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Microsoft to add more smarts, plus a presentation coach, to PowerPoint

Microsoft is adding more 'AI' features to PowerPoint to help customers design and rehearse their PowerPoint presentations.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is continuing to add more "AI" features to PowerPoint. Back in 2015, Microsoft announced PowerPoint Designer and Morph -- two new cloud-powered features that built on Microsoft's recommendation and smart animation technologies. On June 18, Microsoft is going public with more new PowerPoint features in that vein.

PowerPoint Designer is a set of features that Microsoft introduced to try to make building PowerPoints easier and more intuitive. Designer provides suggestions about how users can build slides around a photo; improve the digestibility of walls of text; and adding iconography to their presentations with fewer tears. Microsoft officials said this week that PowerPoint Designer users have created one billion of the slides using Designer since its launch in 2016

For its next act, Microsoft is adding the ability for customers to use branded templates and/or to build branded templates using Designer. Officials say that adding branded-template support to Designer has been one of the biggest customer requests for the feature, given many presentations need to comply with corporate branding guidelines.

Designer for branded templates is available now for Office 365 Insider testers for Windows 10 and Mac.

Designer users also will be getting functionality that Microsoft calls "perspectives" as an option for their slides. Perspectives are references for large numerical values (example: 1,500 miles is about half the distance across the U.S.) which can be automatically surfaced. This capability already is part of Bing, and makes use of Microsoft Research's Perspective Engine technology. Microsoft is rolling this out to Office 365 subscribers, starting with English only.

Microsoft also is adding Theme Ideas to Designer. This feature will give users recommendations of photographs and icons (licensed for commercial use) that work with a variety of theme styles and colors based on words they type into a blank slide.

Designer Theme Ideas is starting to roll out now for PowerPoint for Windows, Mac and on the web for Office 365 subscribers.

Microsoft also is adding a new feedback mechanism to PowerPoint called "Presenter Coach." This feature will allow users to rehearse a PowerPoint presentation and receive, while speaking, real-time suggestions about pacing, word choice and techniques (such as not simply reading slides verbatim). At the end of each rehearsal, the Presenter Coach feature will provide a report with suggestions and metrics.

Microsoft is introducing Presenter Coach first for PowerPoint for the web "later this summer," officials said.

These new capabilities coming to PowerPoint are not for the "perpetual"/non-subscription versions of the product, such as Office 2019. They are exclusively for the version of PowerPoint tied to Office 365 and PowerPoint for the Web.

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