PowerPoint, why are you so difficult?
March 13, 2012 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I have a few questions about using animation and slide transitions in PowerPoint.

So there's this 10 slide PowerPoint presentation, which has text and a few imported graphics. The graphics are PDFs of various legal contracts with a lot of small text. The presentation is to be used for a teaching session for lawyers. Ideally, I'd like to make it possible for the presenter to be able to click on these Inserted graphics and automatically have the graphic grow in size, so that the text is more readable. Clicking again should shrink the graphic back to its original size.

Now, I've never worked closely with Powerpoint, so I'm sort of winging it here, for this really awesome client. I've figured out how to grow and shrink the graphics, but there's no fine control regarding how much the program shrinks or grows the graphics. There are only 4 presets, so I can't precisely control the size of the graphics. Plus, PowerPoint blurs the images when they are grown, unless once uses a complicated method of bringing the graphic in at a larger size, then hiding it, shrinking that and then making it reappear and growing that.

Yeah, it's weird.

The second problem is that once I do these custom animations, the user can no longer manually advance through the slides, despite the built in buttons, which previously worked fine. Instead, the only way the user can advance is after clicking through the animations and then clicking again. That means the user can only play the animations once.

So here's my questions:

1. Is there anyway to finely control the Grow and Shrink animations in PowerPoint 2011 for Mac? If so, will they appear in PowerPoint 2010 for Windows?

1b. Is there an easier way (than the method hinted at above) to prevent PowerPoint from blurring graphics that have been resized?

2. Once custom animations have been done, manual control of slide progression seems to disappear. Is there a way to prevent this?

3. Is there better software for doing presenations, something that gives finer control to the user, yet exports the presentation in a format that's readable by users on Mac and Windows, including several OS versions back (XP and 10.5)?
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you checked out Prezi? It allows you to do some pretty dynamic things with zooming and panning (check out that "video" on the front page). I suspect that it would solve this problem pretty easily for you. There is a short learning curve to get started.
posted by milqman at 4:29 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I usually do is insert a screen shot of the document and then hyperlink from that to the document itself so that it opens when you click on the image. If you copy the finished product to a thumb drive, be sure to pull the PDFs over as well.
posted by tamitang at 6:13 PM on March 13, 2012

Are you using embedded PDFs in PowerPoint? If so, you should consider convering them to an image format like PNG. You'll have much more control over the animation.

Also, please don't use animation in PowerPoint unless the client insists on it. Animation in PowerPoint makes ex-Business Majors sad :(
posted by Yowser at 6:22 PM on March 13, 2012

Also, if you are embedding PDFs, expect them to break pretty badly in older(and maybe current) versions of PowerPoint for Windows.
posted by Yowser at 6:26 PM on March 13, 2012

You'll have much more control over the animation.

Can you be specific here, what sort of options are available to a PNG that are not available to PDFs?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:43 PM on March 13, 2012

I think the linked pngs or pdfs that tamitang & Yowser suggest are excellent hacks.

Animations are really, really annoying to viewers--they slow down the pace of a presentation exponentially. I'm taking a class from an exceptionally gifted lecturer who is quite facile with tech, but he animates his PPTs within an inch of their digital lives for pedagogical purposes. It works very well the first time, but when questions come up, or he wants to make a point, he has to go back X slides, which means he has to reverse all of the animations. It stops the class dead (something that any teacher will have experienced and feel a sympathetic twinge of dread).

I might suggest that you use jpgs instead, though. PDFs will often auto-open with Acrobat Reader, which will likewise stall the class, and a PNG might also get opened by some esoteric program (on the computers at school, Fireworks is the default app, which takes forever and a day). Jpgs, however, tend to default to much quicker-loading applications.

On third thought, is there anything wrong with doing the whole thing as a linked PDF?
posted by smirkette at 7:08 PM on March 13, 2012

I might suggest that you use jpgs instead, though. PDFs will often auto-open with Acrobat Reader

Tried JPEGS originally, but the switched to PDFs in an attempt to make the type clearer as the image grew and shrunk didn't work.

On third thought, is there anything wrong with doing the whole thing as a linked PDF?

Was originally given a PowerPoint to work with, so the client could adjust the text as they see fit. Switching it to a PDF wouldn't solve the animation issues, from what I can tell.

