Category Archives: PowerPoint

Word Capitalization in Emacs and PowerPoint

One of my favorite keyboard shortcuts in PowerPoint is Shift-F3. It rotates the capitalization of the current word among lowercased, Capitalized and UPPERCASED. Note that you do not have to select the word, and the cursor does not have to be at the beginning of the word either(*).

But the title of this post clearly said Emacs, didn’t it? Well, since I missed this feature in Emacs, I just implemented it in a pinch and bound it to Shift-F3. :P The code is in this page in EmacsWiki. I have only tested it on GNU Emacs, and so I can only hope that it works in XEmacs.

(*) Actually, you rarely have to select a word in PowerPoint in order to format it. Commands like Bold Ctrl-B and Italic Ctrl-I will act on the current word when there is no selection. Also, similar behavior is in fact present in all Office applications. I just picked PowerPoint.

Adjust the Slide Show Window

Sometimes you will encounter a projector screen that hangs so low, making the bottom of the slide way below anyone in the room can see. One way to avoid this annoying situation is to leave some space at the bottom of your slides. This works well when you know the room ahead of time. But what if you are visiting a new place? (Hmm… job talks come to mind.)

Turns out there are actually a couple of solutions.

My favorite is to use a rarely used feature of PowerPoint—you can in fact adjust the dimension of the slide show window through some minimal scripting. Here is a demo file as a proof of concept. (If you use Internet Explorer, please save the file and then open it locally. See below.) I can imagine many fancy mechanisms to integrate this into your slides.

Or you can open the PowerPoint file inside Internet Explorer, which will host the slide show inside its client area. (Try drag and drop the file into IE.) You can then resize the IE window as you go.

Or you can hold down the Alt key and then click that tiny “Slide Show from current slide” icon in the lower left corner. Your slide show will now be run in a windowed mode, similar to how it is being run when you open a PowerPoint file inside IE. You can then adjust this window like any other window.

All of these methods have issues though. If you use the first, you need to cover up the strip of desktop exposed due to a reduced window size. I bring a full-screen-sized black bitmap for this reason. But if you do this right, it does look very nice. The second and third bring unnecessary clutter like toolbars to the projector screen. Plus, you lose the ability to make pen annotations if you happen to be a tablet user.

P.S. I tested this in version 2003 only. I no longer have the older versions.

Relative to Slide

A and B are working on a PowerPoint talk together.

A: Is the picture at the center?
B: Hmm, move it to the right, just a little bit.

To avoid this conversation, note that there is a toggling option Draw->Align or Distribute->Relative to Slide. Enable it and select the picture. Now you can use Align Center and Align Middle to achieve the same effect. Just remember to disable it after you are done.

I put this option on the drawing toolbar because in my use I toggle this option very frequently.

Plug the Video Cable First

In the last month I have seen two PowerPoint talks with slides that did not fit in the projector resolution (*). Before telling you the cause of the problem, let me first tell you the solution to avoid this problem “most” of the time (the order of events is important):

  1. Plug the video cable first.
  2. Start feeding video signal to the projector. (On ThinkPads, use Fn-F7.)
  3. Start the slide-show in PowerPoint.

The problem seems to be a combination of several factors. First, more and more laptop displays have a resolution that is higher than XGA (1024×768). Then, the speaker, for one reason or another, started the slide-show before she plugs in the video cable. At this point, the slide-show is already running at a super-XGA resolution. The rest can be attributed to a “bug” of PowerPoint’s slide-show module or a “feature” of the display driver, or whatever. Details omitted.

(*) These days, 1024×768 is standard, and my bet is that in 5 years it will still be standard due to the price of LCD projectors.

TexPoint is now Shareware

Long story short: harddisk crashed, go to download TexPoint again and notice that it’s now shareware, costing 25 dollars, with a Mac version too. See this post for a tiny bit of history.

(Back to harddrive recovery mode.)

Insert Blank Slides During Talks

Some days ago Anupam asked me how to insert a blank slide right after the current one during a slide show. It may seem curious to many people, but if you teach with a Tablet PC, then it makes perfect sense. This is analogous to having blank transparencies (and the Tablet stylus as the marker) when using an overhead projector. It’s especially useful when a question pops up from the audience and you would like to address it with the help of writing things down. And if you are using PowerPoint 2003, you can retain all the handwritings you made during the slide show and distribute them together with the exisiting slides.

The straightforward way of doing it is to break out from the slide show, insert a blank slide and then resume the show. But do we have a slicker way?

