Automating PowerPoint with Python

Writing a program to draw or change slides is sometimes easier than doing it manually. To change all fonts on a presentation to Arial, for example, you’d write this Visual Basic macro:

Sub Arial()
    For Each Slide In ActivePresentation.Slides
        For Each Shape In Slide.Shapes
            Shape.TextFrame.TextRange.Font.Name = "Arial"
End Sub

If you didn’t like Visual Basic, though, you could write the same thing in Python:

import win32com.client, sys
Application = win32com.client.Dispatch("PowerPoint.Application")
Application.Visible = True
Presentation = Application.Presentations.Open(sys.argv[1])
for Slide in Presentation.Slides:
     for Shape in Slide.Shapes:
             Shape.TextFrame.TextRange.Font.Name = "Arial"

Save this as and type “ some.ppt” to convert some.ppt into Arial.

Screenshot of Python controlling PowerPoint

Let’s break that down a bit. import win32com.client lets you interact with Windows using COM. You need ActivePython to do this. Now you can launch PowerPoint with

Application = win32com.client.Dispatch("PowerPoint.Application")

The Application object you get here is the same Application object you’d use in Visual Basic. That’s pretty powerful. What that means is, to a good extent, you can copy and paste Visual Basic code into Python and expect it to work with minor tweaks for language syntax.

So let’s try to do something with this. First, let’s open PowerPoint and add a blank slide.

# Open PowerPoint
Application = win32com.client.Dispatch("PowerPoint.Application")
# Create new presentation
Presentation = Application.Presentations.Add()
# Add a blank slide
Slide = Presentation.Slides.Add(1, 12)

That 12 is the code for a blank slide. In Visual Basic, you’d instead say:

Slide = Presentation.Slides.Add(1, ppLayoutBlank)

To do this in Python, run Python/Lib/site-packages/win32com/client/ and pick “Microsoft Office 12.0 Object Library” and “Microsoft PowerPoint 12.0 Object Library”. (If you have a version of Office other than 12.0, pick your version.)

This creates two Python files. I rename these files as and and do this:

import MSO, MSPPT
g = globals()
for c in dir(MSO.constants):    g[c] = getattr(MSO.constants, c)
for c in dir(MSPPT.constants):  g[c] = getattr(MSPPT.constants, c)

This makes constants like ppLayoutBlank, msoShapeRectangle, etc. available. So now I can create a blank slide and add a rectangle Python just like in Visual Basic:

Slide = Presentation.Slides.Add(1, ppLayoutBlank)
Slide.Shapes.AddShape(msoShapeRectangle, 100, 100, 200, 200)

Incidentally, the dimensions are in points (1/72″). Since the default presentation is 10″ x 7.5″ the size of each page is 720 x 540.

Let’s do something that you’d have trouble doing manually in PowerPoint: a Treemap. The Guardian’s data store kindly makes available the top 50 banks by assets that we’ll use for this example. Our target output is a simple Treemap visualisation.


We’ll start by creating a blank slide. The code is as before.

import win32com.client, MSO, MSPPT
g = globals()
for c in dir(MSO.constants):    g[c] = getattr(MSO.constants, c)
for c in dir(MSPPT.constants):  g[c] = getattr(MSPPT.constants, c)
Application = win32com.client.Dispatch("PowerPoint.Application")
Application.Visible = True
Presentation = Application.Presentations.Add()
Slide = Presentation.Slides.Add(1, ppLayoutBlank)

Now let’s import data from The Guardian. The spreadsheet is available at and we can get just the banks and assets as a CSV file by adding &output=csv&range=B2:C51 (via OUseful.Info).

import urllib2, csv
url = ''
# Open the URL using a CSV reader
reader = csv.reader(urllib2.urlopen(url))
# Convert the CSV into a list of (asset-size, bank-name) tuples
data = list((int(s.replace(',','')), b.decode('utf8')) for b, s in reader)

