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Adding Multiple Sets of Looping Slides to PowerPoint

For some time now there have been techniques around for having a set of slides that loop at the start of your PowerPoint presentation. These generally involve hiding your main presentation slides, adding an invisible button to each of the visible slides (that allows you to jump to your first hidden slide), setting those slides to auto advance and then setting your presentation to loop continuously. But what if you want to add more loops and/or want to control everything from a presentation remote?

Last year I was working on a webinar where we wanted to have a couple of looped sets of slides and I needed an alternative - ideally one that didn't involve having to break out and run a separate presentation. Fortunately it wasn't too hard to come up with a solution.

The approach

Framing the problem in this way quickly lead me to wondering if there was a way to set up a parent-child relationship between slide decks. Could I link sets of slides together and run them as chained but separate slide shows. Whilst there's nothing particularly obvious in the way you create PowerPoint slide decks that allows you to outline across multiple files there are two features that can in effect give you this functionality.

  1. Embedded objects.
  2. Animations for OLE objects.

The basic premise is that you can create a separate PowerPoint file for each of the looped presentations you wish to include. These are set-up to auto advance and loop. The presentations are then embedded onto separate slides in your main presentation where they are set to automatically play.

There are a few steps to setting up a presentation like this, so let me walk you through an example.

Setting up a looping child presentation

The first thing to do is to create your looping presentations. Once you have your slides created select the Transitions tab on the ribbon and look for the Advance Slide settings.

Set each slide to automatically advance after a specific period of time. If you want to set several slides, select them all in the slide sorter and then change the Advance Slide settings.

Next you will need to set-up the presentation to loop back around to the start when it gets to the last slide. To do this first select the SlideShow tab on the ribbon and then select Set Up Slide Show.

In the dialog window that appears set the option to "Loop continuously until ESC".

Save the presentation and repeat for any other looping child presentations you wish to include in your main presentation.

Setting up the main presentation

In your main presentation add in slides for each of the looping child presentations. Then select the first of these slides and from the Insert tab on the ribbon, select Object.

In the dialog box select the Create from file option and selector the child presentation file you want to include at this point in the presentation. If you tick the Link check box, any changes you make in your child presentation will be automatically incorporated into your main presentation. If you don't, you will have to manually work through these steps and re-add the child presentation if you make a change to it. Do be warned however that when you link the file it will use the full file path. If you later move your files or share them with someone else, unless the file path matches precisely, the embedded file will not be found.

You should now have an object embedded in your slide. Whilst it will still work leaving the object sized as is, I find the transitions a bit smoother (but not perfectly so) if you resize the object to fill the slide.

With the object selected, select the Animation tab on the ribbon. Select the Animation Pane to open the list of animations if you have not already got it open, then select Add Animation.

Towards the bottom of the list of available animations you should see one called OLE Action Verbs. This is what is going to allow us to run our embedded slide show.

When you select OLE Action Verbs it will open a window containing a few options of what we can do with our embedded presentation. Select the Show option.

Now select the embedded presentation object in the animation pane (it's probably the only entry in there). Set the animation to Start After Previous (or Start With ... it doesn't make any difference in my tests for this particular case). This will mean that once the main presentation slide is loaded up the embedded child presentation will automatically trigger and display.

Now select the Transitions tab on the ribbon and go to the Advance Slide options. Set the slide to immediately auto advance - i.e. 00:00:00. The showing of the embedded presentation triggers immediately, but this is actually the delay before moving to the next slide in the main presentation once we exit the child presentation. So we really do want it to be immediate.

Now repeat for each of the other embedded presentations and save your main presentation.

Running the presentation

When you run your presentation, you should find that each child presentation will automatically run (and loop) when you reach the slide on which it is embedded in your main presentation. To exit the child presentation, return to your main presentation and automatically advance to the main slide simply press ESC - just as you would to exit any PowerPoint presentation. One of the advantages this has over the clicking a hidden button is that if you have a presentation remote they typically have a show/end show button that will send the ESC command to your computer ... meaning you can control the embedded presentations using your remote too.

With this solution I also like the fact that you don't have to hide your main slides and you can use them in a more traditional way (e.g. old slide revisions, additional slides to have on hand if you get a particular question). It works well for me and I hope you find it useful too.


So that's the principles of how it works and a step-by-step guide to setting it up.

To help you on your way I've created an example set of slide decks where there are three looping child presentations embedded (but not linked) in a main presentation deck.

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Reader Comments (19)


In the 'Insert Object' dialog window, after checking 'Create from file' option and selecting the file, it doesn't let me add it - this error message comes up:

"The server application, source file, or item cannot be found. Check that the path and file name are correct, or try reinstalling the server application."

This happens to any file I try to add, I tested it with different file types. I don't really understand what the error message means and what I should do.

Any help would be appreciated.


November 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersteph

Hi Steph, that sounds potentially like it is a problem with the code that inserts one file within another. Usually a reinstall resolves, but does this happen if you try and do the same thing in other applications (e.g. Word)?

