Scott Hanselman

How To: Convert a PowerPoint Presentation from 4:3 ratio to 16:9 without distorted or stretched images

November 15, 2011 Comment on this post [21] Posted in Musings
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It always sucks to show up to a conference with a slide deck that looks lovely with lots of pictures and evocative hipster stock photography all nicely formatted for a 4:3 ratio (1024x768 pixels is common) and then find out their projectors are 16x9 and run something like 1280x720 pixels.

Nobody wants to be THIS stretchy guy:

My giant head with the wrong ratio

It is true that some people have a genetic inability to see that 4:3 content has been uncomfortably stretched to fit a 16:9 screen. We have a name for these people. They are called "Bad People.™"*

As an aside, there are few sadder technical things than 4:3 content stretched across an expensive 16:9 widescreen HDTV. From electronic stores to hotel lobbies, airport status displays to café menus. Make it stop.

What's the easiest way to convert your 4:3 slide deck to 16:9 in a pitch and still have your images look nice? There' s a number of ways on the internet but they all involve "math" and "ratios" and "thought." Nonsense. Too hard. Here's what I do.

Step 0 - Switch to 16:9 and see bad images.

Click Design | Page Setup and switch from 4:3 to 16:9. Other folks say to enter in custom numbers and do multiplication. Hang in there, this is easier.

First, switch to 16x9

At this point, all your images WILL be stretched out.

Step 1 - Fix image ratios without messing up their sizes

Here's the trick. Right click on an image and select Size and Position. From this dialog, click in the Height box. Now, just click up once and down once. As long as the Lock Aspect Ratio checkbox is checked, just changing the scale by 1 step and then switching back will fix your image. You can do it with your keyboard even faster.

Step two, change the scale up and down

Here's trick #2. You don't need to close the Size and Position dialog. It's modeless. You can leave it open and go from slide to slide quickly changing your images. Just click the image, click Height, then up/down, then do another image. Repeat until it's all done. It'll take just a few seconds per slide.

My enormous corectly ratio-ed head. Or IS IT?!

This trick will fix all your image ratios, but expect to do one more pass to make sure that you're using all the space afforded by this new widescreen layout. Regardless of how you images are sized you might want to make some tweaks to the layout and spacing of your text and images.

How to you switch your slides from 16:9 to 4:3? Exactly the same steps except adjust the ratio in Step 0.

Hope this helps someone.

* They aren't really bad people. They are good people with bad presentations. Relax. It's a blog post.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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November 15, 2011 9:40
Doing this (semi) automatically would be a nice feature for the next version of PowerPoint.
November 15, 2011 9:49
I just wrote a little script to modify the page setup size in PresenationML (put size in EMU - i.e. EMU = inches * 914400). Changing it like that doesn't stretch anything, but you may need to modify the Slide Master placeholders to fit the new size. One day I'll probably extend the script with that.
November 15, 2011 11:24
Welcome to [unnamed country's Microsoft conference that actually does 16:9 by default]! Points to the guys putting on the conference that made sure this was the case.
November 15, 2011 11:31
The Hanselforehead in 16x9! Make it stop!

I use meditation and breathing exercises to allow me to not get upset when I see screens at the wrong ratio. I am much happier for it.

November 15, 2011 12:21
This reminds me of my days when I did some print work.

They have this neat little concept of bleed area, a place where you extend your content to make sure that if extra space happens to exist on a given medium (printers and printing presses don't always work the same) it's not filled with white and your image looks clean.

They have this in analog television as well, I just never thought to use it in presentations. Will do so from now on :)
November 15, 2011 13:15
Great info, thanks. Seeing is this is so easy to do, I wonder if you could automate it with macros or an add-in? I'm not sure if PowerPoint has macros (as I've never tried to make PowerPoint macros) but I'm sure it has addins.
November 15, 2011 19:08
It's funny. My son keeps putting regular TV to wide screen on my TV even on normal channels so I got used to distortion without realizing it. I didn't think the first pic was messed up until I saw the second. :)
November 15, 2011 19:18
Hey Scott, great tip. I've written a little add-in to PowerPoint that does this automatically for you. Basically just put this code into a Ribbon's button click event and you are good to go:

public void changeImageAspect()
foreach (Slide s in Globals.ThisAddIn.Application.ActivePresentation.Slides)
foreach (Shape p in s.Shapes)
if (p.Type == Core.MsoShapeType.msoPicture || p.Type == Core.MsoShapeType.msoLinkedPicture)
p.LockAspectRatio = Core.MsoTriState.msoTrue;

p.ScaleHeight((float)2, Core.MsoTriState.msoTrue, Core.MsoScaleFrom.msoScaleFromTopLeft);
p.ScaleHeight((float)0.5, Core.MsoTriState.msoFalse, Core.MsoScaleFrom.msoScaleFromTopLeft);
else if (p.Type == Core.MsoShapeType.msoGroup)
foreach (Shape g in p.GroupItems)
if (g.Type == Core.MsoShapeType.msoPicture || g.Type == Core.MsoShapeType.msoLinkedPicture)
g.LockAspectRatio = Core.MsoTriState.msoTrue;

g.ScaleHeight((float)2, Core.MsoTriState.msoTrue, Core.MsoScaleFrom.msoScaleFromTopLeft);
g.ScaleHeight((float)0.5, Core.MsoTriState.msoFalse, Core.MsoScaleFrom.msoScaleFromTopLeft);
November 15, 2011 19:20
First of all, at this point I just default to doing every presentation in 16:9 to start with (haven't figured out how to make it PowerPoint's default as well, though)... Letter boxing on a projector isn't that noticeable and more and more screens everywhere are 16:9 native. (Plus, movies have made 16:9 letterboxed look "cool" and 4:3 letterboxed like "old tv show"...)

Anyway, a tip I discovered in a large presentation with a lot of screenshots was that the the possibly unintuitively placed Crop > Fill and Crop > Fit, both which "re-auto-crop" on the Picture Tools | Format ribbon tab can be your friends in the reformat as they are both original aspect ratio preserving, particularly if your images follow the templated design layouts... Because they are ribbon commands I could use the usual keyboard tricks: Page Down, Tab to the image, then Alt,JPVT may be a bit unwieldy but still presumably somewhat faster than your version, Scott.
November 15, 2011 19:25
if anyone would like the PPTX add-in that I created just ping me.
November 16, 2011 20:43
No way to undistort that image. Good example though.
November 16, 2011 22:55
Great tips!

I usually prefer to resize images using ratios and percentages. It's a much cleaner resize.

Thanks for the info.!
May 02, 2012 16:07
This trick does not work on the 2011 Mac version.
July 12, 2012 0:44
Yes, you can resize the slides. But you had better change the slide show resolution.
October 20, 2012 4:15
Thanks. it was really helpful :) There are good pepople in this world :)
November 01, 2012 12:19
Fantastic! This is seriously a most kickass trick! I look like a pro wherever I go. Thanks for making me one of the good guys! (that too in a flash... :D)
November 12, 2012 23:24
John Wiese -- Can you provide the plug in?
December 18, 2012 18:02
Not working.
After clicking on the height up once and down once, the image remain stretched.
December 18, 2012 18:04
Got it. You should have mentioned it's the Height box in Scale, as there is another Height box in Size.
January 30, 2013 15:50
Great tip, its a shame that the fix doesn't work for PowerPoint objects, that would be really handy, anyone have any ideas on how best to do that (without copying and pasting separate elements onto slides.
January 31, 2013 12:43
Did John Wiese ever provide the add-in he so generously promised back in 2011? I'd love a copy.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.