Weekly edition Kernel Security Distributions Contact Us Search Archives Calendar Subscribe Write for LWN LWN.net FAQ Sponsors

# The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

A sad, but common experience in the 1990's was to see presentations at Linux conferences which were clearly done with PowerPoint. When Linux advocates need to use a 100% proprietary system to communicate with their audience, something is clearly wrong. Fortunately, those days are behind us, and PowerPoint only makes appearances in irrelevant corners at Linux events - LinuxWorld keynotes, for example.

Your editor has given a fair number of talks this year in a number of exotic locales, and that trend looks set to continue. So presentation software is an area of interest; it is time to look at the current state of the art. Your editor has found that, while the situation is better than it has ever been, there is still room for improvement.

For what it is worth, here are some of the criteria which are to be used when evaluating free presentation systems:

• The visual quality of the output. One assumes that the audience will actually look at the slides when not heckling the speaker over IRC, so the appearance of the slides will affect the overall impression left by the talk. So things like clean transitions and antialiased fonts are important.

• Responsiveness. If the speaker has to wait for the next slide to appear on the screen, something is wrong.

• Random access. Questions from the audience can require moving around quickly in the talk; the presentation program should provide random access to any slide without a lot of trouble.

• Easy creation of slides. It is bad enough to be finishing a talk, with a hangover, an hour before it is supposed to be presented. If the presentation system makes slide creation slow or laborious, such a situation can become intolerable. It should be possible to bash out slides - especially simple slides, with a minimum of effort.

• Control. It should be possible to get rid of all those bullets, achieve decent inter-line spacing, set code in a monospace font, etc. without great effort.

• HTML output. People like it when the slides from a talk are posted to the web; this should be a straightforward operation.

One thing which is not on your editor's list is nine-step special-effects dominated slide transitions, trapeze-act bullet points, bouncing penguins, etc. In your editor's grumpy opinion, such effects can only serve to distract attention from the actual substance of the talk. Good presentations can only be harmed by turning the slides into a cartoon show, and bad presentations cannot be saved that way.

There are two fundamental approaches to presentation programs: graphical editors and markup languages. Your editor found two active projects of each type; we'll start with the graphical entries.

### KPresenter

KPresenter is the KDE project's presentation package. It has come a long way in recent years, becoming a powerful, fully-featured system with something for just about everybody. Basic text is easy to enter, with nice fonts and full control over presentation. Spell checking is built into the application. There is a simple drawing capability which includes the ability to make connections between objects - a crucial feature when presenting this week's new organization chart. Objects can be rotated and have drop shadows added on to them.

KPresenter can import images in numerous formats - including PostScript and SVG. Tables and charts can be generated with a simple, spreadsheet-like data editor. It is also possible to import various KOffice objects directly. If you present a lot of pie charts, this package is for you. If you want animations and singing, dancing transitions, KPresenter will provide them for you as well.

There is a basic set of templates which can be used to control the overall formatting of presentations. The first time you use KPresenter, it can be a little hard to figure out how to quickly make it add a new slide with the same template - but it is possible. A "preview" window on the left side can be used to navigate through the slides while editing them.

KPresenter works as one would expect when presenting; the output quality is good, and the program is responsive. A quick right-click brings up a list of slides for random movement. KPresenter also offers a "drawing mode," which lets the presenter scribble on the slides with a mouse. As a nice touch, KPresenter makes the pointer disappear while presenting. It's surprising how few presenters think to move the pointer to a corner, and give their entire talk with an unrelated arrow in the middle of their text; with KPresenter, they need not worry about that little detail.

Generation of HTML with KPresenter is a matter of stepping through a set of dialogs allowing customization of the output. HTML configurations can be saved, making things easier the second time. The quality of the output is good.

Your editor, working with the Fedora Rawhide packaging of KPresenter 1.3.2, encountered a few occasional bugs. Try to create a presentation with the wrong template, and the whole thing just silently quits. There are minor annoyances: when editing presentations, it is nice if the tab key increases the bullet level, but KPresenter does not work that way. The online documentation is spotty, with detailed tutorials on some relatively simple operations, but no help for more obscure topics, such us using the "autoform" feature.

Those issues are all minor, however. KPresenter is clearly a mature and capable package for the creation of presentations. If it were the only option available for free systems, we would be in good shape.

### OpenOffice.org

One of the many features built into OpenOffice.org is a presentation package. Like KPresenter, OOo is a fully graphical editor, and it, too, is packed with features.

If you want to make fancy drawings, OOo is even more feature-rich than KPresenter. It has various types of curve drawing operations, and a set of three-dimensional objects as well. If you are giving a talk which relies heavily on 3D, ray-traced cones and toruses, OOo is the package for you. It can do connections between objects. The graph editor also looks very similar; type your data into the spreadsheet window (or import an OpenOffice spreadsheet) and any sort of 3D plot is available to you. There is a brutally long list of available slide transitions.

OpenOffice offers a number of ways of viewing and navigating through a presentation while working on it. A small set of tabs on the bottom of the window is one such view; to make the tabs useful, however, the user must explicitly set the title which appears on each one. There is an "outline view" which lists the bullet points as text, a "slide view" for seeing the presentation in thumbnail format, and a "notes view" which presents additional speaker notes.

The presentation mode works mostly as expected. It is possible to pull up the navigator and move to an arbitrary slide, but you must know that F5 is the magic key to hit. Some of the slide transitions and bullet effects, if, for some reason, you choose to use them, can take a long time and do not appear to be interruptible. There is a rehearsal mode which puts a stopwatch on the screen so you can see how long each slide takes - but it does not seem to time the entire presentation. There is no on-screen drawing mode.

