PowerPoint: Slide Layout and Accessibility

PowerPoint has a lot of aesthetic features, so it can be easy to become so focused on the visual aspects of a presentation that we forget about what is happening behind the scenes. A slide deck can appear perfect from a visual perspective, but definitely still have a long way to go internally. Let’s take a look.

Exercise File

Download today’s exercise file here: LayoutExercise

This is a (very important!) presentation about Star Trek characters. It consists of  a title slide and three additional slides with content. At first glance, It looks like all the content slides are laid out identically, but they are actually quite different.

Selection Pane: Reading Order

Similar to Accessibility settings that we talk about in Acrobat DC Essentials training, there is also a Reading Order to PowerPoint documents.

Someone in your audience may be visually impaired and accessing your PowerPoint with a screen reader. The Reading Order is the order the screen reader will read the contents of the slide. How do you access the reading order? Via the Selection Pane.

  1. Select Slide 2: The Original Series.
  2. In the Home tab, Drawing group, select the Arrange dropdown and select Selection Pane

 Selection Pane

  1. A menu will appear on the right. This is the Selection Pane displaying the Reading Order.
  • Important: reading order is from bottom to top! So in the case of Slide 2, the Title is on the bottom, where it should be if it is to be read first.

 Selection Pane reading order

Click on any of the items in the Selection Pane to highlight their location on the slide. Or, click on any item in the slide to see it highlighted in the Selection Pane. Items may be reordered by clicking and dragging.

Outline View

I mentioned that all these slides appear identical, but they are actually set up differently. One quick way to see this is to change your View to Outline View.

  1. Go to the View tab, Presentation Views group, and select Outline View.

 Outline View button

  1. Notice how slides 3 and 4 are missing something very important: a title! Titles are indicated in bold next to the slide number.

 Outline View

But wait, what is going on here, I was sure I saw titles on those two slides?

  1. Let’s return to Normal view and investigate. Go to View tab, Presentation Views group, and select Normal.

 Normal View Button


  1. Select Slide 3: The Next Generation.
  2. Take a look at your Selection Pane on the right (if you left that view from earlier, you can get it back by following the steps under Selection Pane above). Where is the Title?
  3. Click on to the title words in the slide (The Next Generation). Notice this highlights a Text Box in the Selection Pane on the right. It looks like someone has deleted the title box on this slide and inserted a text box.  This means that:
  • The reading order is out of order… it could be reordered by clicking and dragging, but…
  • There is also no official Title on this slide. Fixing the lack of title will actually fix both issues.

Selection Pane with text box highlighted

  1. Let’s first confirm the correct Layout is selected. Go to Home tab, Slides group and select the Layout. It looks like Two Content is selected. Since there is both text and a picture, this makes sense. Let’s not change this, but it is good that we confirmed it.

Layout dropdown, two content selected

  1. The real issue is that the Title got deleted and replaced with a text box. Let’s fix this. Start by deleting the imposter title:  click on the text box that contains “The Next Generation,” then click on the line of the text box to select the whole text box. Press the Delete key to completely remove this imposter title.
  2. Go back to the Slides group and select Reset. This is going to reset the current slide into its original two content layout, while keeping the content.

Reset button

  1. A true title box appears. Retype your title into the new title box. Notice the selection pane is now correct, in that there is a title, and that the reading order has been corrected.

Title Correct

Change Layout

What about Slide 4? Let’s follow the same steps as above.

  1. Under Layout, I noticed the wrong layout is selected. It is currently a Title and Content and should be a Two Content. Let’s change this slide to a Two Content.

Change from title and content to two content

  1. Notice this causes the slide to reset. The fake title text box may need to be deleted to make room for the real title.


Side note: you might be noticing right about now that remediation is a lot harder than creating a slide correctly to begin with. This is almost always the case, regardless of the program you are using!


  1. Once slides 3 and 4 are corrected, revisit Outline view, and notice the new look! Titles on every slide, what a beautiful sight!

Outline view corrected with slide titles

Accessibility Checker

Another way to find these layout issues is by running an Accessibility Checker. A full write up of how to work with this feature may be found here:  Accessibility Checker Article

Go to File, Check for Issues, Check Accessibility.

Accessibility Checker

When a number of text boxes are found on a slide, the checker will remind you to check your reading order. Click on the dropdown next to this warning to access the same Selection Pane a different way.

Selection Pane in Accessibility Checker


Did you know about these tricks for checking slide layout and reading order? How will you put this to use?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser

  • Tegan Perry

Tegan Perry