4 Lessons in PowerPoint and Impress

As I was preparing my presentation for The Server Side Java Symposium, I learned three valuable lessons about PowerPoint.

Note: If you are thinking about attending the conference, Coderanch has an extra discount.

Lesson 1 – Open Office goes crazy

As I have Open Office 3.0 on my machine, I just assumed I could create my slides in Open Office’s Impress.  I opened the template the conference organizers provided.  And Open Office went crazy.  I ran into two problems right off the bat:

  1. The template decided to use “random transition” between slides.  Which many people noticed when I asked for feedback on my slides.  I saw this in PowerPoint too so it might have been the template.  Or it might have been that my copy somehow got corrupted.
  2. The text sizes were different.  This did work correctly in PowerPoint.  In Open Office, indenting caused that row to be bigger than it’s parent.  Not a big deal as I don’t have two levels of bullets in my Presentation.  They were only there when I was gathering ideas, but annoying regardless.

I was able to recover from these quirks and go on to write my presentation in Impress.

Lesson 2 – Showing one row at a time

I asked some people for feedback on my slides.  Most people had a few comments. Norm Sutaria tore it apart provided by far the most feedback.  Thanks Norm!  I have two slides with comparison tables.  Norm correctly pointed out that I should set them to display one row at a time so the audience doesn’t read ahead.  Sounds easy to do, right?  Nope.

In Impress, I couldn’t find a way to do this.  I decided to move to PowerPoint where more help is available.  I learned that PowerPoint 2007 doesn’t make this easy because it was required to allow larger table sizes – 75 rows x 75 columns.  (Who puts so much data on a slide in a presentation?)  In any case the tip was helpful to copy paste as an enhanced metafile, ungroup twice and then regroup into rows creating a custom animation for each row.  Oh and text that spans two lines needs to be selected for each line.  Tedious.  I can’t believe this is the way to do something so common.

Then I ran the presentation through to check that it worked.  And I saw:

  1. Slide title, table header and first row – good
  2. Press enter a few times and see the next row appear until all are there – good
  3. Press enter to go to the next slide and see the original slide title, table header and first row – huh?

I couldn’t find anything on the internet about why this was happening.  I gave up and asked Norm.  Who couldn’t find anything either.  He solved it by deleting the animations and starting over.  I’m guessing it was a residual thing from the Impress/PowerPoint switching.  Thanks Norm! (again)

Lesson 3 – Highlighting text

While walking through the slides with Norm, I also realized I should highlight certain text.  Like when you take a yellow highlighter and run it over text to get a yellow background.  Another thing that sounds easy to do, right?  Of course not.

At first I blamed Impress for this.  After all, it is a free tool.  Surely real PowerPoint lets you use a highlighter.  Turns out not so much.  Both tools let you use a background color for the entire textbox, but not for part of it.  The “solution” is to create a box of the color you want and position it over the text and then adjust the transparency.

This isn’t important enough to waste time/patience on positioning boxes.  I decided to just change the color of the text itself.

Lesson 4 – The mysterious blocks when printing

I made a nice little graphic and put some text next to it.  I had underlines in three places in the text.  PowerPoint turned that into big black blocks that go down the rest of the page.  It’s not my printer, this happens in print preview mode.  I found out when I was walking through the slides with Norm.  Why would it do that?!  After all the time spent on previous lessons I used a “solution” of removing the underline and using indentation for emphasis.  The lesson is to look at your slides when printed and not just assume they look the same as on the screen.

Conclusion

Argh!  So much frustration to do simple things.  I have to wonder if (Mac) Keynote has these issues.  Anyone know?

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