In this article, you will learn now to use PowerPoint’s built-in laser pointer (or laser pen) which comes in three different colors: red, green and blue.
This laser pen feature is a built-in Microsoft PowerPoint feature (you don't need to buy or download anything extra) that you can use to highlight things during your presentations and webinars.
The only downside is it does require you to use your mouse or track-pad. That said, it's better than other laser pointers in that:
- It's a free feature of PowerPoint that you can always fall back on if you need to (even if you decide to buy one).
- It doesn't require any batteries to work (assuming your computer still has juice in it).
- It has three customization colors, so it will work regardless of your presentation background or theme colors (details on those here).
Why is a laser pointer useful during a presentation?
The reason a laser pointer is useful during a presentation, is that it allows you to focus your audience's attention on a specific aspect of your slide.
As you can see in the picture above, I'm using the laser pointer to focus everyone's attention on the fact that there has been 100% growth in the chart.
In the same way, during your presentation you could use this to highlight:
- Different rows in a table
- The people on your team (as you talk about them)
- Ideas for a marketing campaign as you highlight them
- Anything really!
In essence, it allows you to control the ebb and flow of your presentation, by pointing things out on screen during your presentation.
Turning on the Laser Pointer in PowerPoint
There are two different ways you can use PowerPoint’s built-in pointer.
Let’s start with just using your mouse, then I'll show you the PowerPoint shortcut.
To turn your mouse cursor into a laser pointer during your PowerPoint presentation, simply:
- Hit F5 to run start your slide show
- Right-click a slide to open the Right-Click Menu
- Open the Pointer Options
- Select Laser pointer
Doing so, your mouse cursor becomes a colored pointer that you can drag around on your screen to highlight things in your presentation as pictured below.
This works in both the Slide Show View (F5) and the Presenter View (Shift + F5).
To learn all the different ways you can start a PowerPoint slideshow (including the different keyboard shortcuts), read our article here.
Note: The default color for the PowerPoint pointer is red, but you can turn it into a blue or green laser pointer as discussed below.
Turning off the Laser Pointer in PowerPoint
Once you turn the pointer on using the technique described above, your mouse cursor will remain in the laser pointer mode until you turn it off (which I"ll show you how to do next).
There are two ways to turn it off.
First off, if you are sitting at your computer, the fastest way to turn it off is to hit Esc on your keyboard.
Doing so, your cursor turns back into the standard PowerPoint arrow cursor.
An alternate way to turn it off (or change the mouse cursor into something else) is to simply:
- Right-click your slide in Slide Show view
- Select Pointer Options
- Click Arrow Options (or choose Pen or Highlighter)
- Select Visible
Selecting Visible turns your mouse cursor back into the normal PowerPoint arrow cursor.
If you want to turn your cursor into the Pen or Highlighter, you can also do that with keyboard shortcuts, as we discuss in our article here.
Laser Pointer Shortcut
If you like PowerPoint shortcuts, then you will love this laser pointer shortcut.
While presenting a PowerPoint slide show, you can jump in an out of the laser pointer by holding the Ctrl key down on your keyboard, and clicking and dragging with your mouse.
While you are holding Control and clicking and dragging with your mouse, your mouse cursor turns into a laser pointer (the color will be set to the default color you choose in the step - and as you can see, it can be blue as shown below).
As soon as you let go of the Ctrl key or stop clicking and dragging with your mouse, your mouse cursor will go back to the normal PowerPoint arrow cursor again.
This is a super fast way you can use the laser pointer to highlight things in your presentation on the fly and impress your clients and colleagues, as most people don't know how to do this.
If you want to learn more PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts that will save you time when building and editing your slides, read our guide here.
How to change the laser pointer color
PowerPoint has 3 different laser pointer colors you can choose from: green, red and blue.
Out of the box, PowerPoint always starts with the red color, but you can easily change it to green or blue if you want to, through the Set Up Slide Show dialog box.
To change the color of the laser pointer in PowerPoint, simply:
- Navigate to the Slide Show tab
- Select the Set Up Slide Show command
- Open the Laser Pointer Color drop down
- Choose your color (Green, Red or Blue)
- Click OK
Once you change the pointer color, it will remain that color (red, green or blue) for that specific presentation until you change it again.
All of your other PowerPoint presentations will continue to have the red default color, until you change it to green or blue in the Setup Up Slide Show dialog box.
Set Up Slide Show Shortcut
If you want to shortcut to the Set Up Slide Show dialog box, you can do that by holding the Shift key on your keyboard, and clicking the Reading Pane icon at the bottom of your PowerPoint window.
To see this in action, and learn some other hidden PowerPoint shortcuts, click play below.
The Set Up Slide Show dialog box is also the trick to running two or more PowerPoint slide shows at the same time. To learn how to do this, see our article here.
Why bother changing the laser pointer color?
The most important reason why you would want to change the color of your pointer, is so that it stands out against your slide background.
Notice in the picture below, how much clearer the green laser pointer is against the red slide background, than the red one is.
The same would be true if you were using a blue or green presentation background.
In short, you want a high contrast between your pointer and whatever PowerPoint background you are using for your presentation. That way your audience can clearly see what you are tying to point out to them.
To learn how to create and find professional PowerPoint backgrounds for your presentations, read our guide here.
So that's how to use PowerPoint's built-in laser pointer and change its color between red, green and blue to have high contrast against your presentation.
This is one of those cool PowerPoint features that few people know how to use. And now that you know how to use it, you can take advantage of it during your presentations.
If you enjoyed the depth of this PowerPoint tutorial and want to learn more about our PowerPoint training courses and free resources, visit us here.