OpenOffice has a dialog-driven HTML export mechanism which allows customization of almost every aspect of the output and works reasonably well. The program can also export to PDF, but it seems to get confused by animated text effects - yet another good reason to avoid them. The PDF output also seems to lack many of the graphical objects in the slides; instead, it contains only the text.

OpenOffice.org differs from KPresenter in one key aspect: how templates are handled. KPresenter generates each page from the template at insertion time; thereafter, the page is disconnected from the template. OpenOffice, instead, derives pages from a "master" page, and keeps that connection. As a result, changes affecting the layout of the entire presentation can by made by editing the master pages. With KPresenter, instead, it is necessary to change each page individually.

Anybody who has worked with OpenOffice.org knows that it is a large, unwieldy program. Once it gets going, it responds reasonably well, however. Once again, the online documentation is not all that one might hope for. If you want text with drop shadows, OpenOffice will disappoint you. If you want a capable, graphical presentation package, however, OpenOffice can certainly fill the bill.

### MagicPoint

MagicPoint takes a very different approach to the problem of editing presentations. This tool (along with Pointless, which we will get to shortly) is based on plain text files and a custom markup language. Editing of slides is done with an ordinary text editor; the resulting file must be fed to the utility to see the final result.

To many, this approach will seem like something straight out of the 1970's. There are advantages to doing things this way, however: the creation of simple, textual presentations can be done very quickly, and the plain text input file can provide extensive control over how the presentation works. Purists will tell you that the markup approach helps to focus the mind on the structure of the presentation rather than its appearance. That may be true, but presentations are also very much about appearance, so users of markup-based presentation programs usually end up checking the formatting of their slides frequently as they write them.

MagicPoint's markup language takes a bit of getting used to. There is a simple template for each page which describes how each line should be formatted. In a typical MagicPoint presentation, the first line of a slide is blank, the second holds the title, the third is blank, and the slide text starts on the fourth line. Bullet levels are determined by the number of tabs at the beginning of the line. The result is that a MagicPoint input file tends to look like an outline of the talk with a bit of markup language thrown in.

The markup language is fairly straightforward: %page to start a page, %font to change fonts, etc. MagicPoint can use TrueType fonts for high-quality output. If you change fonts frequently (using monospace fonts for code fragments, for example), MagicPoint's markup can get verbose and cumbersome; otherwise it is pretty unobtrusive. There is simple support for background images or gradients. There are no operations for creating graphics in slides beyond drawing solid rectangles, but MagicPoint can easily display images stored in external files. So, to create a slide with graphics, one need only fire up one's favorite editing tool and export the result as a PNG file.

In presentation mode, MagicPoint behaves much like the others. It has an on-screen drawing mode, and supports easy random access to slides. There is an option to put up a footer giving the titles of the next and previous slides - useful for speakers who have a hard time remembering what's coming next. MagicPoint also offers a rehearsal mode where it continually shows how much of your allotted time has been used.

Generating an HTML version of a talk is a simple matter of running MagicPoint with the right command line options. There is, however, little flexibility in how that output is formatted.

MagicPoint is not a fast-moving project; the last release (1.10a) came out in June, 2003; 1.09 was released in September, 2001. In other words, not much is going on there. The lack of activity is somewhat surprising, given that there are many MagicPoint users out there. This tool has, evidently, reached the point where it is good enough; there is nothing so irritating that it inspires people to tear into the code. MagicPoint does have some bugs, some difficult features, and other issues - for example, fonts can make presentations hard to move between machines. It would be nice if this useful tool were to get some renewed developer attention.

(Those interested in MagicPoint input and output can see the editor's OLS 2004 talk and get a tarball with the sources and images that go with it.)

### Pointless

Pointless is another markup-based presentation tool; it runs on most Linux and Unix systems. Your editor's first impression was that the Pointless developers are trying to build a system around a sort of object-oriented version of LaTeX. Pointless takes some getting used to, and is in an early stage of development, but it shows some real potential. Unfortunately, development appears to have stalled since the beginning of this year.

Users of Pointless end up typing in a lot of markup. Each bulleted line must be marked with =item, =subitem, etc. Plain text lines need =par, or are marked by a =begin-par/=end-par pair. Font and color changes follow a TeX-like style ({=small some-text}), and are a bit easier than the MagicPoint equivalents. Commands exist for importing images, setting tables, importing fonts, etc. There is also a macro definition capability which can be used isolate slide formatting decisions and cut down on the typing.

Pointless is written in Python, and it has made Python's module importing capability available to presentation files. The distribution comes with additional modules which can display EPS images or LaTeX source, create plots with gnuplot, or format source code.

There is one visual effect supported by pointless - a basic alpha fade out and in. It uses that effect everywhere, however, and it can make the rendering of slides quite slow. Commands exist for controlling the fader, but an attempt to use them (uncommenting the versions in an example presentation packaged with the source) resulted in Python tracebacks. Actually, crashing Pointless 0.5 is an easy thing to do in general.

Random access to slides during a presentation is not supported, and there is no drawing mode. Annoyingly, Pointless forces a pause before every bulleted item in each slide, requiring the speaker to lean on the space bar and watch each line fade in separately. This behavior can be changed by putting in =nostep - before every single line.

HTML output is supported. The mechanism is flexible; it works from templates and can substitute in many variable describing each slide. There is no "just make me some HTML" operation, however; the user must specify three different templates before Pointless will do the job.

Pointless has the potential to be come a highly-capable, extensible presentation system. For the moment, it remains - as stated on its web page - an alpha-phase project. Unless development picks up again, unfortunately, it is likely to remain there.

