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Most templates now available for Apple Keynote

Most templates now available for Apple Keynote

The template store now supports Apple Keynote, a drop down menu let's you make a selection between your preferred presentation software. Not all templates could be converted, Keynote is missing the 3D shape rotation feature of PowerPoint that I used in some of the slides.

The store now gives you the option to download templates either as a PowerPoint or Keynote file

The store now gives you the option to download templates either as a PowerPoint or Keynote file

Slides in Keynote look the same except for the font

Slides in Keynote look the same except for the font

The only adjustment I made was the font: switching it from PowerPoint's default Calibri to Helvetica Neue for  Keynote. I am keen to keep the look and feel of the charts as "standard" as possible to make it easy to integrate the design in the corporate presentation templates that people are using.

Under pressure!

Under pressure!

The slide above is a layering of 2 images that visualizes a big dam that is under pressure from something. You can use it either to show that something is about to burst, or the opposite, that defenses are strong and holding out well. I love the massive architectural scale of these hydro power installations, especially when you can highlight it with this tiny car driving across it. You can download this dam template here.

Looking for other visual concepts that are similar? You can try and search the store for "forces", "down", or this search "downward" and see what slides come up. That is my longer-term vision: no more boring bullet point charts, and no more searching for "where is that slide that I made 2 years ago", but rather have all the relevant designs ready at your finger tips. The search engine with design ideas is almost as important as the actual design itself.

Searching for "downward" in the template store

Searching for "downward" in the template store

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How to cut out shapes out of images in PowerPoint

How to cut out shapes out of images in PowerPoint

PowerPoint can do Photoshop-like tricks. One of them: cutting shapes out of images. Here is how to do it:

  1. Drag your image on the slide
  2. Draw a shape on top of it (the freehand shape allows you to create a very precise shape)
  3. First select the image, then select the shape (shift click)
  4. Now select the Shape Format menu
  5. Click Merge Shapes
  6. Click Subtract

That's it. Below is a slide from the template store that uses this technique (you can download the ready-made slide if you want)

The final template slide

The final template slide

The making of

The making of

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How to export PowerPoint slides as high res images on a Mac

How to export PowerPoint slides as high res images on a Mac

How to export PowerPoint slides as high res images on a Mac. See how by setting the slide width to 2998 things somehow seem to work.

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Windows is at par

Windows is at par

Windows is at par. Every couple of years I am installing a Windows machine on my Mac, either to check how SlideMagic looks on corporate computers, and now, because I need access to Microsoft Office development features that are not available on a Mac. I went through Windows 8, then Windows 7, and now Windows 10.

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My own clean PowerPoint template

My own clean PowerPoint template

PowerPoint templates get corrupted over time. It usually starts with a template that was designed by a print graphics designer as an after thought after designing the logo and the business cards: creating slide layouts without paying much attention to the technical issues of programming a template that can be (ab)used by thousands of employees. Then over, slowly but gradually, "foreign" templates infect the original until nothing is left of the original.

I go back to zero every time I design a new presentation. The file that I put up in the SlideMagic template store is pretty much the one I start every new presentation design project with. It is really simple. You can customise it with your own colours and you are good to go.

When creating a new slide, go to the "Layout" button in the top left of the menu to create a select a new slide layout.

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Maps in Excel

Maps in Excel

Microsoft has been adding some new features in Excel recently (I am using the Mac version). I am so used to working with the software that I rarely look at new feature additions, unless they are staring me in the face.

One of buttons that got my attention are Bing maps: you can now plot data on locations in a map. You enter a table with locations and a numeric value, and they get plotted in the appropriate location. The map zooms in and out. When you drag the map from Excel into PowerPoint, it becomes a static image of the last zoom level.

I think this is very useful as an analysis tool for for example a retailer who wants to visualise stock levels across its stores.

