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MS PowerPoint Standards

Requirements for Microsoft (MS) PowerPoint presentations that are developed, procured, maintained, or used under the purview of the California Department of Education (CDE).

Standards Home | Use on CDE Websites | Basic Requirements & Checks | Filename | Metadata
| Hyperlinks | Color | Visual Elements | Tables | Additional Requirements & Resources

Use on CDE Websites

The CDE prefers to have its websites (i.e., base domain) comprised primarily of web pages. MS PowerPoint presentations posted to CDE websites must have an approved use.

Approved Use

  1. Content that is intended to be used as a presentation, and the MS PowerPoint format is essential to the effectiveness of the presentation of the content.
  2. Content that is required by law or by CDE policy to be in a specific format, layout, or to specifically be in MS PowerPoint.
  3. Content that is already in MS PowerPoint from an external (non-CDE) source, the source content cannot be linked to, and it would be inappropriate to convert the content into one or more web pages or into a PDF.
  4. Presentations used for meetings of the California State Board of Education (SBE) or its sub-committees, including agenda item attachments.

Prohibited Use

  1. When used as a replacement for web pages. For example, the presentation functions as a landing page rather than as a stand-alone presentation.

Basic Requirements & Checks

File Properties & Required Elements

  1. Is saved as a .pptx format file.
  2. Opens in Normal view.
  3. Page size is set to Letter (i.e., 8.5" x 11").
    1. Exception: If page size is set to Legal (i.e., 8.5" x 14"), a note indicating that the document is designed to be printed on Legal size paper is provided in the document.
    2. Exception: If page size is not set to Letter or Legal, a cover page is added with specific printing information and an explanation for the non-standard page size.
  4. Has a metadata Title and Description (Subject) in the file Properties. See the Metadata Title & Description section for more information.
  5. Has the appropriate default language set.
    1. Specifies the language for a passage or phrase when it is different from the primary language of the presentation.
  6. A presentation title is placed in a Title Placeholder at the top of the first slide.
  7. Each slide has a unique and meaningful slide title, placed in a Title Placeholder at the top of the slide.
  8. Content that provides attribution of ownership/authorship is present on the first slide, or at the bottom of the last slide of the presentation. For example, "California Department of Education," "State Board of Education," "U.S. Department of Education."
  9. A date of authorship or of posting is present on the first slide, or the last slide of the presentation.

Features & Styles

  1. Uses slide layouts available in the Layout menu.
    1. Modify or add slide layouts in the Slide Master if more layout options are needed. Do not manually add content Placeholders to pre-existing slide layouts.
  2. All slide content is contained within Placeholders. The presentation title, slide titles, and body text are available in the Outline view, in the proper order.
    1. Note: Content not contained in placeholders is unavailable in Outline view, therefore not available for export to rich text format (RTF) for use with other assistive technology such as Braille or large print.
    2. Note: Objects (e.g, charts, figures, graphs, images, shapes, tables) are not shown in the Outline view, but still must be contained in Placeholders. Floating objects are not permitted.
  3. Uses the built-in MS PowerPoint features and styles where available, including:
    1. Paragraph Spacing is used to create space. Blank lines, tabs or spaces are not used for structure.
    2. Table feature is used for tabular data. Tables are not used for layout. See the Tables section for more information.
    3. Bullets, Numbering, and Multilevel list features are used for list items.
      1. Sub-list items use different bullet or numbering style than parent style.
      2. Plain paragraphs are not placed in the middle of lists, causing lists to break.
    4. Columns feature is used for content that visually appears in columns.
    5. The Slide Master is used for text that repeats on every slide. However, content that is only contained in the Slide Master must be present in at least one place outside of the Slide Master.
    6. Slide notes can be used when intended for public viewing.
      Note: Because the presence of slide notes is not announced by assistive technology, one of the following two notification methods must be used:
      1. A note is placed at the beginning of the presentation, alerting users to the presence of slide notes throughout. This practice is best for presentations where the majority of the slides have accompanying slide notes.
      2. A note is placed on each slide containing slide notes, indicating the presence of the accompanying slide notes.
    7. Text Boxes are not used.
    8. Is free of Animations and Transitions.
  4. Comments are removed unless they are intended for viewing.
  5. Presentation and slide titles use title case and are not followed by a colon or period.