### Summary

As always, there are some other projects which were not reviewed here, but which are worthy of mention:

• Agnubis is another attempt to create a GNOME presentation program. It would appear that development stalled in 2002, however, and the project, while having put up some screenshots, has never made an actual release. One of the authors posted a why agnubis did not succeed message in 2003.

• Criawips appears to be the current GNOME effort in this area. Version 0.0.7 was announced on September 9. Some screenshots are up, but little features like "creating and editing of slides" are yet to be implemented.

• Imposter is a standalone viewer for presentations made with OpenOffice.org.

• MinDia appears to be an active project. Its focus is on display of photography, however, rather than the creation of presentations.

• tpp is a markup-based presentation system which uses ncurses for its display. If you need to run presentations on a vt100 terminal, this system is for you.

So which package would a grumpy editor choose? On the graphical side, OpenOffice.org comes through as being more mature, and its "master page" mechanism can come in handy when one's employer is acquired and all of the page footers have to be changed at once. From the outside, however, KPresenter looks like a more vibrant, fast-moving project. Your editor also likes the feel of KPresenter better; OpenOffice, while being capable of almost anything, has always seemed unwieldy and aggravating to operate. OpenOffice should not be written off by any means, but KPresenter looks like it may be set to surpass it.

On the markup-based front, MagicPoint appears to be the only viable alternative at this point. Your editor will likely stick to it despite its slow-moving development and fairly primitive state. It has the features your editor really needs, and it does better at staying out of the way than any other system out there.

There seems to be a bit of a gap in the development of free presentation programs. The pointy-haired set, which wants sound effects, dancing bullet points, and easy pie charts, appears to be reasonably well served by the available graphical offerings. There is less available for those who prefer no-nonsense, text-centered presentations, quick talk preparation, easy display of code samples, and who are not afraid of a text editor. And the GNOME project, despite a few attempts (remember Achtung?) has yet to produce a presentation system of its own.

Projects in this area seem to have a high probability of stalling before reaching a stable state. Perhaps the problem is more difficult than it seems at the outset.

That said, the state of the art is clearly better than it has ever been; anybody wanting to do a presentation with free software has a few alternatives to choose from. There is no longer any need to face the embarrassment of being caught using PowerPoint at a Linux conference.

[As a postscript, your editor would like to let it be known that he has not forgotten his promise to complete the email client series with a look at terminal-based tools. That article is still in the works, and will show up, hopefully, before too long.]

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 18:40 UTC (Tue) by mmarsh (subscriber, #17029) [Link]

Given the inclusion of markup-based packages, it seems somewhat surprising to me that the Grumpy Editor didn't include the old standby LaTeX, which in addition to the slides and seminar classes also has prosper. I've used LaTeX and seminar as well as OOo Impress, and while the latter is easier to use when it comes to creating diagrams, it can't compare for even simple mathematical expressions. In addition, I've never been satisfactorily able to inclue EPS in OOo presentations. For me, this is a big deal, since that's the format my externally produced figures will be in.

Presentation programs for mathematics

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:02 UTC (Tue) by jbh (subscriber, #494) [Link]

Indeed, mathematics seem to be the achilles heel of many of these presentation programs, and that's the reason I have (reluctantly) returned to latex slides for presentations. I'll take a look at prosper and pointless though, haven't seen them before.

Presentation programs for mathematics

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:50 UTC (Tue) by aaa27 (guest, #13650) [Link]

> I'll take a look at prosper

Hendri Adriaens has developped the HA-prosper package, which runs on top of propser, and extends it. http://stuwww.uvt.nl/~hendri/Downloads/haprosper.html

I think it's an alternative well worth considering, especialy for scientific talks.
For LaTeX users, there are a bunch of packages out there, but prosper with HA-Prosper is without doubt (one of) the best ones.

André

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:14 UTC (Tue) by NAR (subscriber, #1313) [Link]

When I had to make a presentation, I used LaTeX too, because I needed to include mathematical expressions and EPS :-) I think the reason not to include LaTeX in the article is that you can only create the presentation in LaTeX, you need an other program (e.g. ghostview) to present the presentation.

Bye,NAR

Posted Sep 14, 2004 20:25 UTC (Tue) by bkw1a (subscriber, #4101) [Link]

If you use pdflatex, you can use acroread to present the resulting pdf.

Posted Sep 14, 2004 23:06 UTC (Tue) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501) [Link]

Acroread, however, is a pain to work with when working on the presentation. Not only it lacks a "watch file" mode, like xdvi and gv (I don't remember if xpdf has such a mode) but reloading the presentation is too long a process.

xpdf is quite nice. xdvi can also be handy

Posted Sep 15, 2004 13:07 UTC (Wed) by scottt (subscriber, #5028) [Link]

xpdf reloads the file on a 'r' keypress or a page change.
It even has a full screen mode and a commandline controllable remote server mode similar to mozilla's.
If only it's development uses the standard CVS/mailing list/bugzilla combo ..

Posted Sep 16, 2004 19:42 UTC (Thu) by oak (subscriber, #2786) [Link]

My favorite way to do simple presentations with "LaTex" is to set paper
size to something very small in LyX (http://www.lyx.org/) and then create
the presentation with it (using Xdvi to preview it). Then when I want to
present it, I export it as PDF (or PS) and show it with Acroread (or Xpdf)
in fullscreen mode.

Miniscule page size, scaled to fullscreen -> presto, presentation with
suitable sized fonts. No need for any special presentation style. :-)

Compile LaTeX with pslatex, present with xpdf

Posted Sep 21, 2004 6:25 UTC (Tue) by komarek (guest, #7295) [Link]

Nice trick with the page size. Another "trick" is to use "pslatex" (comes with TeTeX on most GNU/Linux distros). It uses scalable fonts instead of bitmapped fonts. These fonts seem slightly "tighter", and will save you one column on an 8-page conference paper (can be very useful sometimes!). Also, the .ps file from dvips comes out much smaller. Conversion to pdf with ps2pdf works fine.

