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Google Slides cheat sheet: How to get started

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 web app that comes with the essential tools and more. It stores your presentations in the cloud with Google Drive. Anyone with a Google account can use Slides and Drive for free, and they’re also included with a Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) subscription for business and enterprise customers. There are Google Sheets mobile apps for Android and iOS, too.

This guide will help you become familiar with the Google Slides web interface and show you how to start a new presentation, upload a Microsoft PowerPoint file to edit in Google Slides, collaborate with others on your presentation, and finally, present it to others.

Create or open a presentation

Log in to your Google or Workspace account. Then:

From Google Slides: At the top of the home page, you’ll see a “Start a new presentation” header, with a row of thumbnails underneath. To start a new, blank presentation, click the Blank thumbnail. To start a new presentation in a template, select one of the thumbnails to the right or click Template gallery toward the upper-right corner, then click any thumbnail on the page that appears.

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

Below the “Start a new presentation” area you’ll see a list of presentations that are stored in your Google Drive or shared with you. To open a presentation, click it in this list.

The list of your presentations appears in reverse chronological order starting with the presentation you most recently opened. Clicking the “AZ” icon at the upper right of this list changes the sort order to Last modified by me, Last modified, 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.

From Google Drive: Presentations stored in your Google Drive are listed in the main window of the Drive home page. To see a listing of presentations that others are sharing with you, click Shared with me in the left column. From either list, double-click a presentation to open it in Google Slides.

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 use a template to start a new presentation, click the New button, then move the cursor over the right arrow next to Google Slides and select From a template. The template gallery for Google Slides will open; click a thumbnail to start a new presentation in that template.

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Creating a new presentation from Google Drive.

From Google Slides or Drive: You also can use the search box at the top to find presentations in your Google Drive or shared with you. Enter words or numbers that may be in the presentation you're looking for.

Upload a PowerPoint presentation to Slides

You can edit a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation in Google Slides, but first you must upload it to Google Drive.

From Google Slides: Click the folder icon (Open file picker) that's above and toward the right corner of your presentations list. On the panel that opens, click the Upload tab. Drag-and-drop your PowerPoint file (.ppt or .pptx) onto this panel, or browse your PC’s drive to select it.

From Google Drive: Click the New button, then File upload, and select the PowerPoint file from your PC’s drive and click Open.

Traditionally, when you uploaded PowerPoint files to Google Drive, they were automatically converted to Slides format. That’s still the case when you upload PowerPoint files via the Google Slides home page.

However, Google now supports the ability to edit Microsoft Office files in their native format. By default, any .pptx files that you upload via Google Drive will remain formatted as PowerPoint documents. You can edit and collaborate on a PowerPoint file right in Slides, with all changes made by you or your collaborators saved directly to the PowerPoint file.

On the Google Slides and Drive home pages, native PowerPoint files will be denoted with an orange “P” icon, and when you open a native PowerPoint file in Sheets, you’ll see a “.PPTX” flag to the right of the document title.

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Native PowerPoint files show the PowerPoint icon (top) instead of the Google Slides icon (bottom).

If you’d rather have Google convert PowerPoint files to Slides format automatically when you upload them via Google Drive, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the Drive home screen and select Settings from the drop-down menu. In the Settings box next to “Convert uploads,” check the checkbox marked Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format.

Work in a presentation

When you open a new or existing presentation, its first slide appears in the main window of Google Slides. Here’s a breakdown of the toolbars, menus, panes, and sidebars that appear around your presentation.

The left pane shows thumbnails of all the slides in your presentation. Click a thumbnail, and the slide it represents will appear in the main window, where you can edit it.

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

Your presentation’s title appears along the top of the screen. To change it, click anywhere inside the title and start typing.

