Embedded presentations in Powerpoint for Mac

In my University it is a common practice for the governing boards to distribute presentations for the meetings as a single Powerpoint presentation (file) containing the detailed presentations for each point in the agenda as embedded presentations. This approach despite underrated dangerous effects is very handy for the distribution. Unfortunately under Mac OS X it is not possible to open the inner presentations….

…unless you use a little trick.

The problem

The problem is that if you open the main presentation with Powerpoint for Mac and then double-click on the embedded presentation the result is an error:

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.

The solution

  1. Save the presentation in Powerpoint 2007 format (.PPTX)
  2. Using an archive extraction utility (e.g. Zipeg), you will see the archive structure
  3. Extract the content of the ppt/embeddings folder
  4. Among the files extracted you will find the embedded presentations

There are two major warnings:

  • the names of the files in the embeddings folder usually do not match the labels you see in the main presentation file, therefore you have to open them in order to understand which file corresponds to which presentation
  • for other types of embedded files, often the standard name “oleObjectn.bin” is used, therefore the extension is lost and the name is even less meaningful. Again a little bit of patience could help, repeat the following procedure
    1. try changing the “.bin” extension into some known extension (e.g. “.doc”, “.xls”, “.ppt”, “.pdf”),
    2. try opening (double-click) the file to check whether the right extension was used,
    3. if the file opens correctly, you now know the correct extension type.

This procedure allowed me, several times, to open the inner/embedded presentations in a few minutes. Hope Microsoft will fix the problem. As of the time of this writing Powerpoint for Mac 2011 (version 14.2.4) still has the issue.


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