I learned all this when Adobe called the feds in on Sklyarov. I still avoid acroread because of that.

-Paul Komarek

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 10:55 UTC (Wed) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

When I need to include an EPS file in a computer presentation, I use the GIMP to convert it to a JPEG or (more often) a PNG (so that there's no compression artifacts, as usually I'm importing line diagrams and such). For instance, see: http://brahms.phy.vanderbilt.edu/deepsearch/hstpaper/inde... ... there I have the EPS files of the figures, and PNG files converted and anti-aliased with the Gimp for use on a 1024x768 presentation screen.

I've also used "ps2fig" followed by "fig2sxd" so that I can *import* the EPS file and edit it further in OOo. It would be nice if OOo could import EPS files directly, but these two programs let you work aroud the problem.

As for equations, some simple equations I do in OOo impress, but complicated ones I do in LaTeX and use ImageMagik to convert to something I'd want to import into OOo:

-Rob

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 14:03 UTC (Wed) by mmarsh (subscriber, #17029) [Link]

I've had to convert EPS, too, and the results usually look like crap. Bitmaps just don't scale well, either up or down. I tried converting EPS to a vector format supported by OOo, and that was even less successful. Why, in a presentation program, they allow you to import EPS but only have it look correct when you print eludes me. Is gs really that difficult to embed?

Equations have the same problem, since you're ultimately using a font that's being turned into a bitmap. Even if I'm doing something that can be formatted easily in OOo (or Kpresenter), if there are any non-Latin characters it's a real pain to insert them. I end up cutting and pasting em-dashes, for example, because Open Symbols has a much more satisfactory dash.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 16, 2004 3:30 UTC (Thu) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

I've had to convert EPS, too, and the results usually look like crap.

I've managed to have them come out looking decent. The tricks include: choose your final resolution to match pretty close to the resolution on the screen you'll be using in your presentation. When you use gs, convert the postscript file to something at *twice* your final resolution, and then use an image program of some sort (I use ImageMagick for batch processing) to scale the image down and get anti-aliasing on your fonts. Make sure that when you render the thing from LaTeX, you have a background color that is reasonably close to the background color you will use in your presentation, as some of that *will* leak through despite your best efforts of transparency and anti-aliasing. If you do all that, you can get pretty good-looking results with image files converted from EPS files. They don't *have* to look like crap if you do it right. -Rob

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 26, 2004 2:15 UTC (Sun) by roelofs (guest, #2599) [Link]

As for equations, some simple equations I do in OOo impress, but complicated ones I do in LaTeX and use ImageMagik to convert to something I'd want to import into OOo:

Not bad, but I think whatever's doing the alpha-based antialiasing isn't doing it right (i.e., either IM is omitting the non-premultiplication adjustment on input or OOo is compositing in nonlinear [gamma] space on output). You're also missing a square bracket. ;-)

Greg

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 11:32 UTC (Wed) by wookey (subscriber, #5501) [Link]

Magicpoint trivially displays .eps files (%image file.eps IIRC).

I have had trouble with .ps from some sources where the bounding box isn't right so the pic ends up in the wrong place on the screen, and sometimes it's easier to convert to a bitmap image, but for simple diags .eps works very well. Our editor failed to mention this, implying that magicpoint only did PNGs.

I must admit that I like magicpoint a lot. It does the job, quickly and simply, looks sufficiently pretty, and tells you how long you have to go. The default colour settings are horrid though, and it is important to use an editor that doesn't mess with your tabs - tabs mean stuff in magicpoint files and so using it with some editors can be a bit of a fight.

So far as I can see the reason for lack of development is that the program is finished. More flexible HTML ouput might be nice, but essentially I don't see anything about the program that needs changing.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:25 UTC (Tue) by dhess (guest, #7827) [Link]

Here's my presentation software of choice:

The Debian package is named 'latex-beamer'.

The output is beautiful, it's well documented, and I love being able to prepare a presentation in Xemacs. acroread makes a pretty decent presentation app, too, which I didn't know until I tried it. My only gripes are related to PDF, not LaTeX-Beamer itself: I don't like opaque binary file formats and I wish I could use something like ggv instead of acroread for the presentations, but for me, anyway, ggv just doesn't work very well on many PDF files.

I believe you can produce formats other than PDF, anyway, but I recall having some problems when I tried that and I was rushed for time.

I used this software for a presentation I gave back in March, after having tried Pointless two years ago at SIGGRAPH. Pointless isn't bad, and it's a lot more quick-and-dirty, but the output of LaTeX-Beamer is much nicer.

d

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 20:38 UTC (Tue) by lamikr (guest, #2289) [Link]

And latex-beamer with Lyx...

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 23:08 UTC (Tue) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501) [Link]

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 21:13 UTC (Wed) by twiens (guest, #12274) [Link]

I must agree with the general comment that LaTeX merits inclusion as a tool to be considered. I'm using LaTeX with R, Python, and PostgreSQL to run some involved data analysis. In a matter of days I was able to script and run work that would have taken months to do manually. From this report output I was very easily able to use graphs and extract text into a very usuable presentation using the FoilTeX library for LaTeX in a matter of hours.

Thanks for the introduction to LaTeX beamer; it looks like a nice package which I'm sure I'll use in the future.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 17, 2004 5:41 UTC (Fri) by vonbrand (subscriber, #4458) [Link]

If LaTeX, there is also the beamer package. It is much easier to use than prosper.

Interoperability?