Turns out this is not hard to do in PowerPoint. First, press Alt-F11 (Tools->Macro->Visual Basic Editor). Select Insert->Module in the main menu. Now enter the following code:

Sub InsertBlankSlide()
Dim newIndex As Long
With ActivePresentation
newIndex = .SlideShowWindow.View.Slide.SlideIndex + 1
.Slides.Add newIndex, ppLayoutBlank
.SlideShowWindow.View.GotoSlide newIndex
End With
End Sub

Select File->Close and Return to PowerPoint. Now go to the Master slide and create a new shape there. Right click on that shape and select Action Settings. In the Mouse Click tab, select Run Macro and pick InsertBlankSlide from the combo box underneath it. Click OK and there you go. (Try running the presentation and click on that new shape.)

For a more elaborate example that also includes changing pen type, I refer you to Anupam’s slides in 15-251 (CMU’s 200-level CS theory core). For example, look at this one. It’s true that you can change the pen type by pressing hot keys during a slide show, but if you are using a slate Tablet PC, then you don’t have a keyboard.

P.S. It would be nice if we can change the pen weight programmatically since the default pen weight is a bit too thick. However, I haven’t spent enough time to get it working. All I know is that this is not possible in the object model that PowerPoint exposes. That, however, only means this cannot be done easily (as I have an example here). On the other hand, Anupam has pointed out that you only need to change the pen weight once during a slide show and the weight will not change during the rest of the show. I guess it’s easier to wait for Office 12 to come out than to nail it. :P

Go To Previous Slide with Right Click

From my inbox is a question related to my post on wireless presentation control:

Q: Without walking over to the keyboard, how do you go to the previous slide with just a wireless mouse (that doesn’t allow you to control the cursor)?
A: Go to to Tools->Options->View and disable “Popup/Show menu on right mouse click”.

With this option disabled, a right click will bring you to the previous slide. I really think this option should be disabled by default, but it isn’t.

Note that even if you have disabled this option, you can still “pop” the popup menu. Put down the wireless mouse on a table and move the cursor. You will notice the popup menu icon on the lower left corner. Click on it and you will get back the popup menu that you used to get with a right click. (In PowerPoint 2003, you will see four icons instead of one, but the situation is similar.)

Also note that most commands in that popup menu actually have keyboard shortcuts. Press ? (the question mark) in the slide show mode to discover them. I consider the ability to jump to any slide quickly the most important.

Have fun teaching!

Another Version of TexPoint

On my way to squashing one of the TexPoint bugs, I stumbled upon Andreas Glatz’s page on his patched version of TexPoint, currently at version 2.6.1 and version 2.7 is said to be released sometime around mid-October. I guess I will try Andreas’ version a bit later.

Looking at the development log of Andreas’ page, it seems that Andreas started the development after George Necula, who started TexPoint, released version 2.0.3 in October 2003. Meanwhile, George has not released any newer version yet.

Curiously, there is also a Mac version! Interesting… (although I really don’t have any money to buy a PowerBook yet.)

Really Bad PowerPoint (and How to Avoid It)

The first thing that most people use PowerPoint for is a TelePrompter!

Indeed, and even though the presenter mode can show you notes, it doesn’t really help unless you tend to stand at the podium. But if you stay there too often, then you surely will become a voice, or worse, noise in the background because the audience will look at your slides and not you.

At the end of the day, technology didn’t take away the basic requirement of delivering good talks: you need to be very, very familiar with your own talk. Then you can walk around and still know what should be said and what’s coming up next.

Keyboard Shortcut to Object Cloning

Previously I’ve told you that you can clone an object in PowerPoint by Ctrl-Drag, but I forgot to tell you that you can do so with just the keyboard too. Try Ctrl-D.

P.S. For those of you who wonder why I would blog software entries like this. The usual reason is: someone just asked me (if there is a way to clone objects using just the keyboard and she already knows about copy Ctrl-C and then paste Ctrl-V). :)

Jump To Page in PowerPoint

Here are some paraphrased comments I have gathered over the years by asking some speakers why they didn’t show me the slide numbers:

  • “It’s a clutter and it distracts my audience.”
  • “It takes up precious screen estate. Look, 1024×768 is not a lot.”
  • “My talk has multiple page animations that make the slide numbers large and that makes my audience feel that I am cramping a lot of material into one hour.”
  • “I just don’t see why having the slide number can be helpful.”
  • “You mean I can have slide numbers? How?”

The best way for me to debunk all these (except the last) is by asking the following question:

Do you know that you can jump to a particular slide in a PowerPoint show by pressing the slide number followed by Enter? Say you want to go to slide 42 during your talk, you press 4 2 Enter (3 keys) and say voila!

This is an important feature that justifies showing the slide number. Why? This means if you show me the slide numbers, then I can ask questions by first telling you which slide I am referring to and, most importantly, you can go to that slide in 2 seconds for the rest of the audience to follow. This is a big time-saver for all of us.

