Dingbats in the sandbox

So you have a new computer and you decide it’s time to start fresh. No migrating this bad boy. Nope this time you install everything new. Fresh Office 365, fresh Creative Cloud, fresh folders, and now everything is sparkly and organized*. It was a pain to do, but damn if it doesn’t feel good. Now it’s time to get down to work. You grab a steaming cup of joe, sit down to your recently cleaned desk, and get comfy in that ergonomic chair. You open up that client file and there it is, the missing font popup, you are missing Webdings and Century Gothic.
What in the world? You check your font manager to activate them. Then you think… “oh yeah, those are Microsoft fonts I don’t need to activate them.” You check your Library/Fonts folder(s) and you don’t see them.  But you know you installed Office. You may even take a moment to open Word, and if you did…guess what…they are there! Now you are really confused.
Oh Microsoft, what have you done? And is this Microsoft or are there other variables at play? Here is the Catch 22 of this conundrum: it’s awesome that the stinkin’ Microsoft fonts are no longer cluttering our font lists, but we may find ourselves missing them once in a while.
Here is the explanation for this situation (and a very general one for the sake of simplicity). In 2012, Apple required all app developers to sandbox their applications. Sandboxing is a security technique, in which, a program isolates itself as much as possible from the system and other applications. Yes, it can gain access to system resources, but it doesn’t add to them unless necessary. You see where I’m going here? The fonts aren’t installed in System/Library/Fonts, Library/Fonts or even User/Library/Fonts. They are tucked away in a place that only the Microsoft apps can get too.
So this is a good thing. If you were a power user who struggled with cleaning out our font menus, by default they are now much leaner. If you weren’t a user who cleaned out your font menus, you no longer have to glance at annoyingly long font menus. But now you need to know how to access those Microsoft fonts, for that one off job, for that particular client. Luckily this isn’t hard, remember how I mentioned the apps had to be self-contained? This means the fonts are IN the apps.

So to access a Microsoft font you can’t find in InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc that you know comes from Office…

  1. Navigate to your applications folder
  2. Right click on an office application
  3. Select show package contents
  4. Select either Contents/Resources/DFonts OR Contents/Resources/Fonts. (BOTH folders have fonts in them, the vast majority of them are in the DFonts folder. The fonts Office apps use to function are in the Fonts folder.)
  5. There are your fonts. Copy them to another location—or better yet add them to your font manager from this location.

So there you go. This is how to access those few Microsoft fonts that you actually need. And the scissors glyph. Don’t hide it…I saw you using it last week. It’s okay, we all need a little more webdings in our lives.


*Quick note here: If you didn’t start with a clean installation as mentioned in the first paragraph, then you may not experience this. Microsoft Office 2011 installs fonts into the Library/Fonts folder. So if you have previously installed that Office 2011, they should still be there. 






The done gone and broke it

Before I begin, let me take a moment and acknowledge my absence of over a year and a half. So here are the obligatory remarks about how busy I am, how sorry I am, and about how much better I will be moving forward. But c’mon…chickens, ducks, a day job, and a toddler need I say more?
Moving forward. Because I went AWOL, I’ve been absent while Microsoft released PowerPoint 2016. Which means I’ve been radio silent about a major bug that affects typography. This is why I only recently (begrudgingly) migrated to PowerPoint 2016. In fact, I stalled rollout at my agency of the entire Office 365 suite for over a year because of this bug. 
Why may you ask? Because Office 2016 apps do not support third party fonts well. This essentially breaks my agency’s brand. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve ever seen this bug. Custom font support broke several yers ago on Windows machines. I can’t let you quote me on this because I don’t have the records to substantiate my claim. I think it was with Microsoft Office 2013, and they fixed it several months into the release. But this time I see very little movement. I’ve been watching this ‘bug’ for almost two years now.

The lack of third party font support is confusing if you don’t understand file linking. Luckily for you, I already explained font linking in one of my previous posts. Given the number of posts I’ve written…how lucky is that? So if you have no idea what font linking is, take a gander at this post first. Done reading? Back now? Great, here we go.

Visual of how Avenir and Helvetica don’t style link correctly in Word 2016

So here is the thing, if you select a font and then hit “B” or “I”, they will apply a fake bold and/or italic. But they don’t style link to the correct font. In some fonts this fake effect is fine—the fake effect may accurately mimic the true weights. But select a font that links to a much heavier weight, and you have an issue. Here is a screenshot I took in October of 2015, and unfortunately I can still recreate these issues today.

