How to use a Placeholder in PowerPoint

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The reference “placeholder” is used in Microsoft PowerPoint to identify the boxes on a slide represented by a dotted external border. Placeholders are specifically used to position different types of content on the slide. A placeholder in PowerPoint makes it easy to move and adjust the location of the elements they contain. Most commonly, placeholders contain text and often display the “Click to add …” prompt to assist you in the design process.

Placeholders can contain text, pictures, clip art, tables, charts, SmartArt graphics, and media clips. I often hear users refer to them as “text boxes” and though this is true to a degree, they are much more than containers for text.

A placeholder in PowerPoint can work hand in hand with the slide layout being used on individual slides. If you are not familiar with the use of different slide layouts, I recommend you take a look at my post titled Choosing a slide layout in PowerPoint – why it’s important.

Let’s begin

  1. Open Microsoft PowerPoint
  2. If the Start Screen appears, simply select Blank Presentation otherwise go to next step:

Basics of using Placeholders in PowerPoint

  1. You will have a new blank presentation displayed and you will see 2 x placeholders with prompts to enter text

Customise a placeholder

Quite often I see users insert new content onto a slide using the commands found on the Ribbon, such as Insert > Picture, even though there are placeholders already on the slide which can be used for this exact purpose. It’s important to remember that a placeholder can be edited, formatted, resized and moved on the slide.

When editing a placeholder there is a number of ways you can interact with the object to edit or move it.

To add or edit text within a placeholder:

  1. Click once with the left mouse button anywhere inside the placeholder area e.g. Click to add text
  2. Your cursor will now blink ready for you to enter text
  3. Click inside the first placeholder and give your presentation a title E.g. Using Placeholders
  4. Now click inside the second placeholder and enter a subtitle E.g. your name or a tag line
  5. Once you have finished typing you will see the cursor is still blinking, click outside the placeholder to finish editing the text, if you accidentally press Enter (I do this sometimes out of habit), you will just get a new paragraph within the placeholder, use the Backspace key to remove the new paragraph and then click outside the placeholder to deselect it

To format text within a placeholder:

  1. Click once inside the placeholder area so that the blinking cursor is displayed
  2. Now use the mouse cursor to highlight the text you wish to format
  3. Use the Formatting tools on the Home tab of the Ribbon to apply any formatting styles


  1. To format the entire content of the placeholder at once, place your cursor on the border of the placeholder till you see a four-headed cursor appear


  1. Click once with the left mouse button to select the entire placeholder
  2. The outside border will now be a solid black line

Basics of using Placeholders in PowerPoint

  1. Now use the Formatting tools available on the Home tab of the Ribbon to apply a Font style, size or other formatting characteristics you may wish

Resize a placeholder

When you select a placeholder you will see that it has 8 resize handles around the border plus a rotate handle. These handles allow you to resize and rotate the placeholder as needed.

Basics of using Placeholders in PowerPoint

To resize a placeholder:

  1. Place your cursor over the resize handle you wish to use
  2. The cursor will become a two-headed arrow


  1. Click and hold the left mouse button and move towards the centre of the placeholder or out towards the edge of the slide to adjust the size

To rotate a placeholder:

  1. Place your cursor over the rotate handle at the top of the placeholder
  2. The cursor will become an anti-clockwise circular arrow

Cursor Rotate Target

  1. Click and hold the left mouse button and move the cursor to the left or right, depending on which direction you wish to rotate to

I hope this gives you a good introduction to understanding placeholders and how they are used within PowerPoint. Once you have mastered using placeholders you can then expand your skills through the use of Slide Masters and begin to create your own custom templates in PowerPoint.

Be sure to check out my other Microsoft PowerPoint articles for some more great tips.

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