What is the Difference?

In Microsoft PowerPoint, it can be difficult to understand the relationship between a Template and a Theme.

Template files contain one or more Themes, but you can also save a Theme file separately.  Which is more important and how do they interact?

This is the first of a series of blogs in which we explore the use of these two features to create a personalised style or impose a corporate look to your presentations.

Two definitions may help:

A PowerPoint Template is a blueprint of a slide or group of slides that you save as a file.

A Document Theme is a set of formatting choices that are designed to coordinate well together, and give your presentations a designer-quality look.

Thinking about Templates

All presentations are based on a Template.  When you create a new presentation, the program will use a default Template (unless you specify otherwise).

This default Template typically contains only a single blank Title Slide:


When you want to insert the next Slide into your presentation, choose [Home / Slides] – New Slide to see the available Slide Layouts:


Slide Layouts contain formatting, positioning, and Placeholders for all the content that appears on a particular type of slide.

Placeholders are the containers that hold such content as Text (including titles and bulleted lists,), Tables, Charts, SmartArt graphics, Movies, Sounds, Pictures, and Clip Art.

PowerPoint always includes layouts for at least nine basic types of slide:

Title Slide Title & Content Section Header
Two Content Comparison Title Only
Blank Content with Caption Picture with Caption

If the standard layouts don’t suit your needs, you can customise them.

Theme Slide Master

A Theme Slide Master is the top slide in a hierarchy that stores information about the theme and layouts of a presentation.  Every presentation contains at least one Slide Master.

To edit a master and its layouts, you work in Slide Master View:

  • Choose [View / Master Views] – Slide Master


Microsoft PowerPoint now provides a Master to cater for all of the available Slide Layouts.  The first is called the Theme Slide Master and it provides the basic layout for the presentation.  Any changes made to it are automatically applied to all slides in the presentation.

The key benefit to modifying Slide Masters is that you can make universal style and content changes to every slide in your presentation, including ones added later.

Changing Every Slide

To have, (say) a company logo appear on every slide, regardless of their layout, insert it on the Theme Slide Master:



Changing All Slides with the same Layout

If the item should only appear on slides which follow a particular layout, choose the relevant Layout Master before adding the item.

For example, to add an item to all the Title slides in the presentation, add it to the Title Slide Layout Master.


Where Do Themes Come Into This?

The “look and feel” of a presentation is set by its Theme.  A Theme is a set of unified design elements which provide a consistent look using colour, fonts, and effects (such as shadows and shading).

Not everyone has an eye for colour, and pulling it all together can be daunting, so PowerPoint provides you with professionally designed colour themes, which you can apply to the Slide Master:


Applying the Facet Theme has changed the look of all the Slide Layouts, giving a different feel to the presentation.

You can use and share the same Themes among other Microsoft programs, such as Word, Excel, Outlook. That way, all of your related business documents will have a similar style.

Customising a Slide Layout

To add more personalisation, you can alter the position, size and shape of Placeholders in a Slide Layout, as well as adding static content.

Remember that we are working in Slide Master View. 
Any content we add here cannot be altered when working in Normal View
(i.e. when creating the actual Slides for the presentation)

The following is an example of the Title and Content Slide Layout.  It contains:

  • A Title placeholder
  • A Content placeholder
    (for adding Body Text / Tables / Charts / SmartArt / Picture / Clip Art / Media Clip)
  • Placeholders for Date, Footer and Slide Number

Any changes made here will only apply to the slides based on the Title and Content Layout.  In this example, the placeholder for the content has been reshaped; logos and shapes were added:


More About Themes

A Theme can include:

  • A set of Theme Colours
  • A set of Theme Fonts – (including heading and body text fonts)
  • A set of Theme Effects – (including lines and fill effects)

Each of those areas deserves closer inspection.  We will begin that in the next blog in this series – Microsoft PowerPoint – Theme Colours.