July 28, 2009

Building Your Slides Online

Building Your Slides Online

By Scott Nesbitt – Sunday, March 22, 2009

Over the last couple of years, I've been giving quite a few presentations. While some of those presentations have been solo efforts, I've done most of them with my business partner. And that's when a few wrinkles have crept into our grand plans.

"..these applications enable you to collaborate on your presentation slides without having to worry about whether or not you're stomping on someone else's edits"How? Well, an important (or at least useful) component of a presentation is a slide deck. Before plugging in a digital projector, you need to create your slides. It's easy enough to pass a PowerPoint, Keynote, or OpenOffice.org Impress file around. But it's just as easy to lose track of which file is the latest version. Or just lose the file.

Fortunately, some Web entrepreneurs have made strides in eliminating this problem by developing Web-based tools for creating slides. The four that this TechTip highlights have a number of things in common:

  • They're free
  • They're easy to use
  • You can run your slide show from within the application
  • They support sharing and collaborative editing
  • They pack enough features to make attractive and functional slides

280Slides

On the surface, 280Slides looks like a stripped-down version of Apple's popular Keynote presentation software. Although 280Slides has a limited number of features in comparison to Keynote (or any other desktop presentation program), you'll be surprised at how quickly and easily you'll be able to create a solid slide deck with it.

Of all the applications that this TechTip discusses, 280Slides has the best import and export capabilities — it can pull in PowerPoint (97 through to 2004, and PowerPoint 2007) files and OpenOffice.org Impress files. It can output those formats as well as a PDF file. The import can be a bit rough. Text can be larger than in your source file, and the positioning of elements like images might be a bit off.

 

280Slides comes with a limited number of themes and slide layouts (nine and three, respectively). It also has basic text formatting functions — including bullets and numbers — along with the ability to insert images, movies, and basic shapes into slides.

On top of that, you can add presenter notes (also called speaker's notes). These are notes that are attached to a slide deck that a speaker uses as a reference. In case you're wondering, the audience can't see the notes.

On the other hand, the application can be a bit slow. That said, this situation has improved a bit over the last month or two. While you don't need an account to work with 280Slides, you'll need to register (for free) to save your files online.

Empressr

Empressr bills itself as a free online storytelling tool that allows you to create, manage, and share rich media presentations online. That's a mouthful, but it's pretty close to the truth. And Empressr is a lot easier to use than it sounds.

Slides are called empressrs, and you can start one from scratch, import a PowerPoint file, or upload multiple images to create an empressr.

The slide editor is simple, but packs a number of interesting features. Like what? The ability to create a library of background images and add those images to your slides, for one. You can attach audio files to act as a voice over or soundtrack. And you can specify transitions for slides. Some of the slides that Empressr users have made public use the latter feature to sometimes annoying effect.

In addition to that, Empressr allows you to add shapes, tables, and charts to your slides. The latter two options are missing from most online presentation tools.

There doesn't seem to be a way to export your slides. You can publish your slides on the Empressr site in Flash format. Empressr also generates code that you can use to embed the presentation in a Web site or a blog.

Preezo

Of the presentation applications that are featured in this TechTip, Preezo is probably the most bare bones of the bunch. That doesn't mean it's not usable, though. Preezo seems to be based on the 80/20 rule — 80% of users take advantage of only 20% of an application's features.

As with any other Web or desktop presentation application, you can start a presentation from scratch or import a PowerPoint file. While writing this TechTip, I wasn't able to get the import to work. The export function, which generates a PowerPoint file, did work though.

As I mentioned a moment ago, Preezo's features are a tad basic. You have the choice of half a dozen slide layouts, along with some basic text formatting functions. On top of that, you can add any of a handful of transitions to your slides. Nothing spectacular, but enough to build a solid slide deck.

Remember how Empressr enables you to create a library of images? Preezo does the same, but takes the feature one step further. You can actually create a library of slides which you can reuse. How is this useful? In the slide decks that I create, I have two stock slides at the end — one which asks if the audience has any questions, and a marketing slide. Instead of continually retyping or copying these slides, I can use the slide library to instantly insert them into a new deck.

And, like Empressr, Preezo enables you to publish your slides on the Preezo site and it generates HTML code that you can use to embed the presentation in a Web site or a blog.