Do you work in a Mac only environment? You’re fine, you can select the weights in the font menu. Work in a Windows only environment? All good, because style linking still works in the Windows. But if you work across OS devices, you have a big issue on your hands. Here is what most cross platform users re experiencing right now. If you use font weights only via the menu on a Mac (ignoring style linking), your fonts will substitute on Windows. Leave them correct so they work on Windows OR bring a well formatted file from Windows, and the fonts won’t be the correct weight on Mac. So pick your poison here folks…and I see that you have three good options.

  1. Leave it alone. It’s correct on Windows, but not on Macs.
  2. Redesign your deck. Take out the fonts that utilize style linking or switch fonts.
  3. Get sneaky. Hire the original font designer to edit the font tags so they all show up on Windows machines. Unless you are designing a new PowerPoint deck, this is going to sound like the smart option. But believe me, it’s scary. Now you a variation of the same font installed on your employee’s machines, you need to clean up. And you will also have decks floating about that look similiar enough to cause confusion.

I’ve been on the phone with tech support. I’ve submitted feature requests. I’ve awaited the early release of PowerPoint ever month for about two years now. I’m not sure they are fixing this soon. So the best option I can tell you is this.

  1. Do not use ‘third party’ fonts in Microsoft. I have seen them break it twice in quite major ways within the past eight years. That is twice we had to adjust our brand ID to accommodate Microsoft. Honestly, they have both been in regards to cross platform style-linking so…
  2. Simplify your document. If you want to use ‘third party fonts’, great but don’t use weights that would use bold or italic.
  3. Try a new Office Optimized font. Several foundries have them. Check out H&CoFontFont, or myfonts. My only caveat is that they are also optimized for style linking. HOWEVER, they usually simplify the number of weights in a family, so in certain fonts, the faked bold or italic may be acceptable.

Good luck to you. If you need me, I’ll be banging my head against the wall and downloading the next early release of PowerPoint.






Surviving Template Design 1: Font style linking

Here is what I really wanted to teach you…how to build a super swell template for your team in PowerPoint. But I sat down to write an outline of all the things you needed to know and the list kept growing, and growing and growing. So ya know what I’m going to do, I’m going to divide this up in little bite size chunks. Tasty little morsels of how to survive template design. And we are going to start with the something that I think will make every designer, typography buff and art director tremble with fear…font style linking in Office.

So lets be honest, you could read about font style linking somewhere else. But many of the sites that cover style linking are older and I’ve noticed many are AWOL. You can still check out the basic info from Adobe, but even that is dated. Most importantly, I don’t think the available sites speak to designers and I’m not even sure they present a solution for the average designer.

So here are the basics: most fonts (especially the well formed ones) have a bit of encoding in them that links the basic weights together. So imagine you are using Time New Roman, and you want to emphasize the word Bold. You hit the “B” button, and Times New Roman Bold screams from the sidelines “Tag me in coach!” Your application switches the fonts for you, and there is none of that pesky fake bold or italic. Great concept right? It works in just about any application, and your savvier apps (think Adobe) will refuse to fake bold or italic a font that doesn’t have a style linked partner.

Easy right? Yeah…not so much. Window’s font menus looks at this tag in and says “oh look—a font family, you don’t want all those pesky fonts in your font menu, now do you? Here, let me remove some of those.” Next thing you know; you have no bold, italic or bold italic fonts in your font menu. To the average Microsoft user, that’s fine. Clean, simple font menus.  So for a family of 4 weights, you get one logical font in the font menu and you use your “B” and “I” buttons to enable the others. All is right with the world…but here comes the Catch 22. For a family with 26 weights, you might see only see 7–8 weights in the menu. Without a thorough knowledge of the available weights AND how they are style linked, you are now completely in the dark. You have no idea what is missing and what to choose. Why-oh-why Windows can’t you just nest your font families like any other respectable application? But, font menus are another post…we are here to talk about templates, remember?

So, here you are designing your company’s new ppt template on a mac. You decide you want the headlines to be Helvetica Neue Lt Std 95 Heavy, you choose the font and go about your business. A few days later, you open your file in Windows to test it and your font is…missing! So the take away here is you have two choices: design everything on Windows and just take a stab at which font you should be using; or do a bit of research, have a plan and then use which ever platform you want.

