Get to the point
Why use PowerPoint? To help get a message across? Or to take the edge off the audience's interest in a subject? How about as a dead easy way to edit photos or create charts and graphs? No? Then have another look at some of the tools it gives you.
Take photo editing. If you want to crop one to get rid of a finger on the edge of the lens, then brighten it up a bit, all you need to do is insert it as an image on a new slide. If the picture toolbar doesn't come up automatically, right click and choose "Show picture toolbar," then work away. You can crop it and flip it, change the brightness and the contrast, and even the colour to some degree. What's great is that you can right click again and choose to save the result as a new image back into your My Pictures folder - best to click on the "Save as Type" box and make it a JPEG.
Better still is that you can compile a montage and save it all as one new file. To do this keep inserting images on top of each other, cropping and altering as you go, or even copying and repeatedly pasting to get a compilation such as bringing pupils together in one photo, or creating a row of cars in a street scene, then group them together. This is done by making sure all the different parts are selected - just click on them one at a time while holding down the Ctrl key - then right click, choose "Grouping" and the "Group" option. This can now be saved, as before, as one image.
Similarly with charts and graphs, it's quick and easy to make one in PowerPoint. If you open "Insert" and choose "Chart" you get a bar graph and a part-completed table where you alter the headings and figures to suit your purpose.
The chart automatically changes in front of you. Changing the type of chart is done through a right click where all those available in a spreadsheet can be found. It can also be copied, or saved as an image, so you can move it to other programs.
You can also create simple paper products, such as greetings cards. Anything you place on a slide comes with a green node hovering above it by which you can rotate it. Mentally divide the slide into quarters. Place an image and a greeting in the bottom right-hand corner (following Insert>Picture for the first then repeat and use Wordart for the second). Then insert a text box in the top left quarter, add your message and turn it upside down. Print it and fold it into a card.
The print options also help you become more creative when you select "Handouts". Two slides per page can, with a swift trim on the guillotine, create A5 books, whereas the six per page option gives you a layout similar to a comic strip. Creating a photo story of an event is a case of using the "Photo Album" facility (under Insert>Pictures) then finding the speech bubbles in the "Autoshapes". While these are not what PowerPoint was designed to do, it can give you impressive results quickly and easily. Even if that's not how the professionals do it.
John Galloway is advisory teacher for ICTspecial educational needs and inclusion for Tower Hamlets, London.