Google Docs

Anyone who knows something about Web applications knows that Google Docs contains a good word processor and spreadsheet. But one component of Google Docs that some people miss is the presentation editor.

Like the other application discussed in this TechTip, Google Docs enables you to start a new slide deck from scratch or upload a PowerPoint file. That file can be a maximum of 10 MB in size. You can also clone an existing presentation, which is useful if you need to create a variation on a theme.

On top of that, there are about 87 slide templates (as of this writing) that you can use to build a slide deck. Most of the templates leave me a bit cold, but there's no reason why you can't modify one to suit your needs.

The options for Google Docs are simple and familiar: text formatting; adding images, video, and a handful of shapes; basic control over text (changing the size, font, and justification); and the ability to arrange objects on the slide. On top of that, you can add speaker's notes to each slide.

As you might have guessed, Google Docs supports Google Gears — you can learn more about Gears here. With Gears, canada viagra online you get the best of both worlds: you can work and collaborate on the Web, but use Google Docs offline as well.

Your download options are limited to PDF, PowerPoint, or text. You can also publish the slides for viewing online.

Sharing the finished product

As I mentioned in the introduction, you can share slide decks from within each of the applications that are discussed in this TechTip. However, you'll probably wind up exporting your slide deck (when possible) to your hard drive to do some final edits and tweaks. Once you've done that, you can share the slides with the wider Web using SlideShare and Scribd.

SlideShare is an online community for sharing presentations. You get your own little corner of SlideShare, called a Slidespace, where you can add and display your slide decks. You can also make your slides private so only select people can see them.

You can upload presentations made with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org Impress, or Keynote; you can also upload PDF files. SlideShare then puts a Flash wrapper around the file to make it viewable on any desktop computer or laptop computer. Well, at least one with a Flash player installed. You can also use some HTML code to add your slide decks on SlideShare to a Web site or blog.

Scribd, on the other hand, has been described as YouTube for documents. The goal of the site is to let people upload original documents, and allow others to comment on them. Scribd allows you to upload a number of different kinds of files — from Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org files, to PDF, Postscript, and text documents. Scribd wraps your documents in iPaper, a Flash-based format for viewing documents on the Web.

As with Slideshare, you can make your slide decks (or any other document) public on the Scribd site. Or Scribd can generate HTML code for you to embed the document on a Web page or in a blog.

Final thoughts

This TechTip only covered a few of the available online slide tools. You can find more here and here. The great thing about these applications is that they enable you to collaborate on your presentation slides without having to worry about whether or not you're stomping on someone else's edits, or if you have the right software installed on your computer.

These tools may not have all the features of your favorite desktop presentation tool, but they can get you going quickly and easily.

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April 3, 2009

Animation choices in PowerPoint

Do you like MS PowerPoint's animations for your shapes, pictures and text?

I don't know about you, but I like the control it gives me for revealing content as I'm ready to cover it. I know that my audience isn't busy reading every word on the slide instead of focusing on the current discussion.

So… needless to say, I use them all the time as I'm sure many of you do too.

My thought today is about how each animation is started.

If you think that each and every one takes a click to make it happen, then we need to talk.

You actually have a couple of other good choices when it comes to starting an object's animation on a PowerPoint slide.

By default animations are start with the "On Click" setting.

But, there are also the "With Previous" and "After Previous" settings to choose from.

"With Previous" will set the animation of the selected object to start at the same time as whatever animation is started with the click directly before it.

Here's a great side note: I love to use this buying viagra one for the very first thing to have an animated entrance on the slide. Basically, this setting will start the object animation as soon as the transition to the slide is complete. I like it because it will allow me the animated entrance without the extra pause that the required click can cause.

"After Previous" will do exactly as it says… it will start the object's animation when the one just prior to it is completed.

You've just got to give these a try! I've been doing a tremendous amount of work in PowerPoint lately and these have truly helped to make my presentations smooth as silk!

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The “Smooth” Presentation Quick Move

If you use MS PowerPoint presentations as frequently as I do, you probably find it best to know as many little tricks as possible to make each presentation go smoothly. Am I right?

I'm sure most of you have discovered the tools in the bottom left hand corner of your presentation. You know, the ones you use with the mouse to navigate, draw, etc.