Required Checks

  1. Is free of spelling and grammar errors. Use the built-in MS PowerPoint Spelling tool.
  2. Is free of MS PowerPoint accessibility checker errors. Use the bult-in MS PowerPoint Check Accessibility tool.
    1. Warnings indicated by the MS PowerPoint accessibility checker must be fixed unless it is verified that the warning items are not accessibility violations.
  3. Active hyperlinks are not broken. Se the Hyperlinks section for more information.
  4. Is navigable in a logical and intuitive order, and all presentation functionality is available when used with keyboard only. Use the built-in MS PowerPoint Reading Order tool to confirm proper reading order.
  5. Vital content contained in the Slide Master is duplicated in the body of the presentation.
  6. Is free of content that relies solely upon shape, size, visual location, color, or sound to convey meaning.
  7. CDE content adheres to the CDE Style Manual.
    1. Exception: Abbreviations do not need to be spelled out upon first use in the metadata Title. See the Metadata Title & Description section for more information.
    2. Exception: Abbreviations do not need to be spelled out upon first use in presentation or slide titles if doing so makes the title excessively long. Abbreviations not spelled out in titles need to be spelled out at the next available opportunity.
  8. The Inspect Document tool is used to remove the following:
      1. Exception: Do not remove Comments if Comments are intended for viewing.
    2. Document Properties and Personal Information
    3. Revision Tracking Data
      1. Exception: Do not remove Revision Tracking Data if Revision Tracking Data are intended for viewing.
    4. Invisible On-Slide Content
    5. Off-Slide Content
    6. Presentation Notes
      1. Exception: Do not remove Presentation Notes if Presentation Notes are intended for viewing.

    Note: Using the Inspect Document tool removes both the metadata Title and Description. See the Metadata Title & Description section for more information.

Recommended Checks

  1. Works equivalently with common screen readers (e.g., Immersive Reader, JAWS, NVDA).
  2. Works well on all devices, including phones and tablets.


MS PowerPoint presentations posted to CDE websites (i.e., base domain) have filenames that are created in a consistent manner by adhering to the following:

  1. Is less than or equal to 24 characters.
  2. To the extent possible, relates to the presentation title.
  3. Does not use spaces or symbols other than hyphen ( - ).
  4. Starts with an alphabetic character.
  5. Is all lowercase.

Metadata Title & Description

Note: Metadata standards for presentations related to CDE Funding Profiles and for presentations posted to State Special Schools and Diagnostic Centers websites differ from those for other CDE presentations, and are available to CDE staff on the CDE Intranet website.

Metadata Title

Note: The metadata Title is the Title in the presentation File Properties.

  1. Is unique on its website.
  2. Is concise, identifies the presentation, and is similar to the presentation title.
  3. Uses title case.
  4. Only uses abbreviations if they are defined within the metadata Title or if there is not enough space to spell out whole words.
    1. If not defined in the metadata Title, abbreviations must be defined in the metadata Description.

Additional Requirements for Presentations Posted to the Main CDE or the CDE Intranet Websites

Note: The Main CDE website is The CDE Intranet website is

  1. Has a metadata title that is comprised of the following three parts:
    1. Document Title: The Document Title meets the following:
      1. Is less than or equal to 50 characters, inclusive of spaces and punctuation.
      2. Is followed by one space, a hyphen, and one space.
    2. Sub-sub-topic: The name of the directory where the presentation is housed follows the Document Title, and is followed by one space. Most presentations are housed at the Sub-sub-topic level. If the presentation is housed at the Sub-topic level, use the Sub-topic name instead.
    3. Website: The name of the website is enclosed in parentheses.
      1. Use (CA Dept of Education) for the Main CDE website.
      2. Use (CDE Intranet) for the CDE Intranet website.

Example Metadata Title for a Presentation Posted to a CDE Website: Friendships and Mental Health Presentation - Mental Health (CA Dept of Education)

Metadata Description

Note: The metadata Description is the Subject in the presentation File Properties.

  1. Uses up to 250 characters (inclusive of spaces and punctuation) to describe the presentation, its audience, and purpose or usage. Can be a sentence, multiple sentences, or sentence fragments.
  2. Is not a mere restatement of the title.
  3. Defines any abbreviations not spelled out in the metadata Title and any abbreviation used in the metadata Description.
  4. Ends with a period.


