One of Microsoft Office’s core products, PowerPoint – abbreviated to PPT based on its file extension “.ppt” – is a software program used to create presentations for educational or business purposes.

PowerPoint is a slideshow presentation brand, also referred to as a slide deck or slides. Though PowerPoint is a brand name of Microsoft, the term is widely used colloquially to describe any slideshow presentation application, or the presentation itself.

To aid in designing and organizing information on slides, users have PowerPoint features like graphics, layout configuration, slide transitions, and more. Microsoft’s release of PPTX in 2007 delivered added features like a custom ribbon of tools, SmartArt graphics, and “Presenter View”. In 2012, PowerPoint became a cloud-based offering for clients working online.

In 2020, PowerPoint had upwards of 500 million users and a 95% market share of the presentation software market.

Why is PowerPoint used?

Consumers and personnel use PowerPoint to create, design, and organize information for later utilization. In most instances, the PowerPoint creator uses the slide deck for a presentation they’re giving, but PowerPoint serves additional purposes. As a graphic presentation, PowerPoints are easier to understand for audiences and can be made available for use before and after the presentation.

Example Uses of PowerPoint

Conference Speaker

An aspiring medical student wants to present at a TEDx conference about discoveries in biometric characteristics. The subject material is very technical, so verbally communicating the message could be challenging. To catch people’s attention and make it easier for the audience, the student makes a PowerPoint presentation to aid their presentation, using embedded videos and images to clarify difficult concepts.

Business Meetings

A chief information officer (CIO) prepares a report on a company’s asset inventory and budget. To compare previous years and quarters, they use a PowerPoint to build a single presentation with all information. PowerPoint tools can craft tables, graphics, and more to ensure the slides tell a visual story while the CTO speaks through the data.

Informational Materials

A catch-all for PowerPoint utilization is the valuable information that fills the slides. Like a book or proprietary research, PowerPoint can possess data that’s of use to audiences beyond the individual presentation. Depending on access, individuals can use and learn from PowerPoint presentations made publicly available. Some PowerPoints are public domain works for other individuals or groups to edit and repurpose for their presentation.

How does PowerPoint work?

Users start PowerPoint with one blank slide. From there, users can go any number of directions to format their slide deck. User options for designing and editing include:

  • Color: slide background, graphics
  • Text: fonts, size
  • Graphics: lines, shapes, icons, images
  • Transition: slide-to-slide movement
  • Multimedia: insert photograph, video, audio
  • Slides: adding, deleting, rearranging slides


Since PowerPoint 2007, all PowerPoint formats have taken on the new file extension .pptx. The X in .pptx stands for XML, denoting that the updated software program still manages both .ppt and .pptx files, .pptx is not as compatible with older versions of PowerPoint and Microsoft Office.

When choosing between .ppt and .pptx for crafting a PowerPoint, users most often stick with .pptx as it offers more and newer features and can be easily uploaded to cloud services like Google Slides and PowerPoint Online.

History of PowerPoint

In 1983, developers Rob Campbell and Taylor Pohlman founded Forethought, Inc. and started building a presentation software program dubbed “Presenter.” By 1987, the upstart renamed its program and launched PowerPoint for the Apple Macintosh.

Only months later, Microsoft paid $14 million to purchase Forethought and offer PowerPoint to Windows users starting in 1990 with Windows 3.0. PowerPoint was added to the Microsoft Office suite shortly after and has been a staple for Windows user since

Alternatives to PowerPoint

Sam Ingalls
Sam Ingalls
Sam Ingalls is an award-winning writer and researcher covering enterprise technology, cybersecurity, data centers, and IT trends, for eSecurity Planet, TechRepublic, ServerWatch, Webopedia, and Channel Insider.
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