I get what ya'll are saying about no using animations, but someone wants animations, so that people can least get a look at the smaller type.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 PM on March 13, 2012

PNGs (or other images) are natively supported by PowerPoint. Embedded PDFs (or, god help you, something insane like embedded PNGs) are not. That's the only reason, really.

You'd have to go back 20 years to something called OLE if you want the history of why. Not really worth your time, though.
posted by Yowser at 7:17 PM on March 13, 2012

Right, but what is the advantage of being "natively supported" by PowerPoint?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:42 PM on March 13, 2012

The advantage for your presentation is that, in theory, you don't have to worry about blurry images, weird formatting problems, accidentally leaving too much information available (assuming you distribute the Powerpoint), horrible cross-platform compatibility, the inability to use preset image animations....
posted by Yowser at 7:58 PM on March 13, 2012

Instead of animating the .pdf getting bigger/smaller, could you insert a larger .pdf as a separate slide, then follow it with a repeat of the smaller version? Combined with judicious use of animations between slides, you would get something of the appearance of the page zooming out to a larger version and back again, without doing something that won't break on different machines/versions. It would also facilitate going back, as the presenter would just have to click back tot he relevant slide without worrying about having to churn through a dozen in-slide animation effects and wouldn't break the navigation controls.
posted by dg at 8:16 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is a way to fine-tune the Grow/Shrink animation. I'm doing this on PowerPoint 2010, Windows 7:
1. Select the graphic you want to grow.
2. On the Animations tab, click Add Animation > (Emphasis) Grow/Shrink.
3. On the Animations tab, click Animation Pane.
4. On the Animation pane, right-click the animation you added and then click Effect Options. This opens the Grow/Shrink window with the Effect tab displayed.
5. In the Settings group, change the Size to a Custom size and then click OK.

I did a trial, using the most lawyerly dense .pdf I have at hand (IRS tax instructions). It does come out blurry, less so if I Paste Special it as a .png file but it's still not great if I resize it to screen width. That's true regardless of the animation I choose (even if there is no animation). To counter that, I'd recommend a slightly different route for a solution. That is to line up sections that the presenter might want to zoom into, that come up larger when he clicks that section. That way, you can use a slightly smaller size if that makes sense (because it's just a piece). You could do this to, say, thirds of the page so that no matter where he clicks about 1/3 of the page would enlarge.

If you're interested in trying it, here's how (again PPT 2010, but Windows 7):
1. Make a duplicate of one of the slides, so you can delete it if this doesn't work for you: On the Slides pane (on the left), click one of the slides. On the Home tab, click New Slide > Duplicate Selected Slides. All steps that follows are on the duplicated slide.

2. Make a copy of the graphic: Click the graphic. On the Home tab, click Copy and then click Paste > Paste Special. On the Paste Special window, select Picture (Enhanced Metafile) and then click OK. You can play around with different types but this might be the best you can do. I tried with several, including .png, and for the tax form I'm using to try it out this was the best one I could get. YMMV.

If the original graphic was a .pdf and the copy is an Enhanced Metafile, PowerPoint interprets this as one object (the .pdf) and one picture (the enhanced metafile). This is important to remember when you are adding triggers later. It's just an FYI right now, and not something you can see.

3. Crop the copied graphic: The copied graphic is selected. Double-click it to view the Format tab. On the Format tab, in the Size group, click Crop. On the graphic, move the drag bars until you've cropped off the bottom 2/3rds of it (leaving only the top 1/3). The graphic shows the cropped area in gray until you are ready to commit to the crop. When ready, double-click away from the graphic and the gray goes away and the graphic is cropped.

4. Resize the cropped graphic: Double-click it. On the Format tab, in the Size group, enter a new Width. By default, the image resizes proportionally (width and height).

You now have two graphics on the slide: A whole one (uncropped), and a bigger cropped one.

5. Add a box that will later be used for a trigger (like a hotspot): On the Insert tab, in the Illustrations group, click Shapes > Rectangle. Drag across the whole graphic (not the bigger cropped graphic) to make a rectangle that is the size of the top 1/3rd of it.

By default, its line and fill colors are coming from the color presets for the template you are using.

