%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3EThemes%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20gallery%20and%20appear%20for%20that%20user%20in%20PowerPoint.%20That%20said%2C%20themes%20really%20aren't%20great%20for%20stock%20layouts%20and%20content%20that%20you%20want%20to%20reuse.%20For%20that%20stuff%2C%20you%20need%20more%20of%20a%20proper%20template.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EAnd%20it%20turns%20out%20you%20can%20apply%20a%20template%20(or%20at%20least%20the%20template's%20themes)%20to%20any%20presentation%20using%20the%20method%20I%20mentioned%20in%20my%20previous%20reply.%20Just%26nbsp%3Bselect%20%3CSTRONG%3EDesign%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3EThemes%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3EBrowse%20for%20Theme%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%2C%20select%20any%26nbsp%3BPowerPoint%20file%20(PPTX%20or%20POTX)%2C%20select%20%3CSTRONG%3EApply%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20to%20apply%20its%20themes%2Fmake%20its%20themes%20available%20to%20use.%20Technically%2C%20it's%20because%20your%20presentation%20ingests%20the%20masters%20(but%20not%20the%20content)%20from%20the%20source%20presentation.%20So%2C%20that%20can%26nbsp%3Bactually%20be%20a%26nbsp%3Bgood%20poor%20man's%20approach%20to%20resuing%20themed%20content.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3ETo%20your%20second%20question%2C%20it's%20more%20of%20a%20conceptual%20exercise%20for%20me%20of%20how%20things%20%3CEM%3Eshould%20%3C%2FEM%3Ework.%20My%20company%20is%2C%20unfortunately%2C%20a%20Box%20shop%2C%20so%20most%20of%20the%20OneDrive%20and%20Sharepoint-centric%20strategies%20I%20described%20go%20right%20out%20the%20window.%20We%20have%20a%20shared%20folder%20in%20Box%20with%20all%20of%20our%20corporate%26nbsp%3BPowerPoint%20templates%20in%20it.%20Technically%2C%20ours%20aren't%20even%20templates%3B%20they're%20just%20plain%20old%20PPTX%20files.%20When%20someone%20needs%20to%20start%20a%20new%20presentation%2C%20they%20download%20a%20%22template%22%20locally%2C%20open%20it%2C%20and%20start%20hacking%20away%20at%20the%20content%20they%20don't%20need.%20It's%20not%20a%20great%20system%2C%20IMO.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EThat%20said%2C%20you%20can%20still%20leverage%20a%20service%20like%20Box%20to%20do%20most%20of%20what%20I%20mentioned%20in%20my%20previous%20reply.%20It's%20just%20a%20bit%20more%20manual%20to%26nbsp%3Bintegrate%20those%20stock%20slides%20into%20your%20deck%20without%20some%20zany%20sync%20workarounds.%20For%20instance%2C%20I%20could%20sync%20the%20Box%20templates%20folder%20with%20my%20local%20Custom%20Office%20Templates%20folder%2C%20and%20PowerPoint%20would%20at%20least%20display%20templates%20in%20PowerPoint%20as%20options%20when%20I%20click%20%3CSTRONG%3EFile%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3ENew%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3ECustom%3C%2FSTRONG%3E.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EThe%20problem%20is%20that%20without%20extensive%20metadata%2C%20it's%20really%20hard%20to%20find%20the%20exact%20boilerplate%20slide%20you%20need.%20One%20option%20might%20be%20to%20save%20each%20slide%20(or%20small%20sets%20by%20topic%20or%20layout)%20into%20separate%20PPTX%20files%20to%20make%20them%26nbsp%3Bmore%20modular%20and%20easier%20to%20browse.%20Another%20would%20be%20to%26nbsp%3Badd%20lots%20of%20metadata%20to%20the%20content%20management%20system%20to%20help%20users%20locate%20the%20right%20files%20when%20they%20search.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EUltimately%2C%20it's%20all%26nbsp%3Bgoing%20to%20come%20back%20to%20how%20those%20%22template%22%20slides%20are%20built%2C%20and%20honestly%2C%20most%20content%20creators%20don't%20have%20a%20clue%20how%20to%20do%20it%20properly.%20The%20minute%20they%20apply%20a%20%22background%20image%22%20by%20dropping%20a%20picture%20on%20the%20slide%20and%20moving%20it%20behind%20all%20of%20the%20other%20placeholders%20(instead%20of%20the%20%22proper%22%20way%20of%20doing%20it%20via%20a%20master%20or%20at%20the%20very%20list%20%3CSTRONG%3EDesign%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3EFormat%20Background%3C%2FSTRONG%3E)%20or%20start%20tweaking%20fonts%2C%20colors%2C%20sizes%2C%20and%20layouts%20directly%20on%20the%20slide%20(again%2C%20instead%20of%20using%20proper%20masters%20and%20sticking%20to%20them)%2C%20then%20that%20slide%20becomes%20way%20more%20difficult%20to%20reuse%20in%20a%20different%20presentation.