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PowerPoint and Presenting Blog: October 2007

Thoughts and impressions of whatever is happening in the world of PowerPoint

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Opazity: Conversation with Steve Hards

Sunday, October 21, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 11:32 AM IST



Steve Hards (pictured to the right) plays with PowerPoint all the time, and creates add-ins. His newest project is Opazity, about which he discusses in this conversation. Steve is also involved with Perspector, a 3D add-in for PowerPoint.

Geetesh: Tell us more about Opazity, and how it can help PowerPoint users hold the attention of the audience.


Steve: Thanks for the opportunity to expand on this. I only hinted at these things on the Opazity website. There are a couple of aspects to the way I see it helping to hold audiences’ attention.

First, and rather superficially, you can use Opazity to create some interesting effects. These range from shapes with mysterious, soft fills, as in the second demonstration video on the website, to a sense of depth in the visuals where you can make the foreground stand out because the background is ‘out of focus’.

It irritated me for years that PowerPoint is so ‘hard edge’ everywhere. My first attempt to produce these effects started when I was taking photos to use in presentations. I used to try and take pairs of them, one sharp, and one out of focus. That was a bit hit-and-miss, but then I realised that I could take any photo and create a blur on it using facilities in photo-manipulation software. That was better, but going backwards and forwards between the programs until I got the effects I wanted was very time consuming. Also, you couldn’t do it with shapes and text generated in PowerPoint unless you converted them to a picture first. It was all very tedious and frustrating, so I eventually came to the idea of getting an add-in made.

So a more subtle approach to visual effects is one thing that Opazity has going for it and, once you start noticing it on TV and in movies, you see the effect in use everywhere, particularly in transitions.

This is where the second of my points about audience attention comes in. Curiosity is a very fundamental human instinct and we are particularly curious about, and therefore pay attention to, things which we believe are being hidden from us. It’s my personal theory that, of our ancient ancestors, only those who were intensely curious survived to breed, so this trait is probably ‘hardwired’ into us. We can imagine them around the fire at the entrance to a cave, peering into the shadows... and you can see it in us from childhood — parents universally play ‘peek-a-boo’ with a baby, for example. Also, revealing the hidden is always used to great effect in story telling, in literature, in theatre and other entertainment (and a presentation is a performance, after all). I hesitate to mention striptease, but that is the ultimate attention-getter, at least for most men!

So, to bring it back to PowerPoint, without Opazity, I think it is actually quite hard to arrange things visually so that people in the audience are attending to the screen before something is shown to them. Images are either there or they are not. Using fades and other animations means that it is only fractions of a second before it is obvious what they are.

Geetesh: Can you share some usability scenarios for Opazity?

Steve: There are some obvious ones, but I’m hoping – and expecting – Opazity users to discover others!

The first (although it wasn’t obvious to me until someone pointed it out) is that Opazity can be used to construct visual quizzes very easily. You have a picture, such as a familiar object or a famous person, overlay it with a blurred image and ask a question. People will search for clues in the blurred image, which you remove to reveal the clear image underneath when they have answered. You can arrange two blurred images, with different degrees of blur if you want to be able to give them a clue after an incorrect answer. I can see uses for this in certain kinds of teaching, especially with young children or in language teaching, but other people can use quizzes to good effect. Some presenters might want to have a fun quiz up their sleeves to show if they have to wait for more audience members to arrive before starting their serious presentation. The point is that with Opazity it is so easy to set up a quiz like this, whereas with anything else it is too time consuming to be worth it.

Then I think it will be used in situations where someone’s identity has to be protected. Possibly in courtrooms, but more likely in medical presentations where patients’ faces need to be obscured for confidentiality reasons.

I am hoping too that artistically inclined presentation makers will use it to make interesting effects, and if any Indezine readers do that, I’d love to see some!

Finally for now, I’ll point out a use which is particular to Perspector 3D add-in users. Perspector creates fantastic looking lists as an alternative to PowerPoint’s bullets but it is not possible to animate the list items to bring them in one after the other on command. The current workaround involves creating a series of images with different list items added, and then aligning and animating those. With Opazity, it is much quicker and easier to overlay the list items with their blurred images and to remove those items one-by-one. That way, the audience can see something is still to come, but can not read ahead – which brings us back to the point about increasing attention because of the power of curiosity.