So here is that solution I promised. There are some really techy ways to figure out the tags, but since this is something you won’t need that often…I suggest you go window shopping. Here is what ya do; take a quick visit to most font stores, find the weight in question and check the tech specs. Each site’s verbiage will differ, so be prepared to use your powers of deduction. Most often you are looking for the family name and an indication of whether to hit bold, italic etc. The key here is the family name, it isn’t always obvious (like to get to black, you choose medium??)

Image of tech specs from

Tech Specs for Helvetica Neue Lt Std 95 Heavy at

Now that you have that concept under your belt, go back to your ppt, and change all your fonts (and font themes) to the correct font family and press that big ole “B” button. This way no matter which platform your ppt is opened on you have beautiful fonts. That’s it. The basics are that simple.

Extra credit:

  1. Adobe has its own font management/engine for its apps. So Adobe font menus behave the same on Windows as they do on Mac.
  2. Luckily, if you use font themes in PowerPoint, as you should, the font used in the theme are always up at the very top of the menus. I have found using these seems to go against human nature, people just like to go down and select the exact font. So when I train, I point out to mac users they should use these theme fonts at the top of the font menu, and not deviate—especially when collaborating with windows users.
  3. Have a font that isn’t behaving correctly? Make sure you have the most up to date version of the font (yup, fonts get updates, make sure you stay current on those bad boys) or contact the designer. Hopefully, they are willing to fix the font and are appreciative for the heads up. If possible in your workflow, you could try a TrueType instead of OpenType (Microsoft support for OpenType is lackluster at best.) If all else fails, there is an affordable tool you can use to fix these yourself called TransType by the great guys over at FontLab. But please consider it a last resort (obviously check your EULAs first before proceeding.)
  4. Test, test test, and then when you think you’ve tested everything, double check yourself. Work with your IT team to test every conceivable version of Office you can get your hands on before deploying your template. Test your template in new versions of Office before your company deploys them, I found an issue with Trade Gothic in Office 2013 we had never seen in previous versions. In that instance, contacting the foundry for an updated font did the trick. See No. 5 though for a different result.
  5. Intrigued? Font style linking is somewhat hard to track down. As I mentioned earlier, I feel like I used to have more resources on the subject. I might be imagining, or it may be because a lot of it was on Typophile’s forums (which is still down, I’ll append this post when they get the new site up.) It also may have been on the Adobe sites from Thomas Phinney’s tenure there. The best advice I can give you is search the sites that have forums for typography lovers and creators, such as these strings at Adobe, FontLab, and Typophile. Using Google will usually just send you in circles.
  6. Font linking does not work correctly in Office 2016 for mac for many fonts. I’ve tested on multiple computers and tried every common font troubleshooting trick. No go. I have a ticket in with them, and there are others complaining in forums. At first glance Office 2016 for Windows is fine, but it’s still in preview so we’ll see where that nets out. We are waiting to roll out Office 2016 until this bug is fixed.

Bullet Hack

Hello layout friends. Are you ready to discuss paragraph styles in PowerPoint? Hold up. That, my dears, was a trick question. Sadly, we just learned last week there are no paragraph styles in PowerPoint.   Today I want to show you a hack. I’ve looked for a better description for this—trick, workaround, super-secret PowerPoint superpower…and honestly nothing works as well as hack.

Designers—I know that in one paragraph I am going to lose you. You are thinking, this is all PowerPoint, I’m outta here. But I implore you to stay around for at least a bit. Why? Because I had to find this hack because of y’all. When you are asked to design a PowerPoint deck, you are going to work in InDesign/Illustrator thinking someone else can translate your vision into PowerPoint. That person is me. Even when I coach a designer on how simple they need to make their slides, they return with slides more complex than PowerPoint can handle, especially at the template level. Every time I see your beautiful design and have to say “PowerPoint can’t do that” I die a little inside when I see the frustration on your faces. I’ve had to come up with some sneaky methods for getting your content designed in InDesign to work. Your takeaway here is for me or anyone to translate your work into PowerPoint, we need you to make your design simple, clean and elegant—but we can also use the information below to help make sure your vision is possible.