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:03 UTC (Tue) by AJWM (guest, #15888) [Link]

One point (ahem) of comparison that I missed is the degree of interoperability of these various programs with the output of others in the class, including the unfortunately ubiquitous PowerPoint.

I know that OOo does a fair job of both displaying and creating PowerPoint (.ppf) files, although often with some minor changes in formatting. How well do the others do? Is there an open standard format for presentation files, and if so, which of these support it and how well?

That said, thanks for the comparison, and others in the Grumpy Editor's series. I always learn about some app(s) I hadn't heard of from them.

Interoperability?

Posted Sep 14, 2004 23:11 UTC (Tue) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501) [Link]

HTML and PDF can be presented virtually everywhere.

latex-based packages may allow you to add internal links between separate slides (both PDF and HTML support internal and external links).

Interoperability?

Posted Sep 15, 2004 0:04 UTC (Wed) by vondo (guest, #256) [Link]

In a collaborative environment, one often has to incorporate information from one person's presentation into your own. I use Latex-prosper, usually, but getting info out of Powerpoints and into my talk is a major pain. PPT compatability is definitely a consideration, not just the output formats.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:09 UTC (Tue) by john_ouellette (guest, #5535) [Link]

One thing I frequently need in presentations is the ability to include movies. Animated gifs work fine in OOo, but other common movie types (e.g. .mov), for which there are stand-alone players on Linux, don't work well. It is often possible to use the plugin mechanism in OOo to get a movie going, only to find that it won't work during a full presentation, or you can't save the file after including a movie clip, etc. I usually have to (ick) minimize my presentation and then start the stand-alone player outside of the presentation tool. (still better than going to Windows...)

I briefly looked at KPresenter and MagicPoint, but they didn't function any better in this respect.

I'm not going to complain a whole heck of a lot about this problem because, in all other respects, I find that OOo is a great suite of tools and use one or two everyday. Still, it would be nice....

A few more MagicPoint Tricks

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:12 UTC (Tue) by AnswerGuy (guest, #1256) [Link]

Magicpoint has a few other neat features as well.

• Scribbling on slides during presentation with the mouse (two colors)
• One pixel time thermometer, visible to speaker, generally not on overhead projector: green for lots of time, yellow for wrap-up, red for time's up
• "swallow" features allows one to run an external program (X11) within a slide!
• %filter allows one to filter text in a slide through a rendering engine (such as latex2eps) to generate images which can then be displayed within slides.
• A variety of pauses, "cut-ins" (text sliding in from one side or another), fades (slide transitions) are supported. There aren't many of them, and they should be used sparingly, but they're simple and functional.

I'm rather partial to MagicPoint's approach. Even with lots of code examples (cluttering the mark-up a little bit) the fact is that a .mgp presentation is a simple text file which can be prepared, updated, and modified with any text editor and related tools. It's simple to generate most of a presentation from a simple outline (perhaps created in emacs' outline mode). A few lines of awk can turn the output from linux -dump of a set of web pages into a very basic mgp presentation which can them be enhanced with various tricks.

Its simplicity also allows other tools to be built around it, from the emacs/elisp code to implement a magicpoint-mode to an mmaker pre-processor, etc.

The biggest disadvantage to MagicPoint is the rather weak documentation and very minimal web presence. It would be nice of the official/canonical MagicPoint web site at least published the man pages for the package so prospective users could get an idea of its power and simplicity.

Even better would be a |<ic|<@ presentation in MagicPoint that highlighted and demonstrated a full range of its features.

Personally I use MagicPoint right from a KNOPPIX CD, with my presentations burned unto two copies of that and with them on a thumb drive along with .deb and .rpm copies of the MagicPoint package itself. (Lost laptop, projector doesn't work with my laptop, whatever, the show will go on!

JimD

Another sugestion

Posted Sep 14, 2004 19:57 UTC (Tue) by fatrat (subscriber, #1518) [Link]

Huckster. From the webpage.

"Huckster diverges from the way other presentation programs work based on a few principles:

1. Life's to short to spend it fussing with formatting. This program handles the formatting for you. If you don't like it, use StarOffice or Powerpoint.
2. If you type a character into a slide, it should appear on the slide. As you type more text into a slide, text point sizes are progressively reduced.
3. Most folks serious about putting together good looking slides use industrial strength art tools from companies like Adobe and Corel. Therefore, this presetation program has no art tools of its own and presumes that you'll use one of these other tools and drag-and-drop images into the presentation.
4. Content and Style should be seperated as totally as possible.
5. Transitions are evil. "

Another interesting approach

Posted Sep 14, 2004 20:03 UTC (Tue) by nigelm (subscriber, #622) [Link]

The following talk from the UKUUG Linux 2004 event may be of interest:-

Simon compares a number of methods of doing presentations and then shows an interesting way of doing things - basically an HTML presentation with different stylesheets for presentation and later (or not-at-conference) reading. A little javascript gives you some extra navigation.

Web Browser as presentations tools

Posted Sep 14, 2004 21:34 UTC (Tue) by AnswerGuy (guest, #1256) [Link]

I've seen this and used it; even just using something as simple as a MoinMoin wiki page for the content.

I've seen presentations by Twiki's creator and he uses Twiki for his presentation backend (there are even plug-ins for this purpose) and Mozilla (if I recall correctly) for the front end.

I would use these only for the most informal presentations, but it is quick and the issue of publishing the slides unto the web is inherently handled.

Another candidate: AxPoint

Posted Sep 14, 2004 20:20 UTC (Tue) by bkw1a (subscriber, #4101) [Link]

Another presentation program worthy of note is AxPoint:

I've used it to make a a couple of presentations.

