Creating powerful presentations

This week I continue my look into the Microsoft Office 10 Beta suite of office programs.

I have already had a look at Word and Publisher and this time it’s the turn of presentation program PowerPoint. It must be remembered that Office 10 is still in its beta-test phase but I have to say that PowerPoint is already looking very good.

The hated Ribbon interface made perfect sense to me, for a change, because the commands are grouped in tabs in a very intuitive way and I never had to search around for the one I wanted.

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There are a number of tabs on the Ribbon including Insert, Design, Transitions and Animations. Each tab perfectly describes which commands can be accessed from it, and I quickly got up to speed with the program.

Creating a presentation involves either selecting a blank presentation and adding a design theme to it, or choosing a pre-designed template from either the selection included with the program, or from the Office 10 website.

There is a wide selection of templates to choose from and these can be customised as well. Once the basic design has been chosen, slides can be added to the presentation to hold text, audio, video or pictures.

The Insert tab allows you to insert content onto the presentation pages and choose from a wide selection of different shapes, Word Art designs, and whatever. One very nifty tool that I hadn’t seen before allows you to capture a screen shot from any program that you happen to have open, and insert it into your presentation.

Once the project is complete, there are a number of options for sharing it with others including sending it by e-mail, broadcasting it, or burning it onto a disc.

One niggle I have with PowerPoint (and other Microsoft programs) is the behaviour of picture boxes once you’ve put pictures into them. I should explain that PowerPoint allows you to draw a box on the page and then put a picture into it.

Professional layout programs do this and, if the picture is not the same size as the box, they allow you to adjust the picture so that it fits, or choose another one. Microsoft, on the other hand, resizes picture boxes to fit whatever picture you put into them.

At first glance this seems pretty logical, but it causes no end of problems if you want to take pictures that are different sizes on your hard drive and display them in equal-sized boxes in your project. A small point I know, but one that has driven me mad over the years.

PowerPoint is clearly aimed at the creation of any sort of on-screen presentation and it is a great tool to use for that purpose. It is not intended for the creation of high-resolution printed documents and it got me thinking just how cool it would be if PowerPoint and Publisher were combined into one super tool.

It would allow you to create one project which you could share as an on-screen presentation, a video, or as a file you could send to a commercial printer. I have started a big genealogy project and it would be great to be able to do the on-screen thing, but still be able to output a hi-res photobook from the same file.

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