The menu bar below your presentation’s title has a complete set of tools for working with presentations. These are the main submenus to know:

  • File has commands for taking action on the whole presentation, including Print, Rename, and Share.
  • Edit lists the standard editing commands such as copy, cut, paste, delete, duplicate, and find and replace.
  • View lists several ways that you can view your slides as you design and edit them. This includes arranging them into a grid, previewing them as a slideshow, or zooming in on them. You can also watch the transition effect that takes place between slides when they’re played in a slideshow.
  • Insert lets you add several objects to your slides, including charts, diagrams, pictures, tables, and text. You can also add links to YouTube videos or sound or video files that are stored in your Google Drive.
  • Format lets you change the look of your slides. Certain functions on this submenu become clickable depending on whether you’ve selected an image or text on a slide, or selected the slide itself.
  • Slide is where you can add, delete, or duplicate a slide that you’ve selected. You can also add a preset layout to a slide, change its background or theme color, or add and edit a transition effect that takes place between slides when your presentation is played as a slideshow.
  • Arrange lists tools that let you group or reorder objects on a slide in relation to another. For example, you can place an image behind another image or group an image and a block of text together to make them easier to move at once.
  • Tools leads to several miscellaneous functions. These include letting you record a voice clip to go with a slide, running a spell checker, and showing you a list of objects in your presentation that are linked to other files.

The toolbar directly above your presentation puts commonly used commands in easy reach. From this toolbar, you can click buttons to add to a slide or change its background, comments, layout, objects (images, lines, shapes, text), text style, theme colors for the whole presentation, transition effects during a slideshow, and more. The buttons on the toolbar change depending on whether you’ve selected image or text on a slide or the slide itself.

Notice that there’s no Save button in the toolbar — or anywhere in Google Slides. That’s because Slides automatically saves any changes you make to your presentation.

Speaker notes: Along the bottom of each slide you’ll see an area marked Click to add speaker notes. Here you can type in brief notes to remind yourself what to do or say when the slide is being shown. Only you will see these notes when you show your presentation to an audience.

Themes sidebar: When you start a new blank presentation, the Themes sidebar opens on the right side of the screen. (You can also open this sidebar at any time by clicking Theme on the toolbar above your presentation.) Themes apply the same fonts, colors, and other design elements to all the slides in a presentation, giving it a consistent look and feel. Click a thumbnail in this sidebar to change your presentation to that theme.

Create and manage slides

Here are the basic things to know about working with slides in a presentation.

Add a new, blank slide to your presentation: Click the + button at the left end of the toolbar above your presentation. Alternatively, if you click the down arrow next to 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 in the toolbar to choose a layout for a new slide.

Apply or change a slide’s background: Select the slide’s thumbnail in the left sidebar and click Background on the toolbar above your presentation. On the panel that opens, you can change the slide’s background color or use an image file from your Google Drive, Google Photos account, or PC as the background.

Apply or change a slide’s layout: Select the slide’s thumbnail in the left pane, then click Layout on the toolbar above your presentation. On the panel that opens, select the layout you want to apply to this slide.

Apply or change a slide’s transition: Select the slide’s thumbnail in the left sidebar and click Transition on the toolbar above your presentation. In the Motion sidebar that opens along the right side of the screen, you can apply or change the animated transition effect that is played before this slide.

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Choosing a transition style in the Motion pane.

Move a slide to a different spot in the slideshow sequence: Click and hold its thumbnail in the left sidebar, drag it up or down to another place in the sequence, and release it.

Delete a slide: Right-click its thumbnail in the left 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.

Share and collaborate on a presentation

Presentations are often a group effort, with several team members contributing to and polishing a presentation. In Slides, it’s easy for multiple collaborators to work on a presentation together.

First, you need to share the presentation. When you’re viewing your presentation in Google Slides, click the Share button at the upper-right. Or, from your Google Drive homepage, click to highlight the presentation that you want to share. Then, in the toolbar toward the upper right, click the Share icon (a head-and-shoulders silhouette with a +).

Either way, the “Share” panel will open.

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Setting permissions for a file being shared privately.

Share a presentation privately

In the entry box, enter the email addresses (or names of your Google Contacts) of the people with whom you want to share. By default, the people you invite to your presentation can edit it and reshare it with others.

To change access permissions for invitees: Click Editor to the right of the entry box and choose another option from the drop-down menu. Commenter means they can view your spreadsheet and add comments but can’t change it. Viewer means they can view your presentation but can’t edit it or add comments.

To prevent your presentation from being reshared, downloaded, or printed: Click the gear icon at the upper-right of this panel. On the smaller panel that opens, uncheck the boxes by Editors can change permissions and share and Viewers and commenters can see the option to download, print, and copy.

When you’re done setting permissions (and, optionally, typing in a message to your invitees), click Send, and everyone you’ve added will receive an email with a link they can click to access the document.