Templates are tricky. You can have multiple content ‘placeholders’ on a page but each one can only have one formatting style. So, you use two text boxes…but then you might have alignment issues. What if a text box is designed for two lines and the user has one or three? It isn’t going to have the appropriate spacing. And, you’ll never be able to properly center both text boxes vertically. You’d be relying on a non-designer to manually guess at the space between the two paragraphs (aka boxes) and then center them on the page. Use my hack and you can make it happen. The hack is quite simple once set up correctly in the master pages.

All that being said, I have to advise you to proceed with care and consideration. Before you read on…the tradeoff here is that this hack isn’t immediately intuitive to the user. This solution relies on good documentation, training and/or a savvy end-user. Please consult with your IT team or the end-user of the template to make sure you think this is something that is sustainable. Use this hack only if you know your audience is going to use it correctly or at all. Let’s remember, I call it a hack for a reason. We’re going to take advantage of the formatting PowerPoint applies to bulleted lists without using bullets. Let’s get into the hack here for those of you who want to see the inside dirt:

Making the hack:

  1. Open the master layout you want to create the two formatting styles on. If there isn’t a content placeholder already on that page, add one by going to the Slide Master Ribbon>Insert Placeholder>Content.
  2. Unless wanted, select all the copy and remove the bullets.
  3. Unless wanted, remove all your hanging indents. Open the Format Text window (right-click and select Format Text… or hit cmd-t.) Now go to the Paragraph section and change Indentation>Before Text to ‘o’, and then change the Special to: (None)
  4. Select the first paragraph that says “Click to edit Master text styles.” Edit the formatting as needed using Format Text… 
  5. Select the second paragraph that says “Second level” and repeat step 4.
  6. Continue with the other levels. If you only want two levels of formatting, you can select “Second Level” through “Fifth Level” in step 5 to repeat the same formatting down through each level.
  7. Close your master and test your work.

Using the hack:

  1. Copy and paste your text into the box, or type your content.
  2. At this point all the copy will be in the first type style. Remember this hack relies on you tricking the content into thinking it’s a bulleted list, which is usually triggered by hitting tab or the increase indent button.
  3. Select the copy you want to be in the second formatting style and hit “Increase Indent” or you can hit tab with the copy selected.
  4. Bam! Formatted text.
  5. Bonus, there is no limit on which level you can apply this too. See my video for an example of applying a second level formatting to a first paragraph.

That’s it. So simple…but it works. Just remember this is a great idea for consistency, speed and workflow–but it relies on a lot of training and communication with your coworkers.


Importing and Setting type in PowerPoint

I mentioned in my first post that we would look at editing type and discuss ways of changing how we approach layout in PowerPoint. So let’s jump in and start tackling that. Let’s be clear: setting long type in PowerPoint really isn’t a good idea. And I know since these tutorials are geared to designers, you are all cringing. But if you just have to cram lots of type into a slide these tips could help you not lose quite as much hair in the process.

I do want to give you a use case: an example of thinking differently with PowerPoint. I work at an advertising agency, and when we present, we often leave the presentation behind as a printout. Some content that would normally not be presented does need to be included in this leave behind.  An example would be commercial scripts. We don’t present the script—they are presented as video stills with voice overs. But we do want a version of those stills with the script included for that leave behind. Setting long scripts in PowerPoint allows us to use one document for both onscreen and print. This way we don’t have to keep up two documents, and you can ensure the formatting remains consistent (well as much as possible within PowerPoint).

I’ve actually made a video tutorial on this subject. I’m not sure I’ll do video for every post. I think I’ll mix it up and sometimes write things out step-by-step and sometimes let you listen to me ramble on. I think this topic is a helpful one to watch–but I know some people just want the quick and dirty directions. So I’m going to just leave a few notes in reference to the video below as well.

Hope this helps someone out there, and we’ll look at some ways to include multiple formatting per frame (via a super secret hack) in our next post.


