Tabs in PowerPoint


“Tabs” are often used for navigation among browser windows and in other user interfaces. They can also be used in PowerPoint; here’s a sample slide with tabs:


This slide is in the “Plan” section of a (fictional) investor pitch. The pitch has five sections corresponding to the five tabs. Every slide has tabs, highlighted according to the section. The presenter can start any section by clicking on a tab on any slide so that she can present the sections in a different order or select some sections and not others. Also, the presenter can exit a section at any point.

WARNING: I used the term “section” in this post before PowerPoint introduced Sections (see this article for an explanation of Sections). Please note that I am NOT referring to official Sections in this post.

In addition to the navigation function, the tabs effectively show the presentation agenda and signal what section is being presented.

The tab shapes are made using Drawing Tools/Merge Shapes; here’s the process:


  • Create a Round Same Side Corner Rectangle (red) and adjust the rounded corner so that it reaches halfway to the opposite side (the maximum). The size and proportion of the rectangle is not important at this point.
  • Copy and invert the rectangle (green); position it as shown.
  • Create an ordinary rectangle (blue) half the height of the red rounded rectangle and extending on both sides to cover the rounded part of the green rectangle.
  • Select the blue rectangle and the green rectangle in order. Apply Merge Shapes/Subtract to remove the corner of the blue rectangle and leave the pointy “ear.”
  • Repeat the process to create the “ear” on the other side of the tab.
  • Finally, apply Union to combine the blue object with the red rectangle to create the tab shape.
  • Use the same techniques to create a tab for one end of the tab strip; duplicate and rotate to create the other end.
  • To create the tab strip, align and temporarily group the appropriate tab shapes. Setting the Grid spacing to a relatively large number and using drawing guides will help with the alignment.
  • Now, size the group to fit the desired space, ungroup and add the text.
  • Add a dark rectangle behind the tabs and fill the tab shapes using your theme color scheme. The highlighted tab should match the slide background color (white in this example). I also added a shadow to each tab (on the right edge) to make the layering clear. Here’s a sample tab strip:


  • You might want to consider a vertical strip, especially if you’re using a wide screen format:


Next, organize your pitch into the appropriate number of sections. Then start with a single tab strip and set a Link for each tab object to the first slide of its “target” section. Now, copy the strip to each slide changing the fill and layering of the tab objects as needed. (It is easier to set the Links once and then copy the strip to each slide.)

For purposes of demonstration, I used this set of slides:


Some notes:

  • There are five sections, each with two (“first” and “last”) slides.
  • I added a “title” slide with the tab strip (no highlight). This allows the presenter to start with any section.
  • I added an “end” slide, also with the tab strip. This allows the presenter to review appropriate sections during a discussion at the end of the pitch.
  • I also added another object to some slides; a “go to end” symbol containing a Link to the end slide. This allows the presenter to end the presentation at any section. (In retrospect, this should probably appear on all the content slides.)

Here are some additional notes on this project:

  • A couple of other similar posts on this blog may provide additional tips and ideas: “Non-linear PowerPoint” and “More Prezi-style PowerPoint.”
  • To use Links, you must be able to click on the objects during your presentation. You can use “presenter mode,” for example.
  • Use the Insert Hyperlink/Place in this Document option to set the links in this project. It is a very good idea to add Screen tips to the link; this assures the presenter that she is selecting the right link.
  • The links are generally stable; however, if you add, replace or delete slides, it’s a good idea to check the links and re-set if necessary.

If you want to try navigating with tabs in a presentation, a free copy of the PowerPoint file for the sample presentation can be had by using the link below and clicking on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – Tabs in PowerPoint

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.


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