Those are certainly handy gadgets to have, especially if you're trying to jump to a slide somewhere else in your presentation.

I like them just fine, but for moving to another slide, I've never really liked that my audience can see me search through a list of slides to make a jump. It always seems "unpolished" to me.

However, buy viagra online canada if you know the number of the slide you need to jump to, you don't need to go through the tools. You can avoid the "unpolished" effect they may cause!

To jump to any slide while giving a presentation, simply enter the slide number and then hit the Enter key. (I realize that means you'll need to know the number of the slide you want to go to, but if you have a few key points of interest, those numbers may be easier to remember than what you think).

Yep, that's it!

If you want to go to slide number 26, type in the number 26 and hit Enter.

Now, that's what I call a smooth move!

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February 21, 2009

How do I… Add music and narration to a PowerPoint presentation?

  • Date: March 4th, 2008
  • Author: Susan Harkins

The best presentations engage the audience using a number of creative tools. Sound effects, such as music and voice recordings can mean the difference between a good presentation and an outstanding presentation. You can energize your audience with a quick tempo, play your company’s latest jingle, or add narration to an on-demand presentation. At the very least, you can play music at the beginning and ending of a presentation as the audience enters and leaves the room. The only limits are good taste and your imagination.

This blog post is also available in PDF form as a TechRepublic download.

About sound files

Microsoft PowerPoint supports media clips, which include sound and video files. The computer playing your presentation will need a sound card and speakers. That doesn’t mean just the system you use to create the presentation, but any system on which you might play the presentation. Today, most systems come with everything you need, but older systems might need an upgrade. (It’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter such an old system, but don’t rely on that — check it out first!)

Table A lists the media files PowerPoint supports, although this article deals only with sound files.

Table A: Media support

File

Explanation

Attributes

MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface Sound
WAV Microsoft Windows audio format Sound
MPEG Motion Picture Exerts Group Standard video format with a constant frame per second rate
AVI Microsoft Windows video format Video format with a constant frame rate per second
GIF Graphical Interface Format 256 color picture that supports animation.

Like most special effects, sound can catch the attention of your audience and convey a message or emotion in a way words or pictures can’t. On the other hand, used poorly, sound can be distracting or even annoying. As always, your purpose will determine how much, if any, sound your presentation needs.

The basics — inserting sound

Including sound is as simple as selecting a file:

Use existing clips by double-clicking one of the Title, Text and Media Clip layouts from the Slide Layout task pane. Double-click the media clip icon shown in Figure A to launch the Media Clip dialog box.

Figure A

Choose a media slide from the Slide Layout task pane

When you double-click a WAV or MIDI file, PowerPoint displays the prompt shown in Figure B. The options Automatically and When Clicked are self-explanatory.

Figure B

PowerPoint will play the sound file when the slide is current, or you can click the icon to play it

Work with unique sound files by choosing Movies and Sound from the Insert menu and then selecting Sound From File or Sound From Clip Organizer. You can also record sound or play a track from a CD. After selecting a file, PowerPoint prompts you to specify how to execute the file (see Figure B).

If PowerPoint doesn’t support a clip’s format, choose Object from the Insert menu and choose the appropriate object type. Alternately, you can convert the file to a supported type. Use a search engine to search for “video file conversion.” However, don’t be surprised if the converted file is less than satisfactory. It’s difficult to maintain quality when converting media files.

In PowerPoint 2007, you’ll find the Sound option in the Media Clips group on the Insert tab.

PowerPoint displays a sound clip as a small icon, which shows during Slide Show view. When the presentation plays the clip automatically, you might want to hide the icon. There’s really no good reason to display it.

To hide the icon, right-click the icon and choose Edit Sound Object from the resulting submenu. In the Sound Options dialog box, shown in Figure C, check the Hide Sound Icon During Slide Show option, and click OK. Double-click the icon in PowerPoint 2007 to find these options.

Figure C

Edit the file’s attributes

If you choose the click option, it’s worth mentioning that clicking the icon a second time doesn’t disable the sound — the file plays from beginning to end once you click it. In PowerPoint 2007, clicking the icon restarts the file.

To learn just how long a file lasts, right-click the icon and choose Edit Sound Object. The file’s playing time is in the Information section at the bottom (see Figure C). If you want the file to play continuously, while the slide is current, check the Loop Until Stopped option. Moving to the next or previous slide will cancel the loop.