With AxPoint, you write an xml file, then run it through the axpoint
program, which produces a nice pdf file. You can do simple things like
place titles, bullets and images on the page, and do a few standard
slide transitions. You don't have much control over the position
of things on the page, but it's a really quick and easy way to make
a pretty slick-looking pdf presentation.

The downside is the enormously long list of dependencies AxPoint
requires.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 20:45 UTC (Tue) by lamikr (guest, #2289) [Link]

I have tried to use Open Office impress for a couple of time.
I have however not been able to find easy way for adding
tables in the presentation.

but this is slow and overkill you want to
insert table simply with text and columns.

Does anybody else found whether this is possible with oo.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 0:18 UTC (Wed) by denials (subscriber, #3413) [Link]

Well, once you have Impress running you can quickly create a New->Text document, insert a table using CTRL+F12 (or Insert->Table), throw in the text you want, then copy and paste the table into the presentation.

Yeah, it's pretty silly to have to do it that way. But it's relatively quick because there's hardly any overhead to opening a second OpenOffice.org document of any type when the first one is already open.

I just spent a couple of days putting together a presentation for php|works in OpenOffice.org, then received the PowerPoint template from the conference organizer (who said "If you're using ooo Impress then you know how to merge templates"). Needless to say, the new template changed the font sizes and spacing of everything... argh. And I only found the "Fit Text to Frame" button in Impress today, after giving up the search and manually fixing everything. Double-argh. (Trick to future generations: I had to add the Fit to Text button from the Format button set through a customization of the toolbars).

Dan

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 8:52 UTC (Wed) by lamikr (guest, #2289) [Link]

Thanks for info, now I know that there exist anyway a method for doing this.
At least Impress should contain an one key menu selection short cut
to this feature because I bet that the table editing is in the top 5 of
things you want to do with your presentations.

Mika

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 16, 2004 17:41 UTC (Thu) by mogul (subscriber, #3163) [Link]

For the love of God, you *must* reveal how to find the "Fit Text to Frame" button in Impress. I've scanned all over the interface and through the help, and found nothing!

A lack of the ability to do this was the one thing that kept me from using Impress regularly... I'm constantly exchanging presentations or updating templates from Powerpoint users and it was just too much work to keep accepting revisions from them and manually updating the layout every time, so I've fallen back to Powerpoint whenever sharing with anyone at work...

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 0:31 UTC (Wed) by hppnq (guest, #14462) [Link]

Maybe this will help?

I fired up Impress but couldn't find any obvious icons or options that should be there according to the tutorial -- before I froze seeing that the OOo developers apparently thought it a good idea to clone that horrible paperclip that still haunts me at night. Back to Latex. ;-)

(On second thoughts: imagine having to typeset Knuth's collected works in Tex, how's that for a nightmare? ;-)

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 14, 2004 21:20 UTC (Tue) by freemars (subscriber, #4235) [Link]

Anyone considering using a presentation program should first study Edward Tufte's essay: The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. He includes examples such as presentations to NASA playing down the seriousness of shuttle tile damage and Lincoln's Gettysgurg Address.

Buy this pamphlet and skip the presentation software altogether.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 10:50 UTC (Wed) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

Or, don't necessarily skip the presentation software--- just use it well.

The problem isn't the software per se, but the fact that people use the bullet points and try to boil down what they're talking about to things that can be read from slides. The problem is the *way it is used*.

Blaming the presentation software is akin to blaming free software for any perceived losses in music industry sales....

If you have to show visuals with your talks-- and, as I'm in the sciences, that's crucial-- presentation software can be much nicer than using transparencies or physical slides. Just don't try to get the full *text* of your talk into the presentation along with your visuals.

-Rob

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 14:17 UTC (Wed) by mmarsh (subscriber, #17029) [Link]

Yeah, I've seen way too many scientific presentations where the audience reads along with the speaker as he repeats verbatim what's on the slides. Some of the problem is just poor presentation making/giving skills, but some is that people want to make slides that can be read outside of the context of the presentation. This is not the right way to prepare a talk, since the essence of a presentation is the presentation. Since most presentation programs (including LaTeX) allow you to attach notes, these should be where the spoken text, or a reasonable alternate, should be placed.

I don't have a problem with simple bullet lists, as long as the points are adequately illustrated through the spoken delivery or graphics -- preferrably both. I'll occassionally make a slide with almost no text, only graphics, because it better expresses what I'm going to say.

Since we've digressed from the merits of presentation software to the way it's used, I might as well mention _Dazzle 'Em with Style_, by Robert R. H. Anholt. It's worth a read for pretty much anyone who has to give more than one talk a year.

All that being said, I want a program that *helps* me put together the talk I want to write, rather than one that gets in the way. I've yet to see a program with the right balance.

Yet another candidate: Docbook-Slides

Posted Sep 14, 2004 21:45 UTC (Tue) by lolando (subscriber, #7139) [Link]

If you don't fear SGML/XML, you can also use the "Slides" flavour of Docbook (and if you do fear them, well, I suppose you'll have to wait until Conglomerate starts working reasonably well).

Like plain Docbook, Docbook-Slides is geared towards technical docs/presentations. It's easy to include code, examples, links, have lots of semantic markup, and keep the visual fluff for later: that's the point of Docbook in particular and WYSIWYM in general.

Of course, Docbook is but a markup language, but there are a few transformation processes (XSLT for instance) to turn your beautiful XML into beautiful HTML. Frames or no frames, there are even a few Javascripts hooks that you can enable to get something slightly lively. And then all you need is <insert your favourite browser here> running fullscreen. And you can turn your presentation into PDF for the proceedings or so. And since it's HTML+CSS, theming is doable too. Oh, and as they say, structured data is here to stay.