%2C%20for%20the%20simple%20reason%20that%20it's%20going%20to%20stick%20out%20like%20a%20sore%20thumb.%20It's%20just%20really%20hard%20to%20get%20that%20level%20of%20buy-in%20from%20all%20but%20the%20most%20hardcore%20PowerPoint%20users.%3C%2FP%3E%3C%2FLINGO-BODY%3E%3CLINGO-SUB%20id%3D%22lingo-sub-310090%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3ERe%3A%20PowerPoint%20Template%20versus%20Theme%3C%2FLINGO-SUB%3E%3CLINGO-BODY%20id%3D%22lingo-body-310090%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3E%3CP%3EThis%20answer%20was%20a%20good%20read%20Greg%20-%20thanks%20for%20sharing%20your%20thoughts.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EAs%20I%20think%20of%20more%20content%20creation%20starting%20from%20versions%20of%20PowerPoint%20that%20are%20not%20on%20the%20PC%20(e.g.%20PPT%20Online%2C%20mobile%20device%20or%20even%20Mac)%2C%20using%20a%20Theme%20as%20a%20starting%20point%20doesn't%20really%20solve%20my%20problem%20of%20making%20it%20easy%20to%20apply%20the%20corporate%20style.%26nbsp%3B%20(I%20don't%20see%20any%20way%20to%20deploy%20a%20Theme%20to%20show%20up%20in%20the%20default%20list%20that%20a%20user%20can%20choose%20from).%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EBut%20your%20explanation%20helps%20me%20understand%20that%20a%20Theme%20can%20be%20applied%20after%20a%20presentation%20has%20been%20created%2C%20versus%20a%20template%20that%20has%20to%20be%20done%20at%20the%20beginning.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3E%3CA%20href%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Ftechcommunity.microsoft.com%2Ft5%2Fuser%2Fviewprofilepage%2Fuser-id%2F21757%22%20target%3D%22_blank%22%3E%40Greg%20Edwards%3C%2FA%3E-%20where%20do%20you%20guys%20host%20your%20company%20themes%20and%20how%20do%20people%20know%20where%20to%20find%20them%3F%3C%2FP%3E%3C%2FLINGO-BODY%3E%3CLINGO-SUB%20id%3D%22lingo-sub-309965%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3ERe%3A%20PowerPoint%20Template%20versus%20Theme%3C%2FLINGO-SUB%3E%3CLINGO-BODY%20id%3D%22lingo-body-309965%22%20slang%3D%22en-US%22%3E%3CP%3EThis%20is%20a%20great%20question%20and%20I%20think%20a%20good%20example%20of%20the%20complexity%20around%20PowerPoint%20that%20needs%20to%20be%20addressed.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EOk%20so%2C%26nbsp%3Btemplates%20and%20themes%20are%20actually%20two%20sides%20of%20the%20same%20coin.%20A%20PowerPoint%20template%20is%20just%20a%26nbsp%3BPowerPoint%20presentation%20file%20saved%20with%20a%20different%20extension%20(POTX%20vs%20PPTX).%20Technically%20speaking%2C%20a%20template%20just%20has%20the%20default%20action%20of%20creating%20a%20new%20presentation%20with%20all%20the%20content%20stored%20inside%20it%20instead%20of%20opening%20as%20a%20presentation%20that%20you%20can%20edit.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EA%20PowerPoint%20theme%20is%20a%20little%20more%20nuanced.%20A%20theme%20is%20a%20collection%20of%20colors%2C%20effects%2C%20backgrounds%2C%20and%20fonts%20that%20can%20be%20applied%20to%20any%20presentation.%20All%20PowerPoint%20presentations%20contain%20one%20or%20more%20themes%20(usually%20one%20per%20master)%20and%20any%20presentation%20can%20be%20saved%20as%20a%20theme%20for%20easy%20sharing%20and%20reuse%20(THMX).%20But%20you%20can%20also%20borrow%20any%20other%20presentation's%20theme%20just%20by%20selecting%20%3CSTRONG%3EDesign%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3EThemes%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%20%26gt%3B%20%3CSTRONG%3EBrowse%20for%20Themes%3C%2FSTRONG%3E%2C%20opening%20the%20presentation%2C%20and%20then%20choosing%20the%20theme%20you%20want.%20I%20just%20don't%20see%20a%20lot%20of%20people%20saving%20and%20sharing%20THMX%20files%2C%20because%20it's%20the%20kind%20of%20thing%20you%20have%20to%20plug%20into%20your%20PowerPoint%20application%20to%20use.%20In%20short%2C%20it's%20too%20%22heavy%22%20for%20casual%20use.%3C%2FP%3E%3CP%3EI%20think%20you%20may%20really%20be%20asking%20whether%20there's%20a%20better%20way%20for%20an%20organization%20to%20prefabricate%20slides%20with%20stock%20content%20vs.%20so-called%20%22style%20templates%22%20that%20really%20just%20contain%20styles%20and%20layouts.%20For%20example%2C%20I%20work%20for%20a%20media%20company%2C%20and%20our%20creative%20team%20makes%20a%20series%20of%20annual%20templates%20for%20our%20different%20brands%2C%20which%20include%20color%20schemes%2C%20stock%20images%2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Regular Contributor

