Understand the difference between PowerPoint templates and themes

In this article:

What is a PowerPoint template?

What is a PowerPoint theme?

What is a PowerPoint template?

A PowerPoint template is a pattern or blueprint of a slide or group of slides that you save as a .potx file. Templates can contain layouts, theme colors, theme fonts, theme effects, background styles, and even content.

You can create your own custom templates and store them, reuse them, and share them with others. You can also find hundreds of different types of free templates for PowerPoint and other programs on Office.com and on other partner Web sites that you can apply to your presentation.

The following are just a few examples of the FREE PowerPoint templates that you can find on Office.com:


Award certificates



Business cards


Slides containing content



Design slides



Expense reports

Fax sheets


Common forms

Gift certificates

Greeting cards













Purchase orders








Time sheets

A template can include the following:

Soccer template

1. Subject-specific content, such as Certificate of Achievement, Soccer, and the soccer ball image. Generally this text or content is only editable from the slide master.

2. Background formatting, such as pictures, texture, gradient or solid fill color, and transparency. This example shows the light blue solid fill background

3. Color, fonts, effects (3-D, lines, fills, shadows, etc.), and theme design elements (such as the color and gradient effects inside the word Soccer)

4. Text placeholders that allow people to enter unique information to customize the slide for their own needs, such as Player's name, Name of coach, Date of presentation, and any variable, such as the year (2010)

What is a PowerPoint theme?

To give your presentations a designer-quality look — a look that includes one or more slide layouts with coordinating colors, a matching background, fonts, and effects, you'll want to apply a theme. Themes can also be applied to tables, SmartArt graphics, shapes, or charts in your slides.

In PowerPoint 2010, there are several built-in themes, and you have unlimited options for customizing them.

The gallery of built-in themes that you can use as-is or customize (also shows custom themes) further to meet your needs

You can see a live preview before you apply a theme. Live preview lets you experiment with how your slide content looks with different themes; simply rest your pointer over a thumbnail in the Themes gallery to see how your presentation changes with the different themes.

Image of different themes applied to the same SmartArt graphic
Four different themes that are applied to the same slide that contains a SmartArt graphic

You can use and share themes among all theme-supporting Office programs, such as Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. For example, you can save a theme that you created or customized in PowerPoint, and then apply it to a Word 2010 document or Excel 2010 worksheet. That way, all of your related business documents have a similar look and feel.

Example of the same theme used in multiple programs
The same theme used in PowerPoint, Excel, and Word

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