  1. If you try to paste copy into PowerPoint and it doesn’t work, try using “Edit Paste Special” (cmd-ctrl-v), when the options box pops up, choose unformatted text and voilà…your text will paste in!
  2. By default PowerPoint only allows one font style per master frames box, (the exception being bulleted list, we’ll cover that more later). And, PowerPoint does not have paragraph styles (boo, let me repeat that…booooooooo). So to get multiple types of formatting in one box, you will need to manually format the text paragraph by paragraph.
    1. The easiest way to do this is to take a step back and look at what the majority of your type needs to be set as. Format all the copy in the frame in that style.
    2. Now, select a paragraph that you want different and format that type.
    3. Select the paragraph that you just formatted, and click the format painter at the top of your window.
    4. Highlight the type you want to change to the same format with the format painter.
    5. Lather, rinse and repeat for other paragraphs.
  3. By default, PowerPoint adds an internal margin to every text box. This is can be annoying to us design-types so take it off by accessing the Format Text Box Options and changing those values to “0.”
    1. Right-click or cmd-t on your type, then in the pop-up go to Text Box>Internal Margins.
  4. By default, PowerPoint uses a feature called autofit which will shrink the text in a box as it gets full. Again, not a designer-friendly option. Select ‘do not autofit’ using the Format Tex Box window to turn off this behavior.

Notes: I did make a few errors while training, so to be clear I want to address those:

  1. At one point when referring to ways to access the text formatting options, I mentioned the shortcut ‘apple-t’. I’m showing my age here. The apple key is more commonly known as the cmd button. So the shortcut to get to text and text frame options is ‘cmd-t.’
  2. Around this same time I said to “take off auto fit.” But then chose the option to ‘do not autofit.’  To be clear we do want to disable autofitting, but you do that by selecting the option to ‘do not autofit’ in the Format Text Popup>Text Box>Autofit.



(In)Designing in Powerpoint

InDesiginInPowerpoint cover image

I am thrilled to be writing this post. This isn’t a topic I should be excited about, this isn’t a topic ANYONE is excited about, but I am. In my job, I have developed a skill set at designing PowerPoint templates. I know there are many amazing PowerPoint designers out there, and I am not claiming to be one of them. What I can help you do is work efficiently in PowerPoint…when you hate PowerPoint.

My first few posts will concentrate on PowerPoint, but make no mistake about it…I will move on to topics I’m much more passionate about. There are tons of experts out there with amazing blogs on design apps. But, there isn’t much for designers who need to use PowerPoint. Today lets go over a few best practices and later I’ll post actual tutorials.

  1. Let go. Look, PowerPoint is frustrating for those used to the Adobe toolsets. Let it go, be one with the presentation software. Yes, I know it’s not intuitive. But once you accept PowerPoint and stop trying to compare the toolsets to those in InDesign, you will be happier. Remember, even PowerPoint has some redeeming qualities. Every time I create complex graphs in InDesign, I secretly pine for PowerPoint (please don’t tell anyone).
  2. Leave your typographer’s hat at the door. Powerpoint’s typographical controls are hidden and clunky (i.e., they stink). But they are there and better than most people realize. But have you ever overheard people complain about horrible kerning at an otherwise great presentation? No. (Take heed though: don’t stare at specific words as you design. Then, you will see the bad pairs and they will haunt you.)
  3. Get comfortable with the chart tools. The out-of-the-box charts aren’t stellar. But if you take the time to master the tools, you can create some beautiful and even minimalistic charts. And better yet, all while keeping the data live (take that InDesign).
  4. Learn some shortcuts. For example, “Paste Special” invokes a pop-up that allows you to paste without formatting. If you are pasting from other applications with unexpected results—this is your fix. I’ll throw out more shortcuts as we move forward
  5. Understand the funky guides. Guides are one of my major frustrations in PowerPoint, but I have high hopes this will get better soon. For now, your best hope is just to understand them completely, which should lessen your pain.
  6. Change your approach. Go beyond the toolsets, be open to changing the way you think about designing/formatting. PowerPoint was engineered for the average person, not designers. So you will need to put yourself in their shoes.
  7. Graphics on master pages. The only objects put on master pages that are editable in a deck are placeholders. Such as, a graphic placed on the master is locked and can not be manipulated by the user. So unless something should ALWAYS be on that page, the master is not the place to put it.
  8. Give up control. Give yourself permission for things not to be perfectly templated. I used to be quite strict and only create master pages. But at a creative agency…it wasn’t conducive to some of our brand aesthetics. I now build as many master pages as possible, then create what can’t be templatized as a deck. This deck becomes the saved template file. Without paragraph styles and unlockable master page items; this may be your best option for maintaining brand integrity.

At the end of the day, here is my best advice. Check your frustration at the door, this tool wasn’t built for you—but it can help you help others make awesome things.