PowerPoint: Remove alt text but preserve links when creating a PDF

December 1, 2021

One of my clients had a problem. When he created a PDF from his PowerPoint presentation, the PDF displayed the auto-generated alt text for each picture in his slide deck. He’s a geologist so some of the alt text for the images of rock formations was just totally wrong (see the second half of this blog post for examples of weird auto-generated alt text: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2020/07/25/word-adding-alt-text-to-images/). He didn’t want the alt text, but found that if he turned off the accessibility features in Acrobat, his URL links no longer worked either. He wanted the links, just not the alt text.

I figured out how to achieve what he wanted (i.e. no alt text and clickable URL links) in PowerPoint before you create the PDF. Here’s how:

  1. Click on an image in PowerPoint.
  2. Go the the Picture Format tab.
  3. Click Alt Text in the Accessibility group. This displays the Alt Text panel, populated with some auto-generated text that Microsoft THINKS describes the image.
  4. You can now either:
    • click the Mark as decorative checkbox, OR
    • clear the auto-generated alt text and leave it blank (or type a space).
  5. When you’ve finished your PowerPoint slide deck, go to File > Save as Adobe PDF. The resulting PDF should preserve any URLs you have, and there should be no alt text for any of the images you cleared it from.

A note about alt text: Alt text is absolutely necessary for those with vision issues who use screen readers to navigate computers, website, and digital files, so if your images are of something (and not just decorative), it’s best to add your own alt text describing what’s in the image. Certainly NEVER leave it up to Microsoft’s artificial intelligence as could get some very weird results.

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