Corrupted Templates and Master Slides

Like many of you, we’ve run across a number of problems when moving files back and forth between PowerPoint 97-2003 and PowerPoint 2007-10. One of the most obvious issues concerns changes to the templates and master slides. Here, we’ll take a look at what kind of changes to expect and how to deal with them.

First, a quick review of how master slides are set up.

  • PowerPoint 97-2003 .ppt templates typically contain two linked master slides—one for bullet slides and one for titles. It’s probably safe to say that most .ppt templates contain just two master slides. More advanced .ppt users may opt to add additional master slides. This could be a single extra master with special formatting for agenda or section slides, for example, or one or more sets of extra bullet/title masters. Multiple masters can provide layout flexibility and save time but working with them takes some experience.
  • PowerPoint 2007-10 .pptx templates use an entirely different structure. The default template consists of one master slide with 11 linked layout variations (title, section, text columns, charts, pictures, etc.). Formatting changes made to the master slide ripple through all the linked layouts, but each layout can also be given unique graphics and formatting. You can delete layouts or add new ones. You can also insert one or more additional master sets (meaning another unique master slide with 11 layouts).

The problem: Working on a PowerPoint 97-2003 file in PowerPoint 2007-10 results in changes to the master slides. There seems to be no way around this, and the changes occur even if you’re working in compatibility mode (see blog post on “Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for PowerPoint 2007-10”).
When you reopen the file in PowerPoint 97-2003, the master slides will no longer be linked. Unlinked masters means the template has lost some of its functionality, making it more difficult to apply slide layouts—particularly title slides, which may revert to default text formatting. Also, any custom slide layouts created in PowerPoint 2007 (for example, slides with unique backgrounds or special slide transitions) will result in additional master slides added to the PowerPoint 2003 template.
The PowerPoint 2003 template is now corrupted. If the .ppt file is then passed onto others, the corrupted template gets into circulation causing problems for everyone down the road.
The Solution: The best solution is simply to avoid working on PowerPoint 2007 files in 2003, or vice versa, but we know this is unrealistic. If you must work with both versions of PowerPoint, then plan ahead and have on hand two identical templates, one created in PowerPoint 2007 and one in PowerPoint 2003. To fix the template in PowerPoint 2003, you would then reapply the correct template and delete any extra master slides. Unfortunately, the next time the file is opened in 2007, the same template changes will take place.
To reapply the correct template in PowerPoint 2003:

  • Select Format > Slide Design. In the right task pane, click on Browse (at the bottom of the task pane). Microsoft’s default template folder appears. If your template was saved correctly, it should appear in the list. Select the template and click Apply.
  • If you can’t find your template in this list and do not know where it is located, navigate to a presentation that you are confident has the correct template with uncorrupted master slides. Select the file and click Apply.

Now you need to delete any extra master slides. The goal is to end up with just the master slides from the template (review the template if you are not sure what the correct master slides look like):

  • Select View > Master > Slide Master. The correct master slides will appear at the very bottom of the list in the left task pane.
  • To get rid of the extra master slides, right click on each one and select Delete Master.
  • To return to the slide, select View > Normal. You may need to reapply slide layouts on some of the slides in your presentation, especially the title slides.

10 thoughts on “Corrupted Templates and Master Slides

  • June 9, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Valuable info. Lucky me I found your site by accident, I bookmarked it.

  • June 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • April 21, 2011 at 3:18 am

    All the masters I’ve created on my computer in power point 2003 are now corrupted BUT if I open the same file on another computer then its all right.
    Any idea how to solve it??

  • May 10, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    When I right click on the “extra” master at the top, is does not allow me to delete it. If I then try to save the presentation in ppt2003, it fails with an error message. This has happened with a really important presentation. Any suggestions?

  • January 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    I hate corrupted templates too, I was installed this package and solve my problem. ty.


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