P.S. There are other fully-documented but not well-used keys in the slide show mode of PowerPoint. Press ? (the question mark) in a slide show and you will see.

P.P.S. Maybe I have just sat through another PowerPoint talk with no slide numbers… I don’t remember what happened. Maybe I should consult with the Department of Truth. :P

Stop your presentation before it kills again!

Kathy Sierra has written a very strong post against the use of PowerPoint and even transparencies for her presentations. To quote her:

Sometimes the best presentation is… no presentation. Ditch the slides completely. Put the projector in the closet, roll the screen back up, and turn the damn lights back on!

Even though you may not want to stop using PowerPoint because it’s not obvious how to use it right, you definitely want to read her post and learn how not to commit the mistakes she mentioned. Some of them are definitely avoidable with practice, such as talking to the slides and dimming the lights, both of which are likely to turn your talk into a unidirectional broadcast.

Among the comments, I discovered this interesting wiki about WhyWeDoNotUsePowerPoint. Heh.

Five Rules for Better PowerPoint Presentations

Michael Hyatt has the following five rules:

  1. Don’t give PowerPoint center stage.
  2. Create a logical flow to your presentation.
  3. Make your presentation readable.
  4. Remember, less is more.
  5. Distribute a handout.

You can read about it in full glory at and be sure to read the comments there too!

(Thanks to Mukesh for sending this link to me.)

In Defense of PowerPoint

Usability expert Don Norman has published his response to Edward Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. As I have said in a previous post, not everyone, myself included, agrees with the opinion Tufte entirely. Well, according to Norman,

I respectfully submit that all of this is nonsense. Pure nonsense, accompanied by poor understanding of speech making and of the difference between the requirements for a speech-giver, the speech-listener (the audience), and for the reader of a printed document. These are three different things. Tufte-and other critics-seem to think they are one and the same thing. Nonsense, I say, once again.

For those of us that use PowerPoint for teaching, I highly recommend reading both articles, but bear in mind that we have a arguably different purpose of using PowerPoint—teaching is not just giving a (good) talk in a lecture hall.

BTW, even if you don’t have a chance to read Tufte’s work (\$7), I still recommend you to read Norman’s article. It has sufficient context for you to understand the issue.

Repeated Drawing in PowerPoint

Do you know that you can double-click on a drawing tool in PowerPoint and continue drawing new instances of the same object type until you click on another tool or press Esc?

This is very handy when you need to draw many different instances of the same type of object. Connectors come to mind. (In fact, I can hardly think of any other tools of which this trick is more relevant.)

Cloning Objects in PowerPoint

Do you know that you can clone an object in PowerPoint by dragging it while holding down Ctrl?

This is very handy when you need to draw several instances of the same object. But when the number of instances is large, you will be better of using copy and paste.

Quick Zooming in PowerPoint

Do you know that you can quickly zoom in PowerPoint by using the scroll wheel while holding down Ctrl?

P.S. In fact, this behavior seems quite consistent among many Windows applications, including non-Microsoft applications like FireFox. I suppose Office started the trend and now it gets into the human interface guideline?

PowerPoint Remix

Edward R. Tufte is an expert in information design. Some of you may have read his pamphlet The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (mostly bashing PowerPoint). Here we have his essential ideas in that pamphlet… in the PowerPoint bulleted-list format. :P

P.S. I don’t entirely agree with all of Edward’s ideas in the pamphlet, but the pamphlet is a starting point for those of us who really think about our presentations. Maybe I will write about it later.

ZoomToFit for PowerPoint

Back in March 2005, an EZView user told me about his colleagues who prefer to work at 100% zoom level and how this was driving him insane since he had to change the zoom level every time he opened a presentation. Presumably this is because they work on high resolution (1600×1200) displays but he doesn’t. (Neither do I. My primary machine is an IBM ThinkPad X30 running at 1024×768 even though my desktop can do 16-by-12.)

But given what I’ve learned from writing EZView, I told him confidently, “I can fix it!” :P

Ladies and Gentlemen, from your Iron Monkey-wanna-be comes a new PowerPoint plug-in: whenever a presentation is opened, it will adjust the zoom level to “Fit”. Please let me know of any bugs.

The icon I used is from the Kids Icon Theme by Everaldo Coelho. Kudos!

Keyboard Shortcut to Start Slide Show (from current slide)

You probably know that you can start a PowerPoint slide show from the current slide by clicking on a tiny icon, but do you know that you can do this with just the keyboard?

I wrote PowerPoint EZView because I am obsessed in getting my drawings accurate to the pixel and needed a fast way to do a full screen preview.

Get it here:

P.S. If you are using PowerPoint 2003, then you can already do this with Shift-F5. But I have all three recent versions of PowerPoint running on my computers and so EZView supports PPT2K3 too.