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Google Slides cheat sheet

How to use Google Slides to create, collaborate on, and lead business presentations.

Google Slides / A team views a presentation on screen.
gorodenkoff / filo / Getty Images / Google

Need to build a slide presentation for a meeting, training or other event? Google Slides is an easy-to-use presentation app that comes with the essential tools and more. You use it through your web browser, with your presentations stored in the cloud with Google Drive. Anyone with a Google account can use Slides and Drive for free. They’re also part of G Suite, Google’s subscription-based suite of office apps for business and enterprise customers.

This guide familiarizes you with the interface and shows you how to start a new presentation; upload and edit one that you have stored on your PC’s hard drive, such as a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation; collaborate with others on a presentation; and, of course, present it. This guide is written with the assumption that you know the basics of designing presentations.

In addition to the web app, Google offers a Slides mobile app for Android and iOS. We cover a few notable differences with the mobile app.

Share this story: G Suite administrators, we hope you’ll pass this guide on to your users to help them get up to speed with Google Slides.

Create or open a presentation

You can create a new presentation, or load one you've already saved in Google Drive, through the Google Slides home page or the Google Drive home page. You’ll need to sign in to your Google or G Suite account if you haven’t already.

In Google Slides: At the top of the home page you’ll see a “Start a new presentation” header, with a row of thumbnails underneath. Below that you’ll see a list of Google Slides presentations you have stored in Google Drive or that are stored in someone else’s Drive and shared with you.

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The Google Slides home page. (Click image to enlarge it.)

To start a new presentation, click the Blank thumbnail or select a template to the right. To see more templates, click the “Template gallery” button in the upper-right corner of the screen; click any thumbnail to start a new presentation in that template.

To open a presentation stored in Drive, click it in the list below.

By default, the presentations list appears in reverse chronological order starting with the presentation you most recently opened. Clicking the “AZ” icon at the upper right of this list to change the sort order to “Last modified by me,” “Last modified” (by anyone with access to the presentation), or in alphabetical order by presentation title. You can also browse to a specific folder by clicking the folder icon next to the AZ icon.

Use the search box at the very top of the screen to search on a word or phrase; if it appears in a presentation title or the body of a presentation, it’ll appear in the search results.

In Google Drive: To start a new blank presentation, click the New button at the upper-left of the screen and then click “Google Slides.”

If you want to select a template to start a new presentation, click the New button, then move the cursor over the “>” to the right of “Google Slides” and select “From a template.” Google Slides will open, showing its full template gallery; click a thumbnail to start a new presentation in that template.

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Creating a new presentation in Google Drive.

Your presentations that are already stored in Google Drive are listed in the main area of the Drive home page under “My Drive.” Double-click the one you want to view or edit, and it will open in Google Slides.

To open a presentation that someone else has shared with you via Google Drive, click “Shared with me” in the left column, then double-click the presentation you want in the main listing area.

Alternatively, use the Search box at the very top of the screen to search for a word or phrase that appears in any presentation you have access to in Drive, whether you own it or it’s been shared with you.

Upload a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation for editing in Google Slides

If you want to edit a presentation that’s not already stored in your Google Drive, you must first upload it to Drive. You can do this from either Slides or Drive, but somewhat different things might happen with each approach.

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To upload a presentation in Slides, click this button.

From Google Slides: To upload a file from the Slides home page, click the folder icon above the presentations list, then click the Upload tab on the screen that appears. You can drag and drop a file onto the screen, or browse your computer’s hard drive and select a file.

If you upload a Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt or .pptx) presentation, it’s automatically converted so that you can edit it in Google Slides. It appears listed on your Google Slides and Google Drive home pages.

From Google Drive: To upload a presentation via the Google Drive home page, click the New button, then “File upload,” and select the presentation from your PC’s drive.

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Uploading a presentation in Google Drive.

Depending on how Google Drive is configured, Microsoft PowerPoint files may or may not be converted to Slides format. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the Drive home page and select Settings from the drop-down menu. In the Settings box next to “Convert uploads” you’ll see a checkbox marked “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format.” Check it if you want PowerPoint files to be automatically converted to Slides for editing, and uncheck it if you don’t.

Why wouldn’t you want to convert files to Slides format when you upload them? Google announced a new feature at its Cloud Next conference in April: the ability to edit Microsoft Office-formatted files in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides without converting them first. The idea is to make it easier for users whose colleagues use Office. Instead of converting a file to Slides format and then back to PowerPoint format to send back to an Office-using colleague, Slides users can edit and collaborate on a native PowerPoint presentation right in Slides, with all changes made by you or your collaborators saved directly to the PowerPoint file.

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Microsoft PowerPoint files show the PowerPoint icon instead of the Google Sheets icon.

If you choose to upload PowerPoint files in their native format, they appear listed on your Google Slides home page and Google Drive home page with a PowerPoint icon next to them instead of the usual Slides icon.

When you double-click a PowerPoint file on the Drive home page, it opens in read-only mode. To edit it, click the “Open with Google Slides” button at the top of the page; the file opens in a new Google Slides browser tab. To open a PowerPoint presentation from the Slides home page, click it in the presentations list and choose “Edit in Google Slides.” To the right of the document’s title you’ll see a yellow .PPTX label. Any changes you make are saved in this original PowerPoint-formatted file.

