May the font be with you

Have you ever designed a Powerpoint presentation on a Mac and then delivered it on a PC (or vice versa) only to find your text has been reformatted and your slides look like gobbledygook? Reformatting like this happens when you use a font that is not common to both Windows and Mac or if you’ve used a unique font downloaded to your personal computer (which doesn’t exist on other computers). When you display your PowerPoint presentation on another computer, it doesn’t recognise the font and substitutes it with a different font. This can change the size and spacing of your text and create havoc with your formatting. It gives me chills just thinking of it!

There are a few options to avoid this scenario:

  1. The first option is to choose a font that is compatible with reasonably recent Mac and Windows versions of Powerpoint eg Arial, Calibri (for versions of PowerPoint 2007 onwards), Comic Sans, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Palatino, Tahoma, Times New Roman and Verdana. My default font, when I create PowerPoint presentations for other people to deliver, is Calibri. I also like to use Impact to display numbers in large format on the screen.
  2. The second option is to save individual slides as jpegs and reinsert them back as images into the PowerPoint presentation. The downside of this is that you do not have the flexibility to modify or change your content on the go. It’s also an issue if you design presentations for other people and they want to make their own changes.
  3. The third option is to bring along your own notebook computer and plug this into the projector. A great option but not always practical.

Hopefully between these three options you should be able to go forth and deliver your PowerPoint presentations with confidence. May the font be with you.

5 thoughts on “May the font be with you

  1. When I can neither sacrifice the look of the font nor let the reformatting ruin my work, I opt for this fourth option: bringing the font with me and preparing. For my audience, whenever I give them a powerpoint file featuring fonts they are not likely to have, I also give them the font saying “…if you want to view it the way I created it, please install the attached fonts and…” It also works when I must use another computer at events. It works when they want to make their own changes. The only downside is I cannot give them licensed fonts but reminding them to give credit to the font’s original creator saves the day. Last but not least, trying to know in advance the computer with which I have to deliver my presentation helps because I can know in advance whether or not the font is compatible. It’s called preparation.

    • Thanks for your comment, this is a great tip and it certainly pays to be prepared. There’s nothing worse than sacrificing the look of your presentation for the dreaded fear of ‘reformatting’. From my understanding you can install fonts without Administrator permission on a Mac, but that you might need Administrator permission for Windows (which could be tricky in some organisations). However, it’s certainly another option to add to the list!

      • Couldn’t agree more. Making changes to (office) computers do require IT permission and it just makes preparation or knowing the computer well before delivery matter more.

  2. Thanks Charmaine, good to know which fonts are reliable on both PC and Mac.

    I’m all for choosing a common (“boring”) font that works without having to worry about it. Many other bloggers suggest choosing fonts to “reflect the speaker’s personality” or to stand out. Sounds like a risky move to me!

    You might like the following post by PPT MVP Dave Paradi, who recommends Arial and Calibri for solid reasons. There are also a couple of comments at the bottom (1 from me) with related links you might enjoy, too:

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