February 24, 2015 | Registered CommenterStephen Millard

Awesome! worked amazing.

March 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterChris lang

Does anyone know how to do something similar for powerpoint for mac?

July 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterG Y

Thank you So much! This worked flawlessly!!!

August 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJCarr

Brilliant solution! Much better than the hiding slides method. Thanks

April 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterd

I was searching for a solution to a my own power point dilemma, and your parent-child approach is the closest thing I could find to what I was looking for. I was wondering if there was a way to tweak this approach and make it fully automated so that it would loop through each child presentation, advancing to the next automatically and then finally when it reaches the end of the parent slides it would loop back to the beginning of the parent and start all over by itself. What I'm trying to accomplish is have a looping presentation playing on the break room flat screen TV. The presentation has maybe about 6 child presentations. Each child is a different topic that would stay in the line up for anywhere from 2 to 5 days depending on the content of that presentation. Presentation topics range from "Open enrollment for benefits is starting" , "It is time to submit your application for employee scholarships" , "We're experiencing extreme heat wave and the importance of hydration" etc. So my problem is this. There is one child presentation that is one slide and it changes every day, and everyone wants to see that slide more than any other and they don't want to wait for 6 other child presentations to see this one. This one slide happens to be the daily volume and customer count. So what I want to do is have this child slide run in between each of the other childs. What I don't want to have to do is update this one slide every day and then copy it 6 times and position each copy every day. I just want to update Child 1 daily and then let the parent call child 1, then child 2, then child 1, then child 3, then child 1, then child 4 and so on for the rest of the day in a continuous loop. is there a way to accomplish this? thanks.

July 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Thk alot,.. this worked perfectly

August 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterM

Hi Mike.

I would think that you could do this with some VBScript. The approach I would take would be to generate a single PowerPoint file from the other files. PowerPoint has a merge command (merge multiple presentations) which the script could utilise. That in combination with a naming convention for the original files and a duplication of the repeating single slide or repeated merging should allow you to build such a presentation. You could even schedule a script to close PowerPoint, run the merge script and then run the resulting PowerPoint at a particular time each day so all you have to do is drop the files in the right location and name them appropriately (I'd use simple numeric names to allow you to easily control position).



August 23, 2016 | Registered CommenterStephen Millard

Thank you SO MUCH for these instructions. My boss wanted a complicated 3 child loop thing done for an awards ceremony and these directions were perfect and worked great. You are the only website with these instructions! THANK YOU

September 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Lazzell

I'm using PP 2016 for Mac. I created several looping child.pptx files that reside in the same folder as the parent. Then I created a blank slide in my parent presentation. When I performed:

Insert menu > Object > From file > child.pptx > Insert

the error message offers three possible reasons why the operation failed:

- This file type isn't supported by PowerPoint.
- The linked file is not available.
- The app you need to open this file isn't installed.

I removed all fields in the new slide that is supposed to hold the child.pptx object. Was that right? Any ideas on how to get the object to embed or whatever that's called?

Thanks, Suzanne

October 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Mike: Powershell is what you want there!

December 14, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJo

Just a "me too", another satisfied (and relieved) user thanking you for your effort and sharing it with us.

August 31, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

This works BRILLIANTLY. I have one question/complaint, though. None of our PowerPoint remotes have the equivalent of an escape button. Is there a way to make this work so that the equivalent of pressing enter to advance to the next slide would actually take you out of the endless loop and into your main presentation?

August 31, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLevi

Hi there, thanks so much for this. I tried it and it works if I click to go forward on each slide. The orginals were set up to auto advance but they won't do it in this. I am trying to loop PP's in different formats (wide screen vs. 4:3) that don't do well just being combined. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

November 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDerry


I think the Mac version of PowerPoint is still quite a bit different to the PC version. I have a much older office version on my Mac and have never tried it on there; but if you get a file compatibility error I don't think this approach will work for you. Unfortunately I've not worked out a Mac alternative approach at this time - but I've only ever looked to do this on Windows.

March 28, 2018 | Registered CommenterStephen Millard


No. Enter is used to progress a slide and the way this solution works you have to jump out of the embedded presentation so you have to escape it.

Remotes tend to just be in many ways the equivalent of really simplified keyboards and so it might be possible for a "fancy" remote that you could have a utility running on the PC that would remap a remote key to ESC. However, that might also be quite challenging and it probably is simpler just to have someone there to press the ESC key as you move into the next part of the main deck.

March 28, 2018 | Registered CommenterStephen Millard


I'm not sure why the auto advance doesn't work ... not something I really use on a main deck.

However, if you are using it simply because the aspect ratios are different, then my suggestion would be something you probably won't like. Make all the slides the same aspect ratio. The whole dek will look much better for it and it sidesteps the workaround of having to use the embedded presentations. It may be a lot of effort if it is a large deck, but in the long run...

March 28, 2018 | Registered CommenterStephen Millard

This works amazing! Thank you!

March 30, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKrista

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