This section contains general standards for all MS PowerPoint presentations and additional standards for those developed by or on behalf of CDE for consistency.

  1. Uses text, not images of text in place of actual text. See the Visual Elements section for more information.
  2. Uses fonts that are easy to read and that are available on most devices.
    1. Text must be readable and functional when resized up to 200%.
    2. All characters are Unicode values.
  3. Uses Office Equation Editor (Office Math Markup Language [OMML]) or MathML for mathematical equations.
  4. Whenever possible, semantic text is used instead of special characters or symbols.
    1. Examples:
      1. "Yes/No" is used instead of "Y/N."
      2. "X" (or any other symbol) is not used to mean applicable.
      3. "0," "none" or "N/A," is used instead of a blank space to convey "zero," "nothing," or "not applicable."
    2. When special characters or symbols are used (including letters as symbols), the symbols are defined on or before their first use.
      1. Exception: Asterisks do not need to be defined when used for standard notes.
  5. Does not use device-specific words (e.g., click, hover) when there is an available alternative (e.g., select, navigate).
  6. When formatting such as strikethrough is added to text, the meaning of the formatting is explained in a bracketed note immediately after the formatted text.
    1. Extensive use of strikethrough or similar formatting requires indications of where the formatting begins and ends (e.g., diff-marking).
    2. Note: As an alternative to strikethrough and diff-marking, consider using a comparison table that shows the original text compared with the modified text. This works well for long sections of modified language, such as changes in law.

Additional Requirements when Developed by or on Behalf of CDE

  1. Uses 24-point font or larger.
  2. Uses Arial font.
    1. Exception: Content that is in a language other than English may use other fonts when necessary as long as the font is comparable in readability to Arial 24-point font or larger.
  3. Underlines are not used except with active hyperlinks.
    1. Exception: Underlines may be used to indicate the text of laws or regulations that are being added, modified, or deleted as prescribed by the California Office of Administrative Law.
  4. All caps are not used unless for acronyms and initialisms.
  5. Large sections of bold or italicized text are not used.
  6. Justified text alignment is not used.


At the CDE, MS PowerPoint presentations can use either hyperlinked descriptive text, hyperlinked Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), or both. Generally, descriptive links are best, however linked URLs may be more useful in presentations that will be printed.

All Hyperlinks

  1. Hyperlinks are not broken. A hyperlink is considered broken if it does not resolve to the indicated content or returns an HTTP 404 error.
  2. Hyperlinks are used and styled (including color) consistently throughout the presentation.
  3. Hyperlinks with the same linked text or the same URL resolve to the same destination.
    1. Exception: Tables may contain multiple hyperlinks with the same hyperlink text but different underlying destinations, as long as they are defined by table row.
      1. Example: 'Add,' 'Edit,' 'Delete' links are often used in a table' Action' column.
  4. Hyperlinks are underlined and have sufficient color contrast to distinguish them visibly from non-hyperlinked content. See the Color section for more information.
  5. Use hyperlinked descriptive text rather than hyperlinked URLs unless there is a need to use hyperlinked URLs.
  6. Avoid using words and phrases that indicate that a hyperlink is a link. For example, do not include "link," "link to," or "this link goes to" in hyperlinked descriptive text or in a hyperlink's ScreenTip.
  7. Very short adjacent hyperlinks have sufficient size and/or adequate whitespace between them.
  8. Although not usually recommended in MS PowerPoint presentations, hyperlinks may contain date notations. See the Link Notations sub-section for more information.

Hyperlinked Descriptive Text

  1. Hyperlink text by itself provides a clear and concise description of the link destination or its purpose (e.g., no “click here” or “more” links).
    1. Recommendation: If the title on the hyperlink's destination web page gives an accurate summary, consider using it for the hyperlink text.
  2. Hyperlinks that point to a domain (e.g., is a domain) that is different from the host domain of the MS PowerPoint presentation, indicate the external source in the hyperlinked descriptive text or in a link notation. See the Link Notations sub-section for more information.