Screenshot 2017-10-19 07.31.56.png

The implementation on a Mac is still a bit crude: it would be great if you could shade entire countries based on a value, conditional formatting. (I see that the Windows version is much more advanced).

Also, the graphical appearance of a Bing map is not designed with a presentation in mind. The map has lots of unnecessary clutter, and random geographical labels are displayed depending on zoom level, pretty much like the map you are staring at when the in-flight entertainment system is switched of just before your plane lands.

Hopefully the Mac version will be upgraded to the features of the Windows version soon.

 

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Slideuments and graphics designers

Slideuments and graphics designers

Many designers with excellent skills in web and/or print design somehow cannot deploy their talent very well in PowerPoint/business presentations. I have been thinking hard about why this could be.

The key challenge I think is the tight relationship with content and design. In print/web the design of a page does not really change that much if the content changes (it is still a block of text, an image, and an icon that fit in the same overall grid). In a business presentation, everything goes upside down when your competitor analysis needs to include 3 instead of 2 dimensions.

The second reason is - I think - that both people who write presentations and designers who polish them, stick to the conventional slide format: title across the top, list of bullets.

Now here is an interesting experiment for a 100% graphics designer who is not allowed or does not have the knowledge to touch any of the content (the classical print graphics designer situation). Assuming the presentation is a slideument (meant for reading rather than presenting).

Hand over the material in a word processor, as a long text file rather than a partly finished PowerPoint presentation. Now give the designer total freedom to present this material in any form she wants, even in any software she wants, using any page layout she wants.

Changes are you might get a pretty good lucking slideument by taking "PowerPoint" and its familiar layout out of the equation.


Image via WikiPedia

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Making a transparent cube in PowerPoint

Making a transparent cube in PowerPoint

There is a 3D cube shape in PowerPoint, here is how you can make it transparent. The secret: rotate a copy of itself and paste them over each other.

Screenshot 2017-09-19 07.52.33.png

Image via WikiPedia

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Size creep

Size creep

Super high resolution images of small slide elements can inflate the size of your PowerPoint or Keynote file without you noticing. A common culprit is an innocent looking page with 30 customer logos. Compress your images often to keep file sizes in check.

Another common file size mistake is to include high resolution images in the slide master to make it easer for people to understand template slides that are meant for photos. As a result, even a simple text slide will create a huge file as the slide master gets saved as an integral part of the document. This can add up in a company with 10,000 employees.

Image compression in PowerPoint can sometimes produce unpredictable results, especially when you tick "apply to all" and you have a presentation with a lot of photographs. I often see cropped images going haywire, the only rescue is to compress images one by one. Always save a copy of your file before attempting to compress the file.

Handy link: how to reduce file sizes in Office


Image via WikiPedia

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Working in Google Slides

Working in Google Slides

Recently, a client insisted on using Google Slides for our presentation design project, especially because of its good collaboration features. Instead of starting a presentation in PowerPoint, then converting it to Google Slides, I took the native approach, and created a presentation from the ground up in this application.

The design of Google's office user interface has improved a lot over the years. Things look beautiful and work fast and snappy. Still, the Slides product is full of little issues that 1) slows down a pro-user like me, and 2) makes it harder for the layman designer to make good looking documents.

Because I invested my own hard-earned money in my presentation app SlideMagic, I feel a bit hesitant here to spoon feed a ready made upgrade suggestion list to a multi-billion dollar software developer with the world's smartest programmers ready to implement them....

In 2017 - leaving minimalist SlideMagic aside - I think PowerPoint is again/still the best slide design software out there (also on Mac), better than Google, better than Apple Keynote. The main criterium here is not feature set, but workflow.

There have been many of these types of posts on my blog over the past 9 years, and I am sure there are many more to come as products continue to evolve.

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Building image grids in PowerPoint

Building image grids in PowerPoint

Making a grid of images in PowerPoint is tricky. Images never have a consistent aspect ratio, and when you place a lot of them on a page, the guide suggestions always snap in the wrong place somehow. Here is a survival guide.

