Can a Notes Page Have no Notes?

This from Janice, a presentation coordinator for Wisconsin-based AMSOIL, INC, makers of synthetic motor oil:

“I need to print the notes pages of a PowerPoint slide deck without the notes. I know that sounds silly — why not just print the slides? I need the slide at the top of the page, just as it appears when you print the notes page, and I need the space at the bottom, where the notes usually are, to be blank.

We are doing handouts this way so that our students can take down their own notes in those blanks as opposed to reading along during presentations. If we print out just slides, it prints the slide large and in the center. I’ve tried messing around with page layout, but haven’t had any luck.”


Upon reading Janice’s email, I figured the answer would be simple. Perhaps not obvious, but simple: remove the notes placeholder from the notes master. I was wrong.

First, let’s review. The appearance of the notes pages in a slide deck is controlled by a notes master, just as the look of your slides is governed by the slide master. Few people pay much attention to the notes master because they rarely care about redesigning their notes. I don’t spend much time there, either, and my first inclination was hasty. I figured that I could instruct Janice to enter Notes Master view, select the placeholder that holds the notes, and delete it.

As I said, I was wrong.

When you eliminate a placeholder altogether, PowerPoint does not behave well. Like when a limb gets amputated, the brain wants to believe that it is still there. Remove the title placeholder from a standard slide master and PowerPoint 2003 will defy you and keep the titles on the slide. Remove the slide image from the notes master and PowerPoint puts it back. Remove the notes placeholder from the notes master and PowerPoint pretends that it is still there and continues to show you your notes.

The not-so-elegant workaround requires that you placate PowerPoint by not removing the placeholder: instead, just make it invisible. Shrink it down to a manageable size and park it off the boundary of the notes page, like this:

PowerPoint is okay with it being useless, as long as it exists. Now when Janice prints her notes pages, she gets exactly what she was hoping for: the slide image on the top half of the page, and open space on the bottom half.

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