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The shared presentation icon.

A presentation you’ve shared (or that others have shared with you) will have an icon of two silhouetted heads next to it in the presentations list on your Google Sheets and Google Drive home pages.

To limit or change a person’s access to your presentation: With the presentation open in Google Slides, click the Share button at the upper-right. Or, from Google Drive, highlight the presentation and click the Share icon.

The Share panel reopens showing a list of all the people you’ve invited, along with their permission status. Click the down arrow to the right of a person’s name, change their permission level or remove their access entirely, and click Save.

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You can change permissions for people you’ve shared a presentation with on an individual basis.

If you have a Google Workspace subscription, another option is to select Give temporary access and, next to Access expires, select a date within one year of the current date. If you set an expiration date for a person that you’ve assigned as Editor, their access will be downgraded to Commenter on the expiration date.

Share a presentation publicly

Most business users will want to share presentations privately with select colleagues or clients, but you do have the option to share a presentation publicly. At the bottom of the Share panel is a “General access” area where you can copy a link to the document. By default, this link is restricted to those you invite to the document. To change it to a public link, click Restricted and select Anyone with the link from the menu that appears.

Click Copy link and the link to your presentation will be copied to your PC’s clipboard. You can share this link by pasting it into a chat message, document, email, forum post, or most other means of online written communication. Anyone who clicks this link will be able to view your presentation online. (Be aware that anyone can copy and reshare this link.)

To allow anyone in the public to comment on or edit your presentation: At the bottom right of the Share panel, click Viewer and select Commenter or Editor from the drop-down menu. Then click the Done button. Now the web link to your presentation will let anyone who clicks it add a comment or edit it.

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Sharing a spreadsheet publicly.

To turn off public sharing for your presentation: Bring up the Share panel again. Near the bottom, click Anyone with the link and select Restricted from the menu, then click the Done button.

Note: You can apply both public and private sharing methods to your presentation. For example, you could allow the public to only view your presentation, but allow specific people that you’ve invited to comment on or edit it.

Collaborate on a presentation

The people you’ve shared a spreadsheet with can view or work on it at the same time as you or at other times. Remember that people who have Editor privileges to your presentation can change all aspects of it. Having multiple people making changes to a presentation can get confusing. In most cases, setting everyone to Commenter is the best way to collaborate in Slides: People can attach comments to a slide or to objects in a slide, but their comments won’t alter your presentation’s information or design.

To add a comment to a slide: Right-click its thumbnail in the left sidebar and select Comment from the menu that opens. Alternatively, you can select its thumbnail and select Insert > Comment from the menu bar or click the Add comment button (a speech balloon with a + sign).

A blank comment card with your name on it opens to the right of the slide in the main window. On this card’s entry line, type a brief comment, and when you’re finished, click the Comment button.

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Typing in a new comment.

To add a comment to an object on a slide: Right-click the object (a block of text, chart, image, picture, etc.) and select Comment from the menu that opens. Alternatively, you can select the object and select Insert > Comment from the menu bar.

To draw someone’s attention to a comment: As you’re composing the comment, type the @ symbol and begin typing their name, then select the person from the list of suggested Google contacts that appears. They’ll receive an email notifying them of the comment and linking to it.

To read, reply to, or remove a comment: A slide that contains a comment is denoted in the left sidebar with a speech balloon by its thumbnail. Click the slide’s thumbnail to make the slide appear in the main window, and you’ll see all its comment cards on the right.

To reply to a comment, click its card. The card will expand to reveal an entry line where you can add a comment in response.

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Replying to a comment.

Clicking the checkmark at the upper right marks the comment card as “resolved” and removes the card from the presentation. Clicking the card’s three-dot icon opens a menu that lets you edit or delete your comment.

To see a list of all comments: Click the Open comment history icon (the speech balloon) to the left of the Slideshow button. A sidebar will open along the right side of the screen; it lists all the comment cards in your presentation. When you click a comment on this list, the view of your presentation in the main window will jump to the cell where the comment is located and open its comment card.

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The Comments pane lets you quickly review all comments and jump to specific ones.

For more details about collaborating on your presentation, including what it’s like to collaborate in real time, see “How to collaborate on a document” in our Google Drive guide. You can also collaborate on a presentation in Google Chat; that’s covered later in this story.

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