  • Copy all your images inside the page and select them all
  • Right click and go in "format picture"
  • Tick the "size" icon, and click "size" 
  • Hit "reset" to kill any aspect ratio distortion
  • Hit "lock aspect ratio"
  • Now select each image one by one, hit "crop", hit "aspect ratio" and pick one
  • After this, select all the images again, and give them the same width with a numerical value
  • Position the images on your grid
  • Take each image in turn, select "crop" and move/zoom the image mask for the right composition

The above was a major consideration when designing the image grid system in my presentation app SlideMagic.

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Maximizing screen real estate

Maximizing screen real estate

Everyday I see clients squinting at tiny slide images on their screens. No, you can't do anything about the physical size of your screen, but you can fix the window arrangement.

The most obvious adjustment is to make the PowerPoint or Keynote application as large as possible. But the aspect ratio of slides and its implications is often overlooked.

If you design 16:9 slides the width of your screen is the bottleneck, minimize menu bars on the left and right of your slide (format panels, slide icons). If you design 4:3 slides the height of your screen is often the bottleneck, minimize slide notes boxes.


Image via WikiPedia

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Watch out: converting DOCX to PDF

Watch out: converting DOCX to PDF

In a recent update of Microsoft Word (Mac version 2016), a new option has been snuck in when saving DOCX document as PDFs: "best for electronic distribution". and it is the default choice. This will probably produce documents that are smaller, but it comes at a price: custom fonts are not embedded correctly. Pay attention which option you pick and do check the PDF document before sending it to see if all font renderings worked out correctly

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Chart hygiene

Chart hygiene

Here are some slide make over suggestions for messy PowerPoint presentations that do not require any changes to content. They fix basic graphical hygiene:

  • Make sure all slides use the same slide master template: titles, page numbers, logos (if you want to use them), all sit in the same place
  • Find/replace fonts: make sure all fonts in a deck are the same
  • Create a frame of guides in the master slide and make sure all slide content fits inside the frame on each slide
  • Apply a consistent color scheme to all the slides
  • Eliminate italics
  • Make sure that characters in the same box, paragraph have the same font size (huge differences are OK, but very small size differences do not look good)
  • Un-stretch photos with the wrong aspect ratio
  • Align and distribute slide elements where ever you can
  • Play with line breaks and font size to avoid orphan words on a second line
  • Remove multiple, overlapping "confidential" labels and page numbers from pages
  • Draw a shape, set proper colors and fonts, and make it the default shape, delete the shape, repeat for a text box and a line

That was presentation make-over V0.1, the content might be bad, the layouts could be poor, but it will look organized.

If you have been working in my presentation app SlideMagic, you will have noticed that is almost impossible to make the mistakes I am correcting in the above.

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Data leakage in PowerPoint

Data leakage in PowerPoint

Be careful with sending PowerPoint presentations that could have left overs of confidential information hidden inside that you do not want outsiders to see:

  • Comments in the speaker notes field at the bottom of the slides ("Let's don't tell our investors yet, about the disappointing Q1 results, we will do that in 2 weeks"). When you use an old presentation to "copy-save" it as the master of a new one, comments get copied across as well. 
  • Regular comments on slides that have not been removed
  • Information, comments, analysis, that sits in the Excel engine of data charts, when someone clicks "edit data", the full Excel sheet opens
  • Also, even if you remove the data labels or axes from a data chart, the data still remains visible when hovering over it with a mouse.

It is best to share your presentation as a PDF file, but even then watch out with information that becomes visible when hovering over with your mouse (data points, file names of images, etc.)


Image via WikiPedia

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Common SlideMagic mistakes

Common SlideMagic mistakes

My presentation app SlideMagic will make life easier for every amateur designer. Still a few common mistakes sneak in that are hard to prevent with software. Most of them are related to the balance of typography on a page. Making sure that boxes contain roughly the same amount of text, and that signs are nicely balanced. See the examples below.

