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PC to Mac and Back

PowerPoint Versions – a History

Before we start, consider that you’ll be dealing with different versions of PowerPoint as well as different platforms.  This is mainly about PC/Mac issues, so we won’t take PowerPoint version differences into account here other than this general set of rules:

We’ll ignore versions of PowerPoint prior to 98 (Mac) and 97 (Windows).

  • PowerPoint 97 (Windows) is very much like PowerPoint 98 (Mac).
  • PowerPoint 2000 (Windows) has no equivalent on Mac, but it only added a few new features to PowerPoint 97.  For all practical purposes, you can consider PowerPoint 97 and 2000 (Windows) and PowerPoint 98 (Mac) pretty much the same.
  • PowerPoint 2002 (Windows) and PowerPoint 2001 (Mac) both added multiple masters and a lot of other new features and bring the Mac and PC versions into rough equivalence again.  2002/2003 also have motion path animation, supported by the PowerPoint 2003 viewer.  Mac PowerPoint versions can’t create motion path animations but beginning with PowerPoint 2004 for Mac, presentations with motion path animations created on Windows can be viewed properly on the Mac.
  • PowerPoint X (Mac) is roughly equivalent to PowerPoint 2002 (Windows) again.  It’s the first PowerPoint version that’s fully compatible with OS X.
  • PowerPoint 2004 (Mac) adds a few new features and better support for the multiple masters and animations on the equivalent Windows versions (PPT 2002 and 2003).
  • PowerPoint 2008 (Mac) and PowerPoint 2007 (Windows) are again approximate equivalents.  Both use the new Office XML file formats.
  • PowerPoint 2011 (Mac) and PowerPoint 2010 (Windows) are the closest equivalents ever. Both use identical XML file formats, support VBA, support add-ins, and embed movies and sounds by default.

PowerPoint Viewers

  • Microsoft SkyDrive has a cross-platform light version of PowerPoint that doubles as the player for recent PowerPoint versions for both Macs and PCs.

File Formats
PowerPoint 97 through 2003 (Windows) and PowerPoint 98 through 2004 (Mac) share the same file format.  They can all open one another’s files.

PowerPoint 2007 (Windows) and 2008 (Mac) introduced a new file format based on XML.  PowerPoint 2007/2008 can open files from earlier versions and save back to the earlier formats (but it’s wise to test this before assuming it’ll work with any particular presentation).

File compatibility exceptions:

  • Windows versions since 2002 can apply password protection to files.  PowerPoint 2011 for Mac can open password-protected files
    (if you know the password, that is!).
  • All Windows versions can embed fonts.  Mac versions can open files that contain embedded fonts but cannot use the fonts.

PowerPoint 2004 and later versions of PowerPoint for Mac includes Compatibility Report, a feature that is designed to alleviate many of the common headaches in optimizing presentations for other versions and other platforms.  This Office-wide feature can be accessed in the ToolBox and in Save As dialogs.

If you create in PowerPoint 2011 on Mac, then move to PC

  • Save your files in PowerPoint XML file format. Uppercase/lowercase doesn’t matter, but don’t use punctuation characters or spaces in your filenames.  Some punctuation marks are PC-safe but may cause problems in email or web applications if files are converted. Dashes (-) and underscores (_) are safe, though.
  • Quicktime content is supported only in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows. Older versions don’t support QuickTime.
  • Links to external graphics files will break.  Embed all graphics.
  • Use fonts in Font Collections > Windows Office Compatible when choose fonts.
  • Use only RGB color for your PowerPoint graphics. PowerPoint will convert CMYK or Pantone colors to RGB anyway.  It’s better to do it yourself so you can control the conversion.  In case that’s not a convincing argument, try this:  PowerPoint may substitute a red X for CMYK graphics.  Ouch.  Stick with RGB.
  • Don’t squeeze your text too tightly into placeholders.  Font substitution and slight differences in text rendering on Mac vs PC can cause your text to get truncated or spill out of too-tight text boxes.

There are more Mac to PC tips here on Creating a Presentation on

If you create on PC then move to Mac PowerPoint 2011

  • Save your files in PowerPoint’s XML file format.
  • Any valid file name you save on Windows is OK when bringing it to a Mac.
  • Links to external files will break.  Embed all graphics, sounds and movies.
  • Use Windows Media (.wmv) or QuickTime for audio and movies. Windows Media requires the free Flip4Mac Quicktime codec on the Mac.
  • Don’t embed fonts. Instead, provide copies of fonts to your Mac users. Mac users should install fonts with Font Book application on their Mac before running your presentation. Many fonts are not free, so don’t steal.
  • Don’t squeeze your text too tightly into placeholders.  Font substitution and slight differences in text rendering on Mac vs PC can cause your text to get truncated or spill out of too-tight text boxes.

X-Platform in either direction, PC to Mac or Mac to PC

  • Embedded objects (Word tables, Excel charts/sheets, graphs, etc.) may not translate well.  Wherever possible, use the tools built into PowerPoint (ie, PowerPoint’s table editor in PPT2000 and up on PC, PPT-X and up on Mac) rather than objects created in external programs.
  • Whereas PowerPoint for Mac uses QuickTime to handle audio and video, PowerPoint 2010 is the only version that supports Quicktime. Old PowerPoint Windows versions use built-in Windows functions (MCI) to do so, which greatly limits the amount of file types that can be viewed on the PC side (only a few, like MPEG and AVI can be handled in old PC PowerPoint). Old versions of PowerPoint on the Mac and PC have compatibility problems. More information on this here

Contributed by Jim Gordon, Mac MVP

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