Narrating a presentation

To record a unique sound or message, you’ll need a microphone. Unfortunately, some microphones that come with today’s systems aren’t very sophisticated. If you record someone talking, it may sound distorted when played. Suddenly, you may have a lisp or an accent! Specialized software can clear up some problems, but they’re expensive and that’s just one more piece of software you’ll have to learn. It might be more efficient to invest in a better microphone.

PowerPoint makes it easy to narrate a presentation, which is a plus in a Web-based, automated, or on-demand presentation. You might also use this feature to include a statement from an individual, such as a celebrity or your company’s CEO.

Don’t jump right into recording. First, write a script and rehearse it. Once you’re comfortable with your speaking part, you can record your narration:

  1. Choose Record Narration from the Slide Show menu to open the Record Narration dialog box. In PowerPoint 2007, this option is in the Set Up group on the Slide Show tab.
  2. Click Set Microphone Level to check your microphone. Read the sentence that appears in the Microphone Check dialog and let the Microphone Wizard adjust your microphone automatically. Click OK.
  3. If you need to adjust the quality to CD, radio, or telephone, click Change Quality to open the Sound Selection dialog box. Just remember that quality increases the file’s size. If file size is a concern, you may have to compromise quality just a bit.
  4. By default, PowerPoint stores the narration with the presentation. To store the sound file in a separate WAV file (in the same folder) check Link Narrations In. Click Browse to change the location of the separate WAV file, but use caution when doing so — only store the two separately when you have a good reason for doing so. If a sound file is over 50MB, you must link it.
  5. Click OK and start recording. As PowerPoint displays your presentation, you narrate just as you want the message played. Continue to narrate each slide until you’re done.
  6. At the end of the presentation, PowerPoint will prompt you to save the timings with each slide. This can be helpful if you didn’t get each slide just prescription cialis right and you need more practice.

Step five mentions linked files. If you’re using the same system to both create and show the presentation, linked files are fine, but not necessary. Linked files are a good choice if the sound files are large or if you plan to change the source file. By default, PowerPoint automatically links sound files that are larger than 100KB.

To change this setting, choose Options from the Tools menu, and then click the General tab and update the Link Sounds With File Size Great Than option. PowerPoint 2007 users will find this option by clicking the Office button, clicking the PowerPoint options button (at the bottom right) and then choosing Advanced. The option is in the Save section.

Use the Package for CD (PowerPoint 2003) or Pack And Go Wizard (PowerPoint 2002) to make sure you save linked files with the presentation. Names can be problematic: A linked file’s path name must be 128 characters or less.

More options

Narration is only one type of recoding you might consider. If you can record it, you can include it in your presentation. To record a single message or unique sound, choose Movies and Sound from the Insert menu and choose Record Sound. In PowerPoint 2007, this option is in the Sound option’s dropdown list, in the Media Clips group on the Insert tab.

In the resulting Record Sound dialog box shown in Figure D, enter a description and name. Click Record when you’re ready to begin. Click Stop when you’re done. Use Play to listen to the new recording. Click OK to save the sound with the presentation. Or, click Cancel to exit and try again. If you save a sound, it appears as an icon, which you can use anywhere in the presentation you like. Mix this capability with action settings for a unique effect. Just don’t over do it!

Figure D

You can record sounds inside PowerPoint

Playing a CD

Playing music is a great way to begin or end a presentation. However, the music doesn’t have to be a top 10 tune. It only needs to be appropriate. For example, you might play Mendelssohn’s Wedding March if your presentation is about catering receptions. Or, pleasing dinner music might be the way to go. It’s really up to you; just keep your audience in mind. To include a song from a CD, do the following:

  1. Insert the CD.
  2. From the Insert menu, choose Movies and Sound. Then, select Play CD Auto Track to open the Insert CD Audio dialog box. In PowerPoint 2007, choose Play CD Audio Track from the Sound option’s dropdown list. You’ll find this option in the Media Clips group on the Insert tab.
    • The Start At Time and End At Time fields let you capture just part of a track instead of using the entire track.
    • Use the Sound Volume button to control the audio’s volume.
    • Check the Hide While Not playing option in the Display Options section if you don’t want the audio’s icon to show when the music isn’t playing.
  3. Click OK when you’re done. PowerPoint lets you play the track by clicking or displaying the slide.

