Color Swatch for PowerPoint 2003: Conversation with Jamie Garroch

Created: Monday, September 30, 2013, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 4:00 am

Jamie GarrochJamie Garroch, CEO of GMARK Ltd. and owner of, founded the company to provide presentation professionals with presentation software, content and training. Jamie uses a range of presentation and e-learning tools on PC and Mac from PowerPoint to Keynote, Adobe CS and iSpring for presentations and Articulate Storyline for e-learning. He also uses PowerPoint as a programming environment to create authoring automation for his company’s productivity needs, custom add-ins for clients and off-the-shelf products for presentation designers.

In this conversation, Jamie discusses the new Color Swatch add-in for PowerPoint 2003.

Geetesh: Tell us about your free Color Swatch add-in for PowerPoint 2003 users and how this evolved?

Jamie: We love problem solving at GMARK. It’s in our DNA and there’s nothing better than providing solutions to them for clients and seeing them make a difference in the real world. Outside of our day-to-day client responsibilities, we also love to read about the challenges people face in the wider presenting community. LinkedIn Groups are one of the places we find high quality tips and discussions in addition to some real head-scratching questions.

Recently, someone asked in the Indezine PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff group: What’s the best way to convert a PowerPoint 2010 template to PowerPoint 2003?.

During the conversation that ensued, it became apparent that the poster’s corporate client needed the same branding colors to be available to both PowerPoint 2010 and 2003 users. While PowerPoint 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2013 provide a more flexible approach to color palettes or ‘swatches’ through their use of Themes, PowerPoint 2003 provided a more limited set of color schemes. We therefore wondered if it was possible to create an add-in for PowerPoint 2003 that provided extended color features for two distinct user roles within organisations that use multiple version of PowerPoint:

  1. Designer Role: Be able to create a custom color swatch/palette in PowerPoint 2003
  2. User Role: Be able to use the custom color swatch/palette when authoring presentation content

The designer role is a one-off activity and helps the original LinkedIn poster to replicate the custom color swatch available in newer versions of PowerPoint within PowerPoint 2003.

The user role is a day-to-day use case whereby they need to access the extended palette from newer versions of PowerPoint to change text and shape outline & fill colors.

We designed and coded the initial add-in in a single day using the VBA functionality available in PowerPoint although we will add additional features in the coming weeks. The result is a new toolbar that provides both the designer and user extended color features as shown in this screenshot:

You can download the add-in and we’d love to hear what you think of it!

Geetesh: Isn’t it strange that so many corporate clients still use PowerPoint 2003 — in fact I still do training for clients on 2003! Can you share some thoughts on why PowerPoint 2003 represents such an important client base?

Jamie:There are all sizes of clients, from single consultant business through SMEs to large multi-national corporations. For the smaller companies, they tend to keep up with the latest software technology and are often using the latest version of Microsoft Office, if not the one before.

For larger corporations, keeping up with Microsoft Office, Windows, Exchange and various other software required to keep the company running is a massive investment. It’s not just about the cost of upgrading licenses but the testing of a new environment to make sure other interconnected systems don’t fall over and eventually, the end user training programs that are required. This can often lead to thousands if not millions of dollars.

Taking an example, we have a client in the US that employees almost half a million people world-wide. They have to upgrade users based on priority and we see the marketing and communications teams [that we interface with] getting the latest versions of Microsoft Office much earlier, often one to two years, than the thousands of sales executives on the field. It’s these ‘designer’ types of roles that need the latest versions of creative software to keep their brand fresh while the ‘field’ employees tend to consume the content and hence don’t need the full authoring access. They could often get away with the free PowerPoint viewer but that’s a whole different conversation!

Categories: color, interviews, powerpoint_2003

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  • Is it possible to use the 2003 color pallette within Office 2013.
    I am not using PowerPoint 2003, but would love to be able to use its more basic, and less drab, colors.

  • I'll second David's question. I know I would like easy access to the 15 CGA colors used by 2003 and I know MANY other people have asked for them too.

    The color schemes/themes offered by all of the "improved" ribbon versions are so BORING!

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