Media files in Powerpoint

2006/11/03 by Lassi A. Liikkanen

On this page:
o Support
o Images
o Audio
o Video
o Video issues
o References

Embedding photos, sounds and video to PowerPoint

Do you have problems with Powerpoint (PPT) not playing your video, not showing your images, not playing sounds or creating awfully huge files? If so, this guide is for you. Here it is explained how PowerPoint (embeds and links media files such as images, audio, and video. This guide is based on Microsoft Office Powerpoint 2002 (XP), but it applies to other versions as indicated in the text.

Linking and embedding

There are two principle ways of attaching media to PPT presentation: linking and embedding. They are actually universal in the software world, so if you're familiar with the terms you can skip this paragraph. Embedding means that the media file is included (embedded) in the PPT file, whereas linked files are not, as the PPT file only contains pointers or links to the media files found on your computer. Sounds very simple, but the problem is that they both produce identical (almost) results when viewed from the PowerPoint, that is, as long as all files stay in their positions. With embedded files, you're safe, but linked files can be problematic if you need to transfer your presentation to another computer, because the file you have linked, e.g. C:\Documents and Settings\Mary\My Documents\SoundsCool.mp3 may not be present on the other computer on the exactly same place and hence PowerPoint can't find it! There are two solutions to this problems, first embed all the files you (see below) or use the Pack and GO wizard (abbreviated as PNG, from PowerPoint 2003 called Package for CD) found in the File menu. It automatically packs all linked filed and the PPT into a single package (two files, to be exact). Files will remain linked properly after the packaged is opened on a different computer, so you can be certain that the media files will work anywhere you go (but see a note about the video files). As a third option, you can keep all your to-be-linked media files in the same directory with the PPT file or use a third-party tools to convert your PPT presentation to a Flash movie or other format that can embed all media clips.

One common issue for all media files is the requirement of file type support, which must be installed for all media types you want to include in your presentations. For video and audio files, this means that you must have the codec (audio video decoder software) installed in the the machine running Powerpoint. If you're unfamiliar with file formats, see Wikipedia on File formats and follow the links to the audio and video formats. In modern computers, this is likely only an issue with the video files.

Summary of media support in PPT

Embedding and linking support for different media types.

Media Embedding Linking
Images Yes Yes*
Audio Yes * Yes
Video No Yes*

* = with exceptions

Images (including charts, figures and such)

By default, all images are embedded into the PPT file. This has positive and negative consequences. It's good that you always have your images with the presentation, but on the other hand, the size of the presentation may increase considerably. To avoid the PPT filesize getting too big, you should crop and resize the images (see Microsoft's tip about image size), IF you're not creating a show that will printed in high resoluion. Another option for big images is linking. To do this, select Link action from the dropdown button (don't know what else to call it) in the Insert -> Picture -> Picture from file... dialog. Next, I will briefly introduce few 'best practices', that you should take into consideration.

Reducing PPT filesize by cropping and compressing

With PowerPoint 2002 and later you can use the Format picture -> Picture (tab) -> Compress dialog (found from the image properties) to compress and crop all images you've included in the PPT (see references about reducing file sizes). This won't affect original files, but in case you would like enlarge an image later on you will have to insert it again to get back the original resolution.

Import images properly

It is suggested that you embed files using Insert -> Picture -> Picture from file... because this ensures the image is embedded as an image of a proper format, not as an object as might happen if you just paste (or drag from another application) it from the clipboard. If you favor clipboard, use Edit -> Paste special... to select the appropriate format, which should be device independent bitmap for all images. When importing snapshots from Adobe Acrobat (Reader), avoid using Picture format because PPT can't crop or compress it and thus leads to extremely big and slow file sizes.

Several Powerpoint tip pages claim that if you paste an image, it will be included as bitmap, which is not a very good format when going for small file sizes. However, I atleast with PPT XP, this doesn't seem to affect the file size at all(see the chart below). However, if you'd like to import an Excel chart for instance, you should copy the object to the clipboard and then choose Edit -> Paste as... -> Picture (Enhanced Windows Metafile) (starting from Office 2003, this is the default behavior). Otherwise you will embed the whole Excel workbook file (or most of the .XLS) in to your PPT! In my experience, this can be of 500kB magnitude for individual charts! (see the bottom of the chart below). So if you have final versions of the graphs or spreadsheets, import them as images instead of objects.

File sizes of a PPT file containing two slides and one object, linked or embedded image or chart

Importing an image
test.bmpbmp2 359 350
test.jpgjpg153 507
TEST_BMP_embedd.pptppt113 152
TEST_BMP_embedd_compress.pptppt122 880
TEST_BMP_from_clipboard.pptppt113 152
TEST_BMP_from_clipboard_compressed.pptppt122 880
TEST_BMP_from_clipb-REMOVED.pptppt8 704
TEST_BMP_linked.pptppt8 704
TEST_embed_JPEG.pptppt174 080
TEST_embed_JPEG_compress.pptppt41 472
TEST_empty.pptppt9 216
TEST_empty_no_prev.pptppt8 704
TEST_linked_JPEG.pptppt8 704
TEST_no_image_placeholder.pptppt8 704
Importing an Excel chart
test.xlsxls4 901 376
Test2-XL_AS_EMF.pptppt10 752
Test2-XL_AS_picture.pptppt10 240
Test2-XL_AS_XL_CHart.pptppt603 648
Test2-XL_chart_clipboard.pptppt603 648


Several audio file formats can be used with PowerPoint. Linking or embedding (L/E) depends on the setting found in Tools -> Options -> General (tab). There you can determine the maximum size of files to be embedded. You can increase the value uptil 50 MB, bigger files must be linke. What's more important, the file type also affects the L/E, because PPT embeds only .wav files. This is not very favorable, since MP3 is nowadays the most popular sound format and also very effective compressor. Fortunately, there is a way around this annoyance, you need to modify the headers of a MP3 file and rename it. Technology Trish Ltd. describes a method for doing this using CDex freeware program. After conversion to RIFF format, you can have a MP3 file with a suffix .WAV, which can be embedded in PPT! Very nice, eventhough you would expect this to be the default behavior...


The video support of PPT has changed a bit from version to version. All versions support linking of AVI and Windows Media Video (WMV) files, with PPT 97 or 2000 use theInsert -> Embed object action, in newer version, this is done through the Insert ->Movies and Sounds menu option, which can also link Quicktime. Other video formats, such as Flash and RealMedia, must be linked as objects (Insert -> Object...) and played in their own applications. In all cases, the actual video file will not be embedded in the PPT and the difference between object or video linking refers to fact that AVI files, for instance, can be viewed within the PPT application windows, that is, in the show.

Typical problems with video files

For AVI format videos, video decoder (codec) is always required because the video is usually compressed in some way. If you use common video formats (MPEG1, WMV 7) your chances of getting the video played on a random PC are better. If you're unfamiliar with file formats, see Wikipedia on File formats - Pack and Go in depth

Technology Trish Ltd - Embedding a MP3 files

Embedding Flash videos to PPT

Reducing the size of Powerpoint files


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Keywords: [windows] , [computers] Document's status: Ok (Document dates explained)

This document created: 2006/10/29
Modified: 2006/11/03
Published: 2006/10/29

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