Right, no sound. No transitions, either. Graphics come from external images. Like the rest of Docbook, this may not be what your PHB will use for showing off to his VPs. But for us techies... Yummy :-)

Yet another candidate: Docbook-Slides

Posted Sep 15, 2004 13:58 UTC (Wed) by debacle (subscriber, #7114) [Link]

Yes, DocBook/XML Slides are a very good way to create HTML slides to be viewed e.g. with Firefox. I do all my slides using DocBook/XML Slides and I do all other documentation in DocBook/XML article/book/refentry/website, e.g. man pages, howto documents, reference cards, web pages. I like the idea of single source publishing. Another plus: All necessary packages are apt-get'able in Debian sarge: the slides package and the demo package.

Cut'n'pase: an advantage of text-based tools

Posted Sep 14, 2004 22:40 UTC (Tue) by lakeland (subscriber, #1157) [Link]

This is probably obvious to many of the people here... but while I find
the graphical tools make generating a pretty presentation easier than the
markup tools, I prefer to use markup tools.

I give quite a lot of presentations that are similar to each other.
Perhaps I'll give a general version to the whole department, a more
specialised version to the research group, and a more polished version at
a conference.

If I use a graphical tool, then I can produce any one of those
presentations faster. But the markup approach makes it extremely easy to
cut and paste between presentations. Templates vaguely allow you to do
this in OO.o, but markup wins the day.

Cut'n'pase: an advantage of text-based tools

Posted Sep 14, 2004 23:20 UTC (Tue) by tzafrir (subscriber, #11501) [Link]

And keep the presentation in a version-control system?

Using HTML as the presentation format

Posted Sep 15, 2004 0:18 UTC (Wed) by Per_Bothner (subscriber, #7375) [Link]

I've been using HTML to present lately. I write each talk as an XML file, with a <slide> for each slide, where the contents of each slide are written using XHTML markup. Then a shell script uses xsltproc to separate individual pages, and generate links and keyboard shortcuts. The "look" isn't very sexy because I'm not a web designer, but one could enhance the concept with nicer templates and stylesheets. The advantage is that the presentation can be viewed anywhere (including remotely) using any browser, though it is optimized for Mozilla.

Here is a sample presentation: (Type space or n to move forwards, type p to move backwards, and type i to go to the index page, which also links to the printed paper. You can also mouse in the titlebar of each slide to move forwards/backwards.)

There is somewhat old documentatiion, but the link to paper-utils.tgz is current. A sample of how to use the scripts is in this Makefile. But note this is just something I've been hacking on for my presentations, and isn't designed as a general package - you'll probably have to tweak/fix it for your own needs. If someone wants to tunr it into a slicker package that would be great.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 9:05 UTC (Wed) by james (subscriber, #1325) [Link]

Surprised no-one's mentioned this before...

Your editor, working with the Fedora Rawhide packaging of KPresenter 1.3.2, encountered a few occasional bugs. Try to create a presentation with the wrong template, and the whole thing just silently quits.

I don't think it's fair to criticise a project merely because there are a few bugs in the Fedora Rawhide version. Although it is pretty stable, Rawhide is supposed to be a development branch, released largely so people can find bugs in it.

I can't find a Fedora Bugzilla entry: any chance you could let someone know about the rest of the bugs so they can get filed?

Thanks,

James.

(FWIW: I am one of the regulars on the main Fedora list, and run Rawhide to see what's coming up...)

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 23, 2004 7:16 UTC (Thu) by irios (guest, #19838) [Link]

I wouldn't say the article containt 'unfair criticism' of KPresenter; it is way closer to a 'Glowing Review', wouldn't you say?

And the bug mentioned *is* indeed a bug. It could've been reported, though, but I don't know whether to Fedora or to KOffice.

Presenting with OOo Impress

Posted Sep 15, 2004 9:46 UTC (Wed) by soundray (guest, #688) [Link]

Just a note about a couple of things that I find useful while in presentation mode with Impress:

* No need to press F5 every time - you can hit a number and return to go to the corresponding slide

* Yes, you can draw on the slide if you activate "Mouse pointer as pen" in Slide Show Settings.

* You can black out or white out your slide with the B and W keys.

There are more things in heaven and earth...

Posted Sep 15, 2004 16:27 UTC (Wed) by wjhenney (guest, #11768) [Link]

...or, yet another outraged LaTeX fanboy :)

It is a shame that you didn't consult
http://www.miwie.org/presentations/presentations.html which lists 51 (!)
different markup-based presentation packages (and not all of them based
on LaTeX). I would second the earlier recommendations of prosper. The
learning curve would be pretty steep for someone not already familiar
with LaTeX and PSTricks but the quality of the results is awesome.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 15, 2004 20:30 UTC (Wed) by Hawke (subscriber, #6978) [Link]

It's unfortunate that this seems to have missed one of the more useful
features of OpenOffice Impress: The ability to export to flash. I have
found this to be by far the best method of distributing presentations to
people without MS Office or Open/StarOffice.

Markup presentation programs

Posted Sep 16, 2004 3:24 UTC (Thu) by davidD (guest, #6944) [Link]

http://titanium.dstc.edu.au/xml/jacksvg

is the home page for an XML->SVG presentation program that can produce fairly sophisticated slides.

For the LaTeX inclined: beamer

Posted Sep 16, 2004 7:22 UTC (Thu) by rl (subscriber, #2336) [Link]

There are several packages for presentations using LaTeX (slides, prosper, beamer, ...). Beamer is the one I tend to recommend these days.

