PowerPoint 2004: Problems with notes in ‘Normal’ view

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
October 6th, 2004 • 11:23 pm

PowerPoint suffers from so many fundamental issues that it’s simply scandalous that this software is allowed to exist. It’s doubly scandalous that Microsoft apparently makes no effort to fix such issues from one version to the next.

Some of the most obvious problems, are with the various view modes offered by PowerPoint. When you first open a new presentation, it is in “Normal” view mode by default. If you are coming from Word or Excel, you think this “Normal” view mode will give you access to all the text properly formatted, in an easily editable form. Think again.

This “Normal” view mode consists of three panes, one for the presentation’s outline (left), one for the presentation slides (top right), and one for the notes that go with the slides (bottom right).

The Notes pane appears to be editable, but I would strongly recommend against editing text in that pane in that view mode.

For one thing, the text doesn’t wrap. Each paragraph is a single line, and if the line is longer than the width of the pane, well, tough luck. You actually have to scroll horizontally to see it! Argh.

Then there is the fact that no character formatting is visible in that Notes pane. If some of the text in your notes is in bold, or italics, or in a different font, you won’t see anything. Everything will still be in plain Arial roman.

If you actually want to see the character formatting in your notes, you have to switch to the “Notes Page” mode. Interestingly enough, this particular view mode is only accessible through the “View” menu. Just like in Word and Excel, in PowerPoint there is a row of buttons in the bottom-left corner of the document window that let you easily switch view modes. But for some reason Microsoft has decided that only some view modes should be accessible through these buttons. And the “Notes Page” view mode is not one of them.

In addition, if you want to copy some text from a slide to the notes or vice versa, you’re out of luck. When you are in “Notes Page” view mode, you cannot select text in the slide. So you have to constantly toggle between the “Normal” view mode and the “Notes Page” view mode in order to be able to transfer text from slides to notes or vice versa, which — it seems to me — is a fairly common task.

I have no idea why the display of notes in “Normal” view mode in PowerPoint is so crippled. Obviously we are in 2004 and our computers have more than enough power to be able to display formatted text and wrap it properly!

But I guess improving this particular aspect doesn’t interest Microsoft. I suppose that their answer would be: If you want to edit your notes, switch to “Notes Page” view mode. But then, why are the notes editable in “Normal” view mode? And why is there no button to switch to “Notes Page” view mode?

In a word: because it’s Microsoft.

2 Responses to “PowerPoint 2004: Problems with notes in ‘Normal’ view”

  1. Will Robertson says:

    Hi Pierre

    You said “Everything will still be in plain Arial roman.” I think you mean “…upright Arial” or “…regular Arial”. As I understand it, “roman” should refer only to serif fonts.

    I think your nitpicking at MS allows some toward yourself :)


  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Thanks for correcting me :). I wasn’t aware that the terminology was different for sans serif fonts.

    But I also don’t think my complaints about PowerPoint amount to picking nits :). These are major flaws. Anyway…

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