You can buck the stereotype of PowerPoint presentations as bullet-pointed snoozefest. PowerPoint has a wealth of new graphics, layout, and animation features to liven up your deck. We'll focus on how to add tables, charts, graphics, and images to your slides, but that's just a sample--delve deeper into the menus and you'll find a wealth of additional options.

Hot templates: easy starters

Like the other programs in the 2013 suite, PowerPoint has a new Home page packed with professional templates in seven different categories (business, calendars, charts & diagrams, education, medical, nature, and photo albums). In each category, there are hundreds to thousands of template options.

For this example, choose the Business category, and select the Business Digital Blue Tunnel Presentation.

On the template view screen, click Create.

This template, like so many others, includes five pre-designed slides that only require you to type over the sample data and modify the graphics to customize the slides.

The following slides provide five different layout options (plus a blank background slide) to continue customizing your presentation.

Choose one of the two layout pages that display the six icons inside a dotted square. Each icon represents an option to insert a special feature. For example, you can insert a table, a chart, a SmartArt Graphic, a picture from your local drive or the web, or a video.

Insert Table

Click the spreadsheet icon in the box. In the Insert Table dialog box, enter five columns and 10 rows, then click OK.

Click the table to select it, and position the cursor on one of the square handles (top, bottom, or sides) to size it. Place the cursor on one of the borders; when it changes to a pointed cross, click, hold, and drag to move it. Position the cursor on any of the column or row lines to resize the columns and rows.

Enter your custom title and text where it says Click to Add Title and Click to Add Text, respectively. Next, enter your data into the table. If you need additional columns or rows, position your cursor in the white space of the table and right-click. Two formatting dialog boxes appear to provide a number of options, plus the ability to insert and delete columns and rows.

Let's add an additional "Totals" column. Position your cursor on the top row's last column on the right. Right-click, then select the Insert Column/Row icon and choose Insert Columns to the Right. A new column drops in for your Totals data.

Insert Chart

Charts are always preferable to a matrix of numbers.

If you didn't copy this slide before you changed it, you can insert another template for this page from the Home tab. Click Home, select New Slide, then click the Content with Caption slide. It drops in after the slide you're working on. To move it, just click, hold, and drag to new location. 

On this new slide, click the Insert Chart icon, select the Column chart type from the tab on the left, choose the 3D Clustered Column chart style from the icons at the top, and click OK.

A chart spreadsheet appears for your custom data, plus three icon buttons on the right to modify the chart elements, chart style and colors, and to change the chart data after the chart is created. 

Enter the names of the sales agents from the previous table. Enter some hypothetical sales totals (since the table shows the same numbers for every agent) and delete the two additional columns B and C (because we are creating a chart that compares only one column of numbers--sales totals) and watch the chart develop as you type. You can change the colors using the Style/Color options dialog box, resize the chart, then close the spreadsheet.

Editing a spreadsheet in PowerPoint is just like editing one in Excel. You can delete columns and rows, size columns, and use the editing F2 key. Also, notice the icons across the top of the spreadsheet. The chart icon displays the Move, Size, Minimize, Maximize, Close dialog box. Click the disk icon to update the data or changes you make. The arrow icons are Undo and Redo, and the small spreadsheet icon with the green 'X' box is the option to edit the data in Excel. 

Insert SmartArt Graphic

SmartArt Graphics (SAG) are slideshow gold. This collection of infographics includes everything you need to create organizational charts, graphical bullet lists, timelines, process arrows, radial clusters, pyramids, gears, funnels, labeled grids, and so much more. This feature has so many options, it would take several articles to cover them all.

For our example, select the Two Content template slide. Click the SAG icon in the left box first. From the Choose a SmartArt Graphic screen, select Cycle (from the list of nine SAG types), then click the Hexagon Radial icon, and click OK. Note the graphic and a description of how it's typically used appears in the View pane on the right.

The Hexagon Radial SAG appears in the left box. You can enter your text on the graphic or in the text dialog box. Click the individual Text words (inside the square brackets) on the graphic to enter text there, or click the small arrow to access the Type Your Text Here dialog box. Enter your text in the Text dialog box, then close it.

For the right side, click the SAG icon and, again, from the Choose a SmartArt Graphic screen, select Picture from the list, then click the Vertical Picture Accent List icon, and click OK. The graphic and a description of how it's typically used appears in the View pane on the right.

The Vertical Picture Accent List SAG appears in the right box. Again, you can enter your text on the graphic or in the text dialog box. Click the individual Text words (inside the square brackets) on the graphic to enter text there, or click the small arrow to access the Type Your Text Here dialog box. Enter your text in the Text dialog box, then click the circle icons beside each line of text to insert a picture inside the circle.

Enter a topic in the Search box on the Insert Pictures screen, then click the spyglass. Choose an image from the scrolling list, then click Insert.  You can also insert your own images (From a File), or stock images from the Internet (Bing Image Search).

Enter a slide title, subtitles, and resize the graphics to fit the page more aesthetically. Right-click on each graphic to change colors, font, attributes, and other elements as described above, then check out your flashy slide!

Pictures

This next feature adds more panache with a single step. Click the Pictures icon, select an image from your local hard drive, then click Insert and PowerPoint does the rest.

To resize an image, click it, grab one of the handles, and drag. Enter the title and text, and it's finished.

Online pictures

Adding online pictures is easy: Choose New Slide from the Home tab and select the Two Content template slide from the drop-down menu. Click the Online Pictures icon in the left box. From the Insert Pictures screen, enter "computer" in the Office.com Clip Art search box, then click the spyglass. Scroll through the images, select one that works for your presentation, and click Insert.

On the right side of the Two Content template slide, click the Online Pictures icon again. From the Insert Pictures screen, enter a topic in the Bing Image Search box. Selecting this option extends your search across the entire Internet. Enter "apple mac," then click the spyglass. From the Bing Image Search screen, scroll through the images, select one, and click Insert.

Enter your titles and text (if needed), then size and position your graphics on the page.

Insert video

The last finesse for PowerPoint's default options is the Insert Video feature. You can insert videos from your local drive, YouTube, or a video's embed code. This is great news for companies with widespread branches and dozens of corporate videos on YouTube.

Insert another New Slide from the Home tab. Select the Content with Caption slide and click the Insert Video icon. On the Insert Video screen, you have three options--choose YouTube and click the spyglass. On the YouTube screen, enter "windows" in the Search box and click the spyglass again. Choose a YouTube video that fits your subject matter. To avoid copyright issues, we have selected a Windows/Office video. Click the video, then click Insert.

PowerPoint drops the video in the dotted box. Add your titles and text, resize and position the video on the slide, then save your presentation. 

To view your finished slideshow, press F5 or click the Slideshow tab and select the From the Beginning button in the Start Slideshow Group and watch it play. When it gets to the last slide, click the Play button in the center of the screen and watch the video you selected.

Stay tuned for more articles about how to liven up slides in PowerPoint 2013, including custom animations and tips on best design practices.