Our company has historically pushed out branded templates for PowerPoint that people can use for creating company branded material.  Unfortunately with Templates, it doesn't seem like there is an easy way to apply those styles to an existing PPTx file - which is becoming a more common requirement as people start their content creation using PowerPoint online.

Can someone help me understand what the differences are between using templates versus custom themes?  And is it now recommended to use themes going forward for this kind of activity?

3 Replies

This is a great question and I think a good example of the complexity around PowerPoint that needs to be addressed.

Ok so, templates and themes are actually two sides of the same coin. A PowerPoint template is just a PowerPoint presentation file saved with a different extension (POTX vs PPTX). Technically speaking, a template just has the default action of creating a new presentation with all the content stored inside it instead of opening as a presentation that you can edit.

A PowerPoint theme is a little more nuanced. A theme is a collection of colors, effects, backgrounds, and fonts that can be applied to any presentation. All PowerPoint presentations contain one or more themes (usually one per master) and any presentation can be saved as a theme for easy sharing and reuse (THMX). But you can also borrow any other presentation's theme just by selecting Design > Themes > Browse for Themes, opening the presentation, and then choosing the theme you want. I just don't see a lot of people saving and sharing THMX files, because it's the kind of thing you have to plug into your PowerPoint application to use. In short, it's too "heavy" for casual use.

I think you may really be asking whether there's a better way for an organization to prefabricate slides with stock content vs. so-called "style templates" that really just contain styles and layouts. For example, I work for a media company, and our creative team makes a series of annual templates for our different brands, which include color schemes, stock images, and about 100 different slide layouts for scenarios like showcasing content on different devices, comparing statistics, or creating infographics. Consequently, these "templates" are well over 50MB each, and nine times out of ten, they're complete overkill for most users. So they typically start by deleting a bunch of that stuff they're not going to use. It's a huge waste, IMO. Plus, each brand-specific template is typically just the same collection of layouts with variations on the backgrounds, logos, and colors. So if a change is needed, the creative team has to update half a dozen templates to keep them all consistent.

