Jamie Garroch is the founder of YOUpresent, a PowerPoint add-in and presentation design agency. YOUpresent provides a suite of off-the-shelf add-ins plus a custom add-in design service for organizations wishing to extend the functionality of PowerPoint or other Office apps. That can be anything from adding a single button to apply a corporate style, to a fully loaded ribbon with custom tools tuned to the organization’s workflow. Known as “extensibility,” Jamie is a passionate evangelist of this relatively unknown productivity feature of Microsoft Office.
In this conversation, Jamie talks about the new Custom Colors feature in his YOUtools add-in for PowerPoint.
Jamie, can you tell us more about what Custom Colors are, and how does one typically add Custom Colors in PowerPoint?
Jamie: Of course Geetesh! Custom Colors are a feature of Microsoft Office that has existed since the 2007 release. They work across the suite of Office applications and are particularly useful in PowerPoint, which is also the best application for creating cross-compatible theme (.THMX) files for deployment across Microsoft Office.
Custom Colors are specific RGB (Red/Green/Blue) “spot” colors, which you can define in addition to the Theme colors. When you open an Office document that includes programmed Custom Colors, you have access to a new section in the color gallery as shown below.
PowerPoint template designers can use the Custom Colors to compliment a brand’s guideline specification. This is particularly useful when the full range of brand colors exceeds the number supported by an Office Theme, currently 10 unique colors (plus a further 2 for hyperlinks). In addition, organizations may not want their users to use the 50 x auto-generated tint and shade variants of the primary Theme Colors as this can cause dilution of their brand. Custom Colors can therefore be used to create an alternative palette of custom tints and shades, which remain on-brand.
The challenge with Custom Colors is that there is currently no mechanism within any Microsoft application to define them. In order to do this, you need to manually create and add geeky XML code to the internal archive of the Office file in question e.g. a PPTX or POTX file. Microsoft MVP Echo Swinford has a step-by-step guide to show you how to do this but since XML is extremely fussy, it’s very easy to break your file, often beyond the point of repair. Note to all readers: always backup!
Geetesh: How do the new options in YOUtools make it easy to add Custom Colors? What motivated you to create this new workflow, and can you share some feedback from users?
Jamie: YOUtools addresses the need to create and “program” custom colors using a three-tier approach for users based on their level of ability and comfort in “hacking” XML code:
- Creating color swatches
- Creating the XML
- Applying the XML to the Theme
Firstly, it addresses how to create the colors themselves. This might seem obvious but if you want a monochromatic set of color swatches it’s hard to do in the RGB color model alone and switching to and from the HSL model is the best way to do that. So YOUtools provides a user-friendly interface for defining the color swatches using RGB and HSL sliders. It also includes direct text entry of RGB/HSL/Hex for those users working from a brand guideline document, something PowerPoint doesn’t support natively.
Secondly, YOUtools can automatically generate the required XML code for you, which you can then copy and then paste into the required XML document using the methods discussed in Echo’s article. This might be the preferred path for users not starting with a blank template because a more mature template may have had some features set up that get removed when PowerPoint applies a new Theme to a document. These may include the default table style, Super Themes, Custom Colors for Handout and Notes Masters and the side effect that may cause duplication of graphical elements added to the Master or custom Slide Layouts.
Finally, for those users who prefer not to no go insane with the sensitive nature of XML, YOUtools provides a mechanism to automatically insert the XML code with the correct case/syntax in the right position of the right sub-file that makes up the XML definition of your presentation or template.
We’ve taken feedback from users from the start to finish of the development of this feature and incorporated pretty much everything we’ve heard so far. Huge thanks must go to yourself Geetesh, plus Echo Swinford of Echo’s Voice, Julie Terberg of Terberg Design, Sandy Johnson of Presentation Wiz, Nolan Haims of Nolan Haims Creative and Tom Howell of Synapsis Creative. These industry-leading experts have generously shared their time and experience and as a result have had a huge impact on the development of this feature.
As for feedback, this quote comes from Neil Malek of Knack Training and sums up how many users feel about YOUtools:
You can discover more about YOUtools by visiting this site.