Geetesh: You mentioned Perspector, which you are also involved with. Why didn’t you produce Opazity under that brand?

Steve: Yes, I’m still the Sales and Operations Director for Visual Exemplars, which produces Perspector. To be brief, when I saw that PowerPoint 2007 did not have the effect you produce with Opazity, I wanted to get on and produce the add-in. However, the rest of the Perspector team were totally focused on some new Perspector developments and so I branched out on this one. And, no, before you ask, I can’t tell you about those new developments now, but you will not have long to wait!

Categories: add-in, interviews, powerpoint

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Saturday, October 20, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 10:54 PM IST



Ellen Finkelstein recently interviewed me on her site where I discuss my Cutting Edge PowerPoint books.

Here's the interview link...

Being interviewed on Ellen's site means so much to me -- she provided a huge amount of encouragement when I started my first Cutting Edge PowerPoint book, thanks Ellen.

Categories: books, powerpoint

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posted by Geetesh on 10:25 PM IST



Wendy Russell of About.com just posted a fabulous review for my Special Edition: Using Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 book that I co-authored with Patrice-Anne Rutledge and Tom Mucciolo.

Take a look here...

Categories: book_review, powerpoint_2007

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 2:41 PM IST



Jihoon KimJihoon Kim serve as sys-op at PowerPoint Experts Club, a popular online community for Korean PowerPoint users. Jihoon is also a Microsoft MVP for PowerPoint.

Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself and the PowerPoint Experts Club.

Jihoon: My name is Jihoon Kim. I lead the Microsoft Powerpoint Expert Club", an online community on Naver (Korean No.1 Search Portal). My alias in the club is Promise. www.powerpoint.kr

Launched on December 09 2003, our community is continuously growing with the currently 210,000 members, which is regarded as biggest knowledge community in PowerPoint area. Our PowerPoint Expert Club cafe is open not only to experts but also to anyone who's interested in PowerPoint and who's looking for such information. Our cafe intends to be a place where anyone can be an expert even with his little knowledge of PowerPoint and such knowledge can be shared. This is our community philosophy: virtue of sharing, and we always try to do so.

Since being awarded as a PowerPoint MVP in 2006, I'm sharing information and giving professional lectures to people who want to learn an efficient business presentation skills.

Geetesh: The PowerPoint scene in Korea is very experimentive -- with illustrations, movies, and games being created using PowerPoint. Can you tell us more about this?.

Jihoon: You commented that the usage of PowerPoint in Korea is experimental. The reason seems to me that you saw only some of our members' works. But it's not the general usage in Korea.

I think there are many PowerPoint enthusiasts, because of PowerPoint's ease in graphical presentation. And such is the case in our community. These days, there is a fair number of people who put these high level skills to professional presentation usage. And now that PowerPoint animation has been improved next to Flash since Office XP (PowerPoint 2002), this animation is being used to captivate the distracted audience in the beginning of presentation.

Paying attention to this, we held a contest in celebration of reaching 200,000 members (maybe you saw some "experimental" works in this contest). You can see one of our experimental works on YouTube...

Also there are some enthusiasts who create animations, games by use of high level illustration and animation method. But this is out of PowerPoint substance, so I don't recommend it as leader of one of major online communities.

Categories: interviews, powerpoint

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2 comments




Tuesday, October 16, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 1:17 PM IST



Opazity is a new PowerPoint add-in that provides presenters and presentation designers the ability to create ‘opaque glass shapes’ without leaving PowerPoint. This effect can help hold and maintain a presentation audience’s attention by obscuring and hinting at something to be revealed.

Once Opazity is added into PowerPoint, the presenter first develops the slide and then, where the opaque glass effect is required, overlays the area with a standard or hand-drawn PowerPoint shape. With a few clicks that shape is converted into a transparent but blurred image of whatever is underneath. The presenter then applies a PowerPoint animation to the shape to reveal the image.

Opazity is compatible with PowerPoint 2007 and some earlier versions.

More info at the Opazity site...

Note: This is the same add-in that Indezine readers voted to name -- look here...

Categories: add-in, powerpoint

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Friday, October 12, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 2:33 PM IST



Signage24 is a hosting service through which you can distribute your presentations as digital signage worldwide -- almost like an automated billboard. This is a huge thing -- and this sort of service can change the way digital signage is pushed to multiple output streams.

