Welcome to the Jungle

From 4:3 to 16:9: PowerPoint 2013’s Aspect Ratio has evolved from a default 4:3 to the new 16:9


Those amongst you already working with Microsoft Office 2013 who have recently created a PowerPoint presentation might have noticed a convenient novelty. The new default templates have an aspect ratio of 16:9 instead of the traditional 4:3 in previous versions. Microsoft is following the trend to widescreen, started by cinema and television, which imitates the eye’s natural field of view. Finally PowerPoint slides are being adapted to the aspect ratio of modern screens and projectors.

A closer look reveals however that we are due to remain in the transitional phase for some time to come. Although it may be assumed that Apple will sooner or later follow suit with Keynote (iWork ’09 has a default 4:3), it will however take some time before the majority of computers are up to date in terms of presentation software.

Slides are often overwritten

New presentations are not always newly created from scratch. It is often convenient to fall back on older presentations and adapt them to meet new requirements. However, generally the basic format remains unchanged – and there’s a good reason for that. Officially the switch from 4:3 to 16:9 is quickly done:

  • PowerPoint 2010 (Windows): In menu „Design“, under „Page Setup“ > select „On screen show 16:9 „
  • PowerPoint 2011 (OS X): Select the „File“ menu, under „Page Setup“ > select „On screen show 16:9 „
  • Keynote (OS X): In the „View“ menu click „Show and Hide“ select Slide Size 1280 × 720 or 1920 × 1080″.


Observe Proportions

As easy as it sounds, automatic conversion is not always unproblematic: When working with images or graphics you must also always pay attention to their proportions. While aberrations in images can be annoying, distortions in scientific graphics can make a critical difference, as the following comparison shows:



Even without pictures and graphics it is not simply a matter of changing the slide format:



The above example shows that changing the format will mainly affect space relations. Thus existing slides do need basic modification. At ETH Zurich templates with the new aspect ratio are already available.


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