How to control who edits your PowerPoint slides

Collaborating on RFP responses and other projects can be a struggle, especially when you are working with a large number of stakeholders. Getting comments on your PowerPoint slides is particularly problematic. See if this situation sounds familiar: You email your slide deck to a group of colleagues asking for feedback, hoping to receive written commentary and suggested revisions. What you get back instead are email messages that read “see changes attached.” Now you have a gaggle of files with countless slide alterations of which to try and keep track. The only common element is that each stakeholder expects that his or her revisions will count as the final version.

One way to avoid this situation is to password-protect the content of the PowerPoint, thereby forcing each stakeholder to follow instructions by making suggestions in writing. Here is how:

  1. Open your PowerPoint file, and choose File | Save As
  2. In the Save As dialog box, choose General Options… from the Tools menu
  3. In the General Options dialog box, enter a password in the Password to modify field and click OK. Reenter the password and click OK.

Send this PowerPoint file as an attachment. Do not include the password. In the email, ask for written feedback as you usually would, and mention that the attached file is Read Only. The recipients will be able to view, but not edit, the slides.

For the comment box: What other method do you use to protect your PowerPoint files from editing, and what are the pros and cons of your technique?

Comments 1

  1. Nice alternative to what I expected to be the shortest blog post ever: “Save as PDF!”

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on a broader but related question: what’s the best way to review and incorporate feedback on a document. Whether it’s redlining in MS Word, Comments in MS PowerPoint, or direct edits in a Google Doc, it’s a real challenge to keep track of what was original and what was changed, especially when the number of reviewers is large.

    In my opinion, MS Word and redlining is the best approach. It’s easy to see what was original (assuming that reviewers don’t cheat and turn off redlining to make changes!) and what the suggested improvement is. And, if people don’t want to suggest a specific change, they can use Comments to indicate a general concern or thought.

    With a larger group of reviewers, there needs to be some understood etiquette with respect to checking the document out and back in. For instance, the original author might ask the reviewers to notify the group that they are reviewing and will let them know when that review is done. That way, the original author doesn’t end up with multiple versions to pull back together.

    As a rule, I prefer working in Google Docs than MS Word, as the former allows the group to be sure that they are all working on the most recent version of the document. But, the lack of a redlining feature in Google Docs is a deal-killer in that regard. If Google Docs would add a redlining feature, that would definitely be my go-to approach.

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