I created a simple Treemap class based on the squarified algorithm — you can play with the source code. This Treemap class can be fed the the data in the format we have, and a draw function. The draw function takes (x, y, width, height, data_item) as parameters, where data_item is a row in the data list that we pass to it.

def draw(x, y, w, h, n):
    # Draw the box
    shape = Slide.Shapes.AddShape(msoShapeRectangle, x, y, w, h)
    # Add text: bank name (asset size in millions)
    shape.TextFrame.TextRange.Text = n[1] + ' (' + str(int(n[0]/1000 + 500)) + 'M)'
    # Reduce left and right margins
    shape.TextFrame.MarginLeft = shape.TextFrame.MarginRight = 0
    # Use 12pt font
    shape.TextFrame.TextRange.Font.Size = 12
from Treemap import Treemap
# 720pt x 540pt is the size of the slide.
Treemap(720, 540, data, draw)

Try running the source code. You should have a single slide in PowerPoint like this.

Plain Treemap

The beauty of using PowerPoint as the output format is that converting this into a cushioned Treemap with gradients like below (or changing colours, for that matter), is a simple interactive process.

Treemap in PowerPoint

  1. Greg Wilson says:

    Thanks very much for posting this — much appreciated. One question: how do you find documentation on the PowerPoint API? Is it just the same as the VB (with appropriate substitutions)? Or…?

  2. S Anand says:

    It’s the same as with VB. I just press Shift-F1 on VB in PowerPoint and search for the keywords. Usually, it’s quite intuitive.

  3. Catalin says:

    Very interesting article. I think python may be the best solution on programming .
    Do you worked with python and openoffice ?

  4. Michele says:

    Very very interesting. The treemap integration is absolutely phenomenal.

  5. S Anand says:

    Never worked with OpenOffice, I’m afraid. If I don’t use Microsoft Office, my next preference would be Google’s online offerings, I guess. But either way, Python’s an elegant choice.

  6. […] Automating PowerPoint with Python – […]

  7. Raj says:

    Its all Intresting Anand

  8. […] it using PowerPoint via Python and export as a PNG.So we make a curved box, put in the appropriate gradients and borders, and […]

  9. […] I’d almost forgotten since I’ve been using a Mac for a while. Anyway, I ran across this short tutorial on using COM and Python to automate the creation of powerpoint slides. I used COM with excel a […]

  10. Stef says:

    I have created a program based on the example you showed on this page (creation of ppt slides with txt and images based on info in a CSV file)
    It works fine on my PC but when I compile it with py2exe, the prog works on my computer but not on another. Any idea of what I should do so that someone who didn’t install ActivePython can use the prog?

  11. Layne Seely says:

    I can follow the examples above to open a presentation, however, can you open the presentation to a particular slide?

  12. tom tan says:

    Great writing. Helps me to get the hang of office automation with python in general. Thanks.

  13. Chad Kijewski says:

    Beautiful, thank you for the quick but effective tutorial. I never thought that I’d ever be as excited about PowerPoint as I am, but as usual Python can make anything fun.

  14. Roger says:

    Just a heads up, you can add notes via the following command:

    notes_range = slide.NotesPage.Shapes(2)
    notes_range.TextFrame.TextRange.Text = snote

    And to use a solid color for a background:
    def RGB(r,g,b):
    return r*256**2 + g*256 + b
    slide_master.Background.Fill.ForeColor.RGB = RGB(256,256,256)

  15. Lolla says:

    How to make this work with arabic text?

  16. blerb says:

    My wife needs a way to easily export all comments (comments, not notes) from a powerpoint, which is not a native feature. I was looking at python-pptx module but it only supports 2.6, 2.7. I don’t want to downgrade from 3.

    Does win32com have a python3 version and could it be used for this?

  17. Vasanth says:

    Hi Anand,
    I am unable to import MSO & MSPPT. I renamed py files created in gen_py. I am using 2.7.12 64 bit.
    ImportError: No module named MSO
    Please suggest ?