Like other sound files, Power Point displays a CD icon on the current slide. Just be careful that you don’t violate any copyright laws when including someone else’s music in your presentation.

A word on animation

You can use custom animation to control sound files to add a unique and creative dimension to your presentation. To get started, select a sound icon and display the Custom Animation task pane. PowerPoint offers a ton of options, and does a good job of disabling inappropriate choices for the selected clip.

Creating custom animation can be complicated and the truth is most presentations won’t need that much energy. However, the feature’s there and you might as well learn a bit about it. There’s an entire tab dedicated to animation in PowerPoint 2007. Click the Custom Animations option in the Animations group to create custom effects.

Design for effect

Multimedia files can liven up any presentation and sound is definitely part of that mix. You can play an appropriate tune or your company’s jingle. With one click, you can play your company’s latest radio ad for the head honchos. Whether you’re pitching a new product or sharing photos of your new baby, use sound to set the mood.

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February 20, 2009

How do I… Put a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on a CD?

Takeaway: If you've ever tried to transport or share a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation only to discover that essential pieces were missing and it wouldn't run properly, you'll appreciate the convenience and simplicity of the PowerPoint For CD feature. You can even include the Viewer for those who don't have PowerPoint installed.

This article is also available as a PDF download.

The Microsoft PowerPoint 2003 Package For CD feature is a flexible tool that allows you to either burn a presentation and all supporting files onto a CD or copy them to a specified folder. The package that's created using this tool includes image files, video clips, TrueType fonts, sound files, and other files used by the presentation. The package can also include the PowerPoint Viewer, making it easy to share the PowerPoint presentation with those who don't have PowerPoint installed on their workstations.

Creating a CD

To use the Package For CD feature to burn a CD, start by inserting a blank CD into your computer's CD writer. Next, open the PowerPoint presentation and click File | Package For CD, as shown in Figure A, to open the dialog box shown in Figure B.

Figure A

 

Figure B

 

Type a descriptive name for the package in the Name The CD text box. You can also click the Add Files button to add any files you want in the package that are not included in the package by default.

Now, click the Options button to open the dialog box shown in Figure C. Here, you can modify the default settings for creating the package:

  • PowerPoint Viewer: When this option is selected, the PowerPoint Viewer is included in the package.
  • Linked Files: Includes all the files that are linked to the package, such as videos and pictures.
  • Embedded TrueType Fonts: Embeds all the TrueType fonts within the presentation so that they will be available on other computers.
  • Password To Open Each File: Enter a password to protect each file in the package, including the PowerPoint presentation.
  • Password To Modify Each File: Enter a password to restrict modification of any file in the package.

Figure C

 

Once you've set the desired options, click OK to return to the Package For CD dialog box. To create the package and write it to the CD, click the Copy To CD button. The Copying Files To CD progress window will appear (Figure D), providing status information as the package is created and written to the CD.

Figure D

 

When the procedure is complete, the Copying Files To CD window will display the message shown liquid cialis in Figure E.

Figure E

 

After a few moments, the CD will eject from the drive and the Copying Files To CD window will close. Now you have the option of copying the same files to an additional CD (Figure F). Click Yes to create another CD or No to end the process.

Figure F

 

Copying to a folder

Although the feature is called Package For CD, PowerPoint doesn't require that a CD writer be installed on the workstation. You can simply create a package and copy it to a folder for sharing with others.

To create a package and copy it to a folder, you follow the basic steps described above: Open the presentation and click File | Package For CD, then enter a package name, click the Add Files button if you want to include additional files, and click the Options button to modify the default settings for creating the package.

When you're finished, click the Copy To Folder button to open the dialog box shown in Figure G. Enter a name in the Folder Name text box and then click the Browse button to navigate to the location where you want the package saved.

Figure G

 

To finish the process, click OK. The package will be created and copied to the location you specified in the previous step. Surprisingly, you won't be notified that the procedure is complete.

To view the presentation and the files included in the package, open Windows Explorer and navigate to the location where you saved the package. Figure H shows an example of the files that are included in a package. In addition to the PowerPoint presentation and the supporting files, this package contains the PowerPoint Viewer (pptview.exe).

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