New PowerPoint Features: Good News for Society, Bad News for PPT Pros?


Did you see it in your PowerPoint news feed too? The three big headlines for the category “PowerPoint” in my google news feed:

“Microsoft PowerPoint Update Includes Designer, Morph Features”

“Microsoft Adds Two Design Tools to Make PowerPoint Less Boring”

“Microsoft launches Office Insider program, rolls out new PowerPoint Designer and Morph features”

You read that right. FEATURES! We’re getting FEATURES! AND INSIDERS! We have INSIDERS!
Joy turned to confusion and fear once I took a look at what these features were. I had a sinking feeling these tools were trying to replace me as a PowerPoint designer. We didn’t listen to the auto workers when the robots came, we didn’t listen when the software took our accountants, we have no choice but to pay attention now. They’re coming for US, designers!

According to Microsoft “In Designer and Morph, Microsoft PowerPoint users now have expanded and simplified design options. They automate the creation of slides and are designed to help users build polished slides and motion effects with a few steps.” Wait… that’s what I do; “build polished slides and motion effects”!

Let’s take a look at the tools before we go looking at UPS’ holiday hiring options. We’ll discuss the implications later.


Dropping an image into a slide will prompt Designer to suggest layouts to help emphasize certain parts of an image or to make the slide more dynamic. These design suggestions apply to pictures as well as charts and graphs. Designer can analyze the slide content to help the presentation audience interpret the data. These recommendations are cloud-based, so an internet connection is required, but that’s been the case for Office 2016 in general.


For example, if the photo you drop in contains a natural scene, Designer can zoom, crop, and frame it as a background. However, if what you insert contains a chart, it focuses in on the relevant region so the important data is highlighted. Once it “knows” the content, Designer selects from the more than 12,000 blueprints to provide multiple layout options to help users make the most of their content.

“Designer, which was built in collaboration with professional graphic designers who helped develop more than 12,000 creative blueprints, will be expanded to work with additional slide types in the coming months, Microsoft said.” Who are these professional designers? How do they fit them all into a cloud?


Morph on the other hand is a direct response to the competition software Prezi. Morph creates cinematic motion by animating between slides, going beyond animation of regular text or images to animate 3-D shapes or be applied at a word or even character level, including text wrapping. If you’ve ever used “Magic Move” in Keynote you’re familiar with this concept, animating objects BETWEEN slides vs ON them or OFF of them. This is the best way to capture the high level zoom concept Prezi is so good at while maintaining the useful features of a well-developed suite like Office.


Users simply duplicate slides that they want morphed together, move the objects based on how they want them to animate, and click the Morph button under Transitions.

According to Microsoft these features are exclusively available to Office 365 subscribers. Available first in PowerPoint 2016 for Windows desktop and Windows Mobile with plans to start rolling them out to other platforms in the coming months.

Insider Program

Finally, Microsoft announced the launch of Office Insider, a program that allows Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, and Office 365 University subscribers to opt in to pre-release builds of Office 2016 for Windows and gives users access to the latest features and innovations on the platform.

After reviewing these tools and considering the implications I’m happy to tell you I’m not worried. You can see MicroSoft’s video introduction to these tools here:

Of course when I say “reviewing the tools” I mean reviewing the reviews. Although it’s advertised as being available, my “up-to-date” PowerPoint install from Office365 for business subscription does not unlock these features. If there’s something else I’m supposed to do to get this update it’s not obvious. From what I can tell we as presentation professionals are not in danger of losing our jobs. This is simply more templates and more options for more engaging animations. Presentation pros are most likely bringing custom elements into our presentations from Photoshop and having conversations with speakers to try and focus the content and audience experience, two things even cloud based software can’t do yet.

The question I am left with is, will the change in tone from “let this animated paperclip help you” to “continuous improvement!” win over those that say PowerPoint is already dumbing down society? Are those 12,000 options enough to offer real design options that can highlight content and fight slide fatigue? Only time will tell really, but I can tell you what would actually be a threat to my job. If this new Designer function/tool can convince a presenter that they are putting too much information on one slide and have them understand and implement that concept? Then I’m in trouble.

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