URLs and Email Addresses

  1. All URLs and email addresses are active hyperlinks.
    1. Exception: Public comments must not include active hyperlinks.
    2. Exception: Data within tables (optional, be consistent).
    3. Exception: Stricken, inactivated, and noted as a broken link.
  2. Descriptive text is added to the hyperlinked URL's ScreenTip.
  3. URLs begin with the "https://" protocol.
  4. The visible URL or email address is the same as the underlying URL or email address.
  5. URL length may be reduced by using the following URL shortening service:
    1. bitly

Link Notations

Some hyperlinks require linked meta information to provide users of assistive technology with pertinent details about the hyperlinks. This is referred to as link notation. Structuring link notation consistently throughout a presentation is recommended. Link notations may be comprised of the following two elements, in the following order:

  • External Source (Required if applicable)
  • Date & Modifier (Optional)

External Source

  1. Is only used with hyperlinked descriptive text, not with hyperlinked URLs.
  2. Hyperlinks that point to a domain (e.g., is a domain) that is different from the host domain of the MS PowerPoint presentation, and do not contain the external source in the hyperlinked descriptive text, use either the actual external source (e.g., US Department of Education) or "External Link" in the link notation.

Date & Modifier

The addition of a date in MS PowerPoint presentations is not recommended but is optional and may be used with any kind of hyperlink. Date link notations must adhere to the following, if used:

  1. Follows the DD-Mmm-YYYY or Mmm-YYYY format.
  2. Is prepended with one of the following modifiers:
    1. Certified
    2. Corrected
    3. Dated
    4. Effective
    5. Modified
    6. New (May be used for 60 days or less.)
    7. Notice Published
    8. Posted
    9. Published
    10. Recertified
    11. Revised
    12. Suspended
    13. Updated

Coming Soon

"Coming Soon" is not link notation but may be used similarly with text that will become a link within 60 days.

  1. Bold is applied to text that will become a link.
  2. "Coming Soon" is placed within parentheses, one space after the text that will become a link. "(Coming Soon)" is not bold.

Link Notation Formatting

  1. Link notations are included as part of the associated hyperlink.
  2. Link notations are placed in parentheses, one space after the hyperlink text or URL.
  3. All applicable link notation elements are separated by a semicolon and a space.

Link Examples

Note: This section contains examples of hyperlinks in an MS PowerPoint presentation to an MS Excel workbook. They are styled to look like hyperlinks but are not functional.

  1. US Department of Education Web Workbook Name
    1. Note: This example does not require a link notation since the source is included in the hyperlinked descriptive text.
  2. Web Workbook Name (US Department of Education)
  3. Web Workbook Name (External; Added Sep-2023)
  4. https://www.sampledomain/sampleworkbook.xlsx (Posted 05-Sep-2023)
    1. Note: This example requires a link notation because of the inclusion of a posted date.
  5. Web Workbook Name (Coming Soon)


  1. Color alone does not convey meaning.
    1. Non-text content (e.g., visual elements) use patterns to convey the same information as color.
  2. Ensure sufficient color contrast between all content that conveys meaning and its background, with a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1.
    1. Exception: Text that is considered large-scale (i.e., at least 18 point or at least 14 point and bold) must meet a lesser contrast ratio of 3:1, at minimum.
    2. Exception: Non-text elements have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 against adjacent colors.
    3. Exception: If a non-text element is accompanied by contrast-conformant text that conveys the same information as the non-text element, there is no required contrast ratio between adjacent colors.
      1. Example: Though not recommended, a pie chart with minimal contrast between adjacent colors is acceptable as long as each pie wedge has contrast-conformant labels that convey the same information.
    4. Exception: Text and non-text elements that are part of a logo or brand name have no contrast requirement.
    5. When there is a mixed or gradient background, measure color contrast at the point with the least contrast to determine compliance.
    6. Applies to all hyperlink states (e.g., visited, unvisited).


  1. For consistency, if using red as an alert, a reminder, or a warning, use Boston University Red (#CC0000 or Red Green Blue [rgb] 204,0,0).
  2. While standard hyperlink blue is not required, it is the most expected color for hyperlinks and helps with usability. For consistency, use a medium-dark shade of cyan-blue (#0563C1 or Red Green Blue [rgb] 5,99,193) for hyperlink text.

Visual Elements

CDE defines visual elements as objects such as charts, diagrams, figures, flow charts, graphics, illustrations, images, maps, organizational charts, photos, shapes, and SmartArt.

