Try Using Ink Tools such as a Pen and Highlighter to Focus Attention during PowerPoint Shows

by Avantix Learning Team | Updated August 2, 2020

Applies to: Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019 and 365 (Windows)

You can access PowerPoint’s ink annotation tools including a pen and a highlighter during a slide show to focus attention or write on slides. These tools have been around for a while and you can use them in previous versions of PowerPoint.

Using the annotation tools, you can create an interesting digital whiteboard or blackboard effect with the pen and/or highlighter. Simply press B for black screen or W for white screen during a show and then use the ink annotation tools.

These slide show tools can be used on the fly during a slide show. If you want to use similar effects every time you run a specific presentation, consider creating drawing objects and animating them instead.

After you display the Pen or Highlighter during a show, if you want to return to the Arrow pointer, press Control + A or press Escape.

Recommended article: No Mouse? Using Keyboard Only Navigation in Microsoft Office (Part 1: The Ribbon)

Drawing on slides using the Pen tool during a slide show

You can use the Pen tool to draw on slides. It’s easily accessed through the context menu (below) during a slide show:

Display Microsoft PowerPoint context memu to access the pen tool.

To use the Pen tool and draw on a slide during a slide show:

  1. Open an existing presentation.
  2. Click the Slide Show button on the bottom right.
  3. In Slide Show View, point to the bottom left area of screen. A series of icons will appear.
  4. Click the Pen icon. A menu will appear. Choose the Pen tool from the menu. Alternatively, you can also right-click or press Shift + F10 to display a menu, choose Pointer Options and then Pen. You can also press Ctrl + P to display the Pen tool. The cursor changes to a small colored dot (the default color of the Pen tool is red).
  5. Drag to draw or write on the slide. Hold down Shift as you draw to draw straight lines.
  6. Press Escape when you’re finished using the Pen.

Changing the color of the Pen

To change the color of the Pen:

  1. In Slide Show View, point to the bottom left area of screen.
  2. Click the Pen icon or right-click to display the menu. Select Ink Color from the menu and then select a color from the sub-menu. There are two types of colors – Theme Colors and Standard Colors. Theme colors may differ as they are affected by the Theme for the presentation but Standard Colors will always contain the same 10 colors for all presentations.
  3. Display the pen and draw as usual.

Drawing on slides using the Highlighter tool during a slide show

The Highlighter tool is different from the Pen tool. It creates lines that start out in yellow, are semi-transparent and are thicker than lines created with the Pen tool. You can access the Highlighter tool using the context menu (below) during a slide show.

Microsoft PowerPoint context menu during slide show to access the highlighter tool.

To use the Highlighter tool and draw on a slide during a slide show:

  1. Open an existing presentation.
  2. Click the Slide Show button on the bottom right.
  3. In Slide Show View, point to the bottom left area of screen. A series of icons will appear.
  4. Click the Pen icon. A menu will appear. Choose the Highlighter tool from the menu. Alternatively, you can also right-click or press Shift + F10 to display a menu, choose Pointer Options and then Highlighter. The cursor changes to a yellow line (the default color of the Highlighter tool is yellow).
  5. Drag to draw or write on the slide. Hold down Shift as you draw to draw straight lines.
  6. Press Escape when you’re finished using the Highlighter.

Changing the color of the Highlighter

To change the color of the Highlighter:

  1. In Slide Show View, point to the bottom left area of screen.
  2. Click the Pen icon or right-click or press Shift + F10 to display the menu. Select Ink Color from the menu and then select a color from the sub-menu. There are two types of colors – Theme Colors and Standard Colors. Theme colors may differ as they are affected by the Theme for the presentation but Standard Colors will always contain the same 10 colors for all presentations.
  3. Display the highlighter and draw as usual.

Erasing or hiding ink annotations in Slide Show view

When you are working with ink annotations with the Pen or Highlighter tools in Slide Show view, you can use the following shortcuts to erase or hide annotations:

  • Press E to remove all annotations on the slide.
  • Press Ctrl + E to change to the Eraser tool and then drag over annotations to erase them. Press Escape when you’re finished using the Eraser.
  • Press Ctrl + M to hide or show all annotations.

You can also use the menus you used earlier to select the Eraser.

Keeping or discarding ink annotations

When you press the ESC to end a show, a message will appear asking if you want to keep your annotations:

Prompt to save ink annotations in PowerPoint.

It’s a good idea to click the Keep rather than the Discard button since there’s no way of recovering annotations if you choose Discard. If you keep annotations, PowerPoint refers to them as ink.

Deleting ink annotations in Normal View

If you decided keep ink annotations, they become objects on your slides.

To delete them in Normal View:

  1. Click the Review tab on the Ribbon.
  2. Click the Delete button in the Comments group and select an option from the drop-down menu. If you choose “Delete All Markup on the Current Slide”, PowerPoint deletes all ink on the current slide. If you select “Delete All Markup in This Presentation”, PowerPoint deletes all ink on all the slides in your presentation.

Button to delete ink annotations in PowerPoint.

Formatting ink annotations in Normal View

If you have chosen to keep annotations, you can format them in Normal view:

  1. Click an ink annotation.
  2. Click the Ink Tools Pens tab in the Ribbon.
  3. Click Select Objects.
  4. Select the ink object(s) you want to format.
  5. Choose the desired options from Ink Tools Pen tab in the Ribbon.

Ink annotations are easy to use in presentations but you may have issues if the slides have animations on them.

This article was first published on April 16, 2016 and has been updated for clarity and content.

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