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The yellow .PPTX icon tells you that you're editing a PowerPoint-formatted document.

Work on a presentation

Whether you open a new or existing presentation, its first slide appears in the main window of Google Slides. The formatting toolbar above it has buttons for inserting design elements onto it, such as text, images, shapes and lines. Other buttons on the toolbar let you add a comment to the slide; change its background, layout, or the design theme of the entire presentation; and add or change the animated transition effect that introduces this slide when the presentation is played.

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The Google Slides editing interface. (Click image to enlarge it.)

The menu bar toward the top of the screen contains the same tools that are on the formatting toolbar — and many more. Under the Insert menu are commands for inserting a table, chart, diagram or link to a YouTube video or a video file that you’ve stored on your Google Drive. Using the Slide menu, you take actions to manage your slides, such as copying, deleting or rearranging their order in the slideshow sequence. The Arrange menu helps you manipulate graphical elements on a slide when you are designing it.

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Renaming a presentation.

Your presentation’s title appears at the top-left of the screen, above the menu bar. To change it, click the title — you can highlight the words and edit them. There’s no need to “Save as” under a different title. In fact, there’s no need to save at all; Slides automatically saves any changes you make to your presentation as soon as you make them.

The slides in your presentation appear as thumbnails in a pane to the left of the screen. Click a thumbnail, and the slide it represents appears in the main viewing window, where you can edit it.

When you start a new presentation by clicking Blank, a Themes sidebar pane opens on the right side, with thumbnails for different themes that the presentation can be changed to.

You can add brief “speaker notes” in the “Click to add speaker notes” area along the bottom of each slide. These words are shown only to you when your presentation is being played to your audience. You may want to add notes here to remind yourself what to do or say when the slide is being shown.

Change slide layouts and transitions

Two elements about slide presentation design that you should know how to access from the Google Sheets menu bar: the master layout and animated transition effect for a slide.

View or edit a slide layout: To view the layout of a slide, click to select the slide in the thumbnail toolbar and click View > Master. To edit the layout, select Slide > Edit master. Both actions replace the main window where your selected slide is shown with a dark-themed mode where you can view or edit its master layout.

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Editing a presentation’s master slide layouts. (Click image to enlarge it.)

View or edit a slide transition: To view the animated transition effect that brings in the slide when your presentation is played, click to select the slide in the thumbnail toolbar and click View > Animations. To edit the transition, select Slide > Change transition. Both actions bring in a Transitions tool pane along the right side of the screen, where you can choose from a variety of transition styles.

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Choosing a transition style in the Transitions pane.

Manage the slides in a presentation

To add a new, blank slide to your presentation, click the “+” button at the left end of the formatting toolbar. Alternatively, if you click the down arrow by the “+”, you can choose a layout to use as the basis for a new slide.

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Click the down arrow next to the + button to choose a layout for a new slide.

To move a slide to a different spot in the slideshow sequence, click and hold its thumbnail in the left pane, drag it up or down to another place in the sequence, and release it.

To delete a slide, right-click its thumbnail on the sidebar and select “Delete” from the pop-up menu. Alternatively, select its thumbnail and select Edit > Delete from the menu bar or just press the Delete key.

Get suggested layouts and content for a slide with the Explore tool

In the lower-right corner of your screen is the Explore icon. It’s usually colored gray. But if you click in a slide in the main viewing window or on a thumbnail in the left pane and the Explore icon turns orange, it means Google Slides has a suggestion to help you with the slide’s layout.

Click the Explore icon, and a panel opens showing a variety of layout designs you can use for the slide. To select a suggested layout, just click it, and your text and images on the slide will transfer over to the new layout. (If the Explore icon is gray, you can still click it; that forces Slides to check if it has any layout suggestions for the selected slide.)

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Using the Explore tool to get suggested layouts (left) and search for images (right). (Click image to enlarge it.)

You can also use the Explore tool to find content for the slide. At the top of the Explore pane is a search box; type in a word or phrase, and the tool will search the web for related content. Click the Images tab in the Explore pane to see thumbnails for images related to your search term or the Drive tab to search your own Google Drive files as well as files others have shared with you in Google Drive.

Clicking a web or Drive result opens it in a new browser tab. Clicking the plus sign for an image thumbnail inserts it into your slide, while clicking the thumbnail itself enlarges it so you can see it better and decide whether to use it.

For more information, refer to Google’s help page “See and use suggested layouts in a presentation.”

Recover older versions of a presentation

When you have a presentation open, you can look at older versions of it that were saved automatically by Google Slides and revert the presentation to one of those earlier versions. This can be useful for repairing editing mistakes made by you or others on a shared file.

Click File > Version history > See version history. This opens a panel on the right that shows a list of older versions of the presentation, organized by date and time.

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Using Version history to view an earlier version of a presentation. (Click image to enlarge it.)

To give an older version a unique name, click on its date. You’ll be prompted to type in words to replace the date. The date and time will then appear in smaller type underneath the new name.

To see what an earlier version of the presentation looks like, click its date or version name in the list on the right. That version of the presentation appears in the main window.

To restore that version so it replaces the current one, click the yellow “Restore this version” button at the upper-left of the screen. The restored version appears at the top of the version history list, and the version you were looking at prior to restoring the earlier one becomes the second item in the list.

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