Another markup alternative: LaTeX beamer class

Posted Sep 16, 2004 15:28 UTC (Thu) by jschrod (subscriber, #1646) [Link]

Another markup alternative is the LaTeX class beamer, check out an example [pdf document].

beamer offers incremental display, prearranged themes, automatic table of contents, navigation bars, bibliographies, and other features. Can be used with pdflatex and LyX. It's not only of interest for technical tasks, due to its easy markup scheme. (If you are fixated on visual programs, it's not for you, of course.)

Joachim

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 23, 2004 13:05 UTC (Thu) by mcmt88 (guest, #13309) [Link]

Another good option is IPE (http://ipe.compgeom.org/). It started as a vector drawing program with sophisticated cad-like features, but it's advanced into quite a capable presentation program as well. It creates very nice PDF's with transitions and everything. It uses Latex for text markup, but you don't have to be a Latex expert to use it. It's mostly WYSIWYG. It's great for precise drawing, and IPE works well for mathematical notation.

For an example of a presentation done with IPE, see:

- B

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 23, 2004 16:42 UTC (Thu) by job (guest, #670) [Link]

Count me as another happy LaTeX-user. It's a shame that you don't include
what I believe to be the standard tool for making presentations (at least
in the academic world). There are several packages to choose from which
will give you the freaky faded backgrounds, overlays, and other things
that are legio in the presentation field.

I have also used HTML + CSS with a web browser in full screen mode. It's
good, but I think the PDF output of LaTeX is much nicer to look at.
Especially when the type is so freakishly large, the font quality becomes
very important. Seeing the font spacing in OOo and Powerpoint makes me
want to cry. Using the Postscript fonts with LaTeX is so much better.
Plus you can publish the PDF on the web later.

Sometimes I have converted the PDFs to a directory of PNGs with gs,
because the image slideshow programs are a bit better than the PDF
viewers, and can crossfade nicely between them.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 25, 2004 6:59 UTC (Sat) by ringerc (subscriber, #3071) [Link]

What about PythonPoint from the ReportLab toolkit? It's a simple XML
markup that's good for getting your slides done quickly and neatly. While
you can't output HTML for the web, you _can_ use the same very nice PDF
you used for your main presentation.

It supports the generation of PDF bookmarks for navigation, including
logical section/subsection structure. I've used it in the past with
excellent results. PowerPoint users will loathe it with a passion - but if
you /don't/ care about flashing, bouncing text and a soundtrack (arrrggh)
you should probably look into it.

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs

Posted Sep 26, 2004 4:45 UTC (Sun) by kcannon (guest, #4867) [Link]

It looks like it hasn't been mentioned yet, so I'd like to draw people's attention to pdfscreen. I've tried litterally dozens of these presentations programs, and pdfscreen provides by far the best solution for me. I'm not sure where pdfscreen's real homepage is, but typing "pdfscreen" into Google brings up lots of useful information.

My most important needs are: (i) the ability to display technical information (I'm a physicist, so I need to display math and graphs), (ii) the ability to interoperate with the software with which the original work was done, eg. import .eps and .pdf graphics, import ASCII source code, import mathematics typeset in AMSTeX/LaTeX, (iii) the ability to make a copy of my presentation available online. *None* of the purpose-built presentation packages provide the first two features, which leaves LaTeX as the only workable solution for me. The question then is which LaTeX presentation system is best, and I've found pdfscreen to be it.

pdfscreen is a LaTeX package designed specifically for use with pdflatex. When this package is included in your document, it sets the page size to something that matches the size of your screen, and provides the "slide" environment (eg. \begin{slide} ... \end{slide}) which does something obvious. Upon processing the document with pdflatex, the output is a .pdf file which you can display during the presentation using xpdf's fullscreen mode. Being a LaTeX package, all of LaTeX's power is available: structure based mark-up rather than visual mark-up, very high quality typesetting of math, etc. The output being a .pdf file, a copy of the presentation is easily made available online by simply linking directly to it (no "export to HTML" step required 'cause everyone can read a .pdf).

A package option turns on and off the creation of a navigation bar on one side of the pdf document. The navigation bar is placed on each slide and has what look like buttons that are links to other slides within the document. This lets you navigate through your presentation by clicking on the buttons.

pdfscreen uses the hyperref package to perform the internal linking, which means you can easily use hyperref commands yourself in your presentation. You can use this as a hack to add movie clips or sounds to your presentation: as long as the movie clip or sound file is in a format that your web browser knows how to handle, just add something like

Anyway, everything else will have to come a long way before I'll leave pdfscreen...

-Kipp

The Grumpy Editor's guide to presentation programs : pdfscreen

Posted Oct 4, 2004 4:17 UTC (Mon) by shashikiran (guest, #25186) [Link]

pdfscreen and other tex/latex software/manuals/tutorials are available from sarovar.org . Get pdfscreen style files and manual from here

How to inlude EPS into OOo (also works for M\$ PowerPoint)

Posted Sep 27, 2004 11:25 UTC (Mon) by mfglinux (guest, #13342) [Link]

The solution for the thread about EPS inclusion in presentation programs could be to generate the EPS with preview. The preview is a little binary file ahead of the EPS code. It can be added with the utility eps2epsi

eps2epsi file.eps > file_with_preview.eps

Then, you include the file in the presentation. What you see in the screen is a "bad" representation of your eps in a bitmap format..ugly I know... but once you print it, you will print the eps and not the preview.

Also works within OOo if you export into pdf.

Marcos

Gnome Ease (former

Posted Jan 12, 2011 23:33 UTC (Wed) by Velmont (guest, #46433) [Link]

Seeing as I got this page searching for a presentation program, I'd like to mention Ease, a presentation application for Gnome (or others, maybe). It uses clutter and was originally started as Gnome Glide!

It looks quite nice.