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PowerPoint Templates vs Themes vs Layouts

PowerPoint templates vs themes -  clear up the confusion once and for all. This video covers the key differences between templates and themes. Also, learn how slide layouts fit into each of these. Specifically, you will learn what a theme is, what a template is, see example templates and discover how slide layouts fit into themes and templates


Are you confused about PowerPoint templates and themes? Are they the same thing or different? If they are different, what is the difference? To add to the confusion there are slide layouts. What on earth are those? There is good news! I am going to clear up the confusion once and for all.

Mini PowerPoint history lesson

For the longest time I thought PowerPoint themes and templates where the same thing. Okay, time for a bit of history lesson. Starting with the 2007 release and depending on who you talked to, many people thought themes and templates were the same thing.

This is because prior to 2007, themes as a function didn’t really exist or wasn’t emphasized in the software. The focus was entirely on the template functionality. The 2007 version made the themes function more prominent. 

But for long-time PowerPoint users, templates remained the focus and themes became synonymous with templates. Microsoft added to the confusion by adding templates to the Select Theme option. And themes to the New File from Template option. No wonder people are still confused.

Microsoft does state there is a different between themes and templates. According to their help site, a theme is “a predefined set of colors, fonts, and visual effects … for a unified, professional look.” Still sounds like a template, right?

What is a theme

Let’s break it down. A theme provides the foundational elements of a slide deck. Those elements are the fonts and color scheme. Some themes might have background images for visual interest. But that is it.

What is a template

A template is a theme PLUS specific content placeholders geared towards the focus or purpose of the presentation. So, the core foundational elements, fonts and color scheme, are still there.

However, there are more graphics or visuals that contribute to an overall look and feel. It provides both a visual boost to the slide deck and defines the type of content to add to individual slides.

Example templates

For instance, if you are giving an annual report presentation, using a business focused template will provide pre-made placeholders for charts, graphs, and customer testimonials.

Whereas a marketing plan template will have content placeholders for market analysis, ideal customer profiles, and a marketing budget.

When you go to websites like slidesgo.com and Slides Carnival, the templates are organized in broad categories like Education, Marketing, and Medical along with really niche templates like World Fiddle Day. Yup, that’s a really a day and that template exists.

How slide layouts fit into themes and templates

At this point, you may be wondering how do slide layouts fit into this. With themes the nine common layouts will be available. Templates, because they are content focused, may have unique or custom layouts. These will influence the type of content and placement on the individual slides. I explain in another post, a quick overview of slide layouts.

About the Author

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Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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