6. Change the rectangle line and fill.

Here's where you have to make a hard decision. When the presenter is clicking the rectangle, if the fill is transparent then only the border line is clickable which makes it pretty difficult for him to get it just right especially if there are three that are side-by-side. I suggest that it should go like this in his presentation: First the page shows as a regular sized graphic. Then the graphic is dimmed with a light-gray transparent overlay. Then one or each of the sections are clicked to show it bigger and not dimmed. Does that make sense?

On the slide, double-click the rectangle that you drew. On the Format tab, in the Shape Styles group, click the Launcher (arrow pointing down/right) in the Shape Styles group. This opens the Format Shape window. On the left, select Fill. Select Solid fill, choose a gray Fill Color, and adjust the Transparency.

Still on the Format Shape window, on the left select Line Color. Choose No line and then click Close.

You now have the two graphics and a rectangle. You have no animations.

7. Set the gray box so that it appears and dims the uncropped graphic when it is clicked: On the slide, click the gray box. On the Animations tab, click Add Animation > (Entrace) Fade. By default, this starts on a click.

8. Add an animation to make the bigger cropped graphic come in: Click the bigger cropped graphic. On the Animations tab, click Add Animation > (Entrance) Fade.

9. Attach a trigger to the entrance animation so that it doesn't enter until the trigger (the rectangle) is clicked: On the slide, click the bigger cropped graphic. On the Animations tab, click Trigger > On Click of > Rectangle 1.

10. Set a second trigger so that when the larger cropped image is clicked, it disappears: On the slide, click the larger cropped image. On the Animations tab, click Add Animation > (Exit) Fade. After you do that, maybe the image isn't selected anymore, so click it again. Then on the Animations tab, click Trigger > On click of > Picture [whatever number PPT assigned it].

Remember the FYI from Step 2: The object is the .pdf (the uncropped graphic). The image is the enhanced metafile (the cropped graphic). This is your way to sort out which is which.

11. You now want to repeat this for the other two thirds of the uncropped graphic. Add a gray rectangle, and then set it to appear when the object is clicked. Add the larger cropped version of the third. Set it to enter when the second gray rectangle is clicked, and set it to exit when it is clicked.

If the slide gets uncontrollably messy and difficult, know that you can do this on duplicate slides (say, one slide for each third), paste it into the real slide, then delete those working slides. When you paste, the animations paste with the rectangles and images.

12. For the presenter to move to the next slide, he should click in any space that isn't a graphic. Probably, the lower-right corner is free.

OK, but let's say he wants presenter notes out of his slide presentation, or any kind of printed thing made from it. You now have all the graphics in the way, and it won't be nice. When you are finished with the presentation, make a copy of the file. In the copy, remove all the graphics that you used for the effects (the cropped picture and the rectangles) and then create the printed thing from that copy.

Hope this helps!
posted by Houstonian at 11:15 PM on March 13, 2012

3. Is there better software for doing presenations, something that gives finer control to the user, yet exports the presentation in a format that's readable by users on Mac and Windows, including several OS versions back (XP and 10.5)?

Even PowerPoint isn't compatible between versions. It will munge extended characters between platforms, for example (Greek characters for math symbols will magically turn into something else, for instance). Your best bet is to pick a platform and presentation medium that matches your client as closely as possible.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:21 AM on March 14, 2012

3. Is there better software for doing presenations, something that gives finer control to the user, yet exports the presentation in a format that's readable by users on Mac and Windows, including several OS versions back (XP and 10.5)?

Might be too late to the party and a bit off the main focus of your question, but many lawyers use "trial presentation software" to handle this task. That type of software is specifically designed to let the presenter zoom in and highlight (and draw arrows or stuff) stuff being presented to a judge or jury in the courtroom. The zooming and highlighting are a lot more granular than PowerPoint.

The old warhorses are programs like Sanction and Trial Director, but I have heard very good things about Exhibit View.

Most of the trial presentation software I've used doesn't easily save things in an animation that can be shared with people that don't have the software (but it's been a while since I tried that). I've worked with trial consultants who use a mix of Sanction and PowerPoint and some custom-built animations for opening and even closing arguments, and I've thrown together PowerPoint slides for openings and closings myself. But for actual presentation of testimony, where you don't have a set script, it is really nice to have the flexibility (on the zooming and highlighting) of something besides PowerPoint.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 6:53 AM on March 14, 2012

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