Why could presenting on another pc mess up the text in your slides?

7 July 2017

Because you do not know where fonts are saved. If you knew, you would know what to do.

fonts for typsetting

When you prepare a presentation with PowerPoint you have a wide choice of fonts. You might want to be original and even download extra ones (Google provides you with some great free fonts). Then you save the presentation and think everything is fine.

But is it so?

Well, it depends…

If your presentations will only be displayed and edited on your computer, the characters will display correctly because you have them installed on your PC.

Fonts are part of the operating system (Windows, for example) and are not part of the PowerPoint files that you create and save.

There are fonts that are installed with the operating system and others that are installed with software packages, for example, Microsoft Office. And just to complicate things, the various versions of Office (Home, Business, Professional, etc.) have some differences in the fonts that they include and install. Whatever the font source may be, once installed it becomes part of the operating system on that personal computer.

When you open a presentation, characters are displayed correctly only if that font is installed on that personal computer. Otherwise, PowerPoint makes a replacement with a character that it thinks is similar and it does not warn you about this, so sometimes we do not understand why there are alignment issues.

Here is an example of what can happen

Take a look at these two slides taken from the nice article by Clémence Lepers on the PPTPOP site titled Making a Stunning PPT Cover Design (in 5 Minutes). The first is as it should be, with the words “Cover slide” in a nice font. The second is the way it appears if the “Forte” font is not installed on the pc. Hopefully, something like this will not surprise you when you are on stage!

cover-slide-pptop example without font installed

How do you know if a font used by a presentation is not installed on a pc?

Open the presentation with PowerPoint. Select a text element in a slide. Now you will be able to access the list of available fonts. In this list, the font names are preceded by a symbol:  O (for Open Type font) or TT (True Type font). If you don’t see a symbol before the font name, it means that font is not installed on that pc.

What now?

If you need to use that presentation with that missing font, obtain it and install it. If you travel with your presentation’s PowerPoint file saved on a USB stick and present it on another computer, make sure the latter has the fonts you have used or use only safe fonts.

Safe fonts

There are “native” fonts on various versions of Windows, such as Arial and Calibri. These fonts can be considered “safe.” Variations are not always included. For example, Arial and Arial Black are both present on Windows and Mac, but Arial Narrow may not be on some PowerPoint 2010 variants in the Windows environment.

When you prepare a PowerPoint template to give a coherent style to your presentations, (colors, fonts and other settings), chose the fonts with care. If you need some help to create a template, maybe for your organization, get in touch.

If you are interested in learning more about fonts in PowerPoint, you can also read this article by TLC Creative.

Special thanks to Echo Swinford, Microsoft MVP, for all her research on safe fonts in PowerPoint.

P.S. There is a “font embedding” option in PowerPoint for Windows, but I do not recommend its use. Not all fonts can be embedded, by the way…


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