What companies should be developing are separate lightweight style templates (the "themes" you mentioned) and slide content libraries that can be easily inserted into any deck you're building. Suppose you need a slide for a Contoso presentation that talks about new device security strategies. In my mind, you'd start with (or apply) a Contoso template (POTX) to get the colors, backgrounds, fonts, logos, layouts, and maybe even some standard verbiage, but then you'd go to the slide library and pull in a slide that contains the basic content you want. For this, you'd go to Home > Reuse Slides, and then search for "device security." If your organization publishes metadata-rich slides to a OneDrive for Business or SharePoint library, then PowerPoint will find the slide you want and from there, it's pretty easy to pop it into the deck you're building. For a consistent result, you can tell PowerPoint to use your presentation's master instead of the original source master.

Reusable slides can be tricky to build, however, because they can't really assume a lot about the ultimate layout, color scheme, etc., where they might be used. In general, it's a good idea to adhere to proper masters, placeholders, etc., because in most cases, PowerPoint can reflow these elements properly when the slide is inserted into your presentation.

I think future versions of PowerPoint could go a long way toward making this whole process a lot simpler. A presentation should have masters that define the layout of slide types and those should encompass all the stuff that's currently broken out into "themes," much in the same way that CSS tells the browser how a web page should look. Of course, you should still be able to spot-format content directly, but IMO, they're trying to use too many different tools to achieve the same ultimate goal, and it has created a confusing mess for most end-users.

This answer was a good read Greg - thanks for sharing your thoughts.

As I think of more content creation starting from versions of PowerPoint that are not on the PC (e.g. PPT Online, mobile device or even Mac), using a Theme as a starting point doesn't really solve my problem of making it easy to apply the corporate style.  (I don't see any way to deploy a Theme to show up in the default list that a user can choose from).

But your explanation helps me understand that a Theme can be applied after a presentation has been created, versus a template that has to be done at the beginning.

@Greg Edwards- where do you guys host your company themes and how do people know where to find them?

You actually can deploy themes as part of a corporate image or in a user's roaming profile. It's just a matter of where you store the THMX file. If it's saved in %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates\Document Themes, then it will automatically be added to the Design > Themes gallery and appear for that user in PowerPoint. That said, themes really aren't great for stock layouts and content that you want to reuse. For that stuff, you need more of a proper template.

And it turns out you can apply a template (or at least the template's themes) to any presentation using the method I mentioned in my previous reply. Just select Design > Themes > Browse for Theme, select any PowerPoint file (PPTX or POTX), select Apply to apply its themes/make its themes available to use. Technically, it's because your presentation ingests the masters (but not the content) from the source presentation. So, that can actually be a good poor man's approach to resuing themed content.

To your second question, it's more of a conceptual exercise for me of how things should work. My company is, unfortunately, a Box shop, so most of the OneDrive and Sharepoint-centric strategies I described go right out the window. We have a shared folder in Box with all of our corporate PowerPoint templates in it. Technically, ours aren't even templates; they're just plain old PPTX files. When someone needs to start a new presentation, they download a "template" locally, open it, and start hacking away at the content they don't need. It's not a great system, IMO.

That said, you can still leverage a service like Box to do most of what I mentioned in my previous reply. It's just a bit more manual to integrate those stock slides into your deck without some zany sync workarounds. For instance, I could sync the Box templates folder with my local Custom Office Templates folder, and PowerPoint would at least display templates in PowerPoint as options when I click File > New > Custom.

The problem is that without extensive metadata, it's really hard to find the exact boilerplate slide you need. One option might be to save each slide (or small sets by topic or layout) into separate PPTX files to make them more modular and easier to browse. Another would be to add lots of metadata to the content management system to help users locate the right files when they search.

Ultimately, it's all going to come back to how those "template" slides are built, and honestly, most content creators don't have a clue how to do it properly. The minute they apply a "background image" by dropping a picture on the slide and moving it behind all of the other placeholders (instead of the "proper" way of doing it via a master or at the very list Design > Format Background) or start tweaking fonts, colors, sizes, and layouts directly on the slide (again, instead of using proper masters and sticking to them), then that slide becomes way more difficult to reuse in a different presentation., for the simple reason that it's going to stick out like a sore thumb. It's just really hard to get that level of buy-in from all but the most hardcore PowerPoint users.