Productivity Tip: Automatic Suggestions for Alt Text in Word & PowerPoint

February 28, 2023
3 min read

If you have a blog or website, you’ve probably been made aware of the importance of metadata for search engine optimization. Well, metadata is equally important within enterprise applications, such as your intranet (which is probably SharePoint). One place that people tend to forget to add their metadata is around images — and an important part of image metadata is the alt text.

Not only does alt text allow you to add natural language and keywords to your visualizations, but it can help power other important usability features within the enterprise. Alt text can be read by screen readers, and helps people who are blind or who have low vision understand what images and other objects are in a document.

You can, of course, manually add alt text to objects, such as pictures, clip art, charts, tables, shapes, SmartArt, embedded objects, and audio or video objects. However, within the latest versions of Microsoft word and PowerPoint, you now have the ability to automate. Turning this feature on can therefore improve the search experience of your environment. The suggestions are powered via the Microsoft 365 artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, which are powering many of the coolest features coming to M365 these days. It’s all about the AI, people.

Turning On the Auto Alt Text Feature

Within Word or PowerPoint, go into File > Options > Ease of Access (or File > Options > Accessibility, depending on what version of Office you are running) and you’ll find the Automatic Alt Text section. Select the box and click OK.

Here is the option within Word:

Editing Alt-Text in Microsoft Word
Figure 1: Word options. Image: Microsoft. View Full Size

And here it is in PowerPoint:

Editing Alt-Text in Microsoft PowerPoint

Locating and Editing Alt Text

Once enabled, all you need to do to view the “generic” alt text on an image is to float your cursor over the image.

Viewing the alt-text on an image in Word and PowerPoint
Figure 3: Example of alt text in photo. Image: Christian Buckley. View Full Size

To modify the alt text on any image, simply right-click on the image to open the options window and select Edit Alt Text.

Alt Text options
Figure 4: Edit alt text option. Image: Microsoft. View Full Size

A dialog box will open on the right of your screen, allowing you to review the suggested text or to enter your new text. By selecting the last option to Mark as decorative, this means that your alt text descriptions will not be visible to readers — only to authors and editors, and to your intranet’s search agents.

Edit alt-text dialog box
Figure 5: Mark as decorative. Image: Christian Buckley. View Full Size

You can find out more about this feature on and via PowerPoint MVP Heather Ackmann’s YouTube page.

I hope you found this useful!

Christian Buckley

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director (RD) and Most Valuable Professional (MVP), an award-winning product marketer, technology evangelist and host of the #CollabTalk podcast and monthly tweetjam series. Christian's 30-year tech career has included Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Evangelist for several leading SharePoint ISVs, and he was part of the Microsoft team that launched the hosted SharePoint platform in Office 365. He has worked with some of the world’s largest technology companies to build and deploy social, collaboration, and supply chain solutions, and he sold his first software startup to Rational Software in 2001. A co-author of books on both SharePoint and software configuration management (SCM), Christian is one of the most widely published names within the Microsoft ecosystem.