  1. Permission to use a visual element has been obtained:
    1. The visual element has been created by CDE staff, CDE is the copyright holder of the visual element, or the visual element is owned by or on behalf of CDE.
      1. For use of the official CDE Seal image, permission has been obtained through CDE Press.
    2. When CDE is not the copyright holder, explicit permission to use the visual element for its intended use has been obtained (free or paid), and documentation that establishes CDE's permission to use the visual element is retained as long as the visual element continues to be used.
    3. Except for stock photos where clearance has been established, visual elements that include identifiable minor children must have written consent from a parent or legal guardian.
  2. Informative visual elements (i.e., contain text or convey meaning) must have equivalent text in the form of alternative text, adjacent text, or a long description.
    1. Alternative Text: Where an Alt Text field is available, alternative text is added to the Alt Text field. Alternative text is sufficient if it describes the content and purpose of the visual element equivalently in 30 words or less. If alternative text alone cannot provide full equivalency, it must be combined with adjacent text or a long description.
    2. Adjacent Text: Text adjacent to the visual element describes the content and purpose of the visual element equivalently. Alternative text is added to provide the name of the visual element and indicates where the associated adjacent text is located. If alternative text alone is not sufficient, and adjacent text is not preferred, practical or possible, a long description must be used.
    3. Long Description: A long description must be used if either the alternative text alone or adjacent text cannot provide full equivalency.
      1. An active hyperlink adjacent to the visual element is present with hyperlink text that names the image and indicates the hyperlink leads to a long description of the visual element. The hyperlink may lead to another portion of the same presentation or a separate web page or document that has the fully equivalent text version of the visual element.
      2. An active hyperlink adjacent to the long description of the visual element is present and leads back to the visual element.
      3. The visual element's Alt Text names the visual element and indicates where a hyperlink to the long description can be found.
  3. Visual elements that contain text, include the text or a comparable summary in the equivalent text.
  4. Equivalent text should avoid descriptors like, "photo of," or "image of" unless the format of the visual element is relevant.
  5. Non-informative visual elements are marked as decorative in the Alt Text field.
  6. Multilayered visual elements or multiple images that convey a single concept are grouped or flattened into a single visual element.
    1. Exception: SmartArt does not need to be grouped or flattened. Use the Alt Text field on the outermost container.
  7. Watermarks are not used unless similar text is provided in the body of the presentation and there are no color contrast issues created by the inclusion of the watermark.


  1. Tables are used for tabular data, not for layout or formatting.
  2. Tables use MS PowerPoint built-in table elements; no images of tables are used.
  3. The title or broad nature of the table is provided using alternative text.
  4. Tables must be simple and have regularity.

    Until MS PowerPoint is capable of making complex tables accessible, do not include complex tables. Complex tables should be simplified or split into multiple simple tables (tables with regularity). Ensure that tables have regularity per the following guidelines:

    1. Tables contain one single column header row as the first row, and have no intermediary sub-headers (rows used to delineate sub-sections of a table, including sub-total rows).
    2. Column headers are appropriately identified by ensuring "Header Row" is selected in Table Style Options menu.
    3. Tables contain no blank cells, columns, or rows.
      1. Exception: The last row in a table may have blank cells if the row is being used as a totals row where one or more of the cells is used to total column data. The first cell of the last row must have "Total" or a similar word or phrase.
      2. Exception: Cells using MS PowerPoint form fields or form controls. See the Form and Template Standards for more information.
    4. Tables contain no merged or split cells.
    5. Tables do not use visual-only formatting or alignment (e.g., all caps, bold, italics, and indenting) to convey data association or hierarchy.
    6. Tables do not contain nested tables.

Additional Requirements & Resources

  • CDE's Accessibility Standards
    Requirements for all CDE content, including MS PowerPoint presentations.
  • Form and Template Standards
    Requirements for forms and templates that are developed, procured, maintained, or used under the purview of the CDE, including guidance and examples for form use in MS PowerPoint presentations.
  • CDE Video & Other Multimedia Standards
    Requirements and guidance for developing accessible video and other multimedia content.
  • CDE Standards References
    The CDE's MS PowerPoint Standards are built on the guidance of a number of highly regarded authorities in information and communications technology (ICT) accessibility. See specific references used in developing our MS PowerPoint Standards.
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Last Reviewed: Wednesday, March 20, 2024
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