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Chart chooser

Chart chooser

There are endless types of data charts out there: lines, bars, scatters, pies. Which one to pick depends on the type of data you have, and what message you want to convey. Here is a new handy tool that can make life easier for you: chart chooser.

A box of handy cards that guide you step-by-step through a selection process. Excel templates are an optional add-on that could be useful, some of these diagrams are tricky to recreate.

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All the slide templates you will ever need

All the slide templates you will ever need

With my presentation app SlideMagic I aim to change the communication culture in corporates. People spend too much time preparing slides. They produce documents that are unattractive to look at, and spend far too much time falling asleep in conference rooms.

The solution: splitting the communication tools: Excel and PowerPoint for logging the analysis, and a new tool 100% focused at communicating an idea and getting to a decision. A super simple visual language does not allow you to get lost in crafting complicated slides, or worse - give up all together and just use bullet points on every chart.

In a business presentation you need very few visual concepts:

  • Listing and organizing stuff (yes, the dreaded bullet points)
  • Comparing, contrasting, things
  • Showing growth, trends, forecasting
  • Showcasing things (products, people, clients)
  • Linking one thing to another, impact, cause/effect, from-to

When you hit "insert" in SlideMagic, you get presentation with this list of slide templates. In my opinion they can cover 99% of your business presentation needs. Think about what you want to do (listing, comparing, forecasting, showcasing, linking), pick a template and adjust row/column counts and you are done.

If you want, you clone this entire slide deck in your own SlideMagic account via this link. Let me know which concepts that I have left out you cannot live without. Maybe processes, timelines?

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Struggling with Apple Keynote

Struggling with Apple Keynote

I am currently doing a bespoke presentation design project for a client in Apple Keynote rather than my usual PowerPoint. Overall, Keynote is a great piece of software, but as a power user I seem to be hitting its limitations. Not in terms of features, but in terms of workflow.

In PowerPoint, I have developed a pretty rapid process to turn scribbled chart concepts in decent looking slides. (Confirmed by the occasional client who can look over my shoulder while I do some last minute edits close to a deadline). It is the simple things that you need quick access to: changing colors, resizing objects, aligning things.

In Keynote I am "tearing my hear out" to do a few things. I know this blog is read by many presentation design gurus, so maybe one of you can point me out what I am doing wrong.

  • Getting a shape color fill. I keep on clicking the rainbow circle, but it is not always clear whether it is active or not, and if it is, whether you are working on a font color, shape color, or outline color. The same with making things semitransparent: shape, text, line, or everything combined.
  • I can't distort the aspect ratio of grouped items when scaling up or down. This is great for images, but not handy when you want to scale up an object composition to fit an entire slide exactly
  • When you select multiple items, you can't scale up or down all of them together
  • You select items by "touching" them, not by including them in the entire selection box. As a result, you always hit objects such as the slide title by accident in your selection
  • I have not found a way to space out part of the columns or rows in a table evenly
  • For some reason, I cannot change the color of the left marker in a gradient. My solution is to put another marker on top of it. Again, this leads to frustrated clicking on the "fill" box.
  • In the full button, there is a nice arrow that activates a drop down menu with suggested colors, there is no way I can set these to some alternative color pattern.

Hopefully some of you can highlight a mistake I made, and/or Apple can fix things in a next update. Obviously, my presentation design app SlideMagic does not suffer from these issues... 

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Smart row / column insertion

Smart row / column insertion

My presentation app SlideMagic is all about the grid. We have made some improvements to make the workflow (even) faster. Now, when you insert rows and or columns, it copies its design and structure from its neighbors. This will save you a lot of time in more complicated table layout with different background colors.

1) Our starting point

1) Our starting point

2) Open the grid editor

2) Open the grid editor

3) Add a row and a column

3) Add a row and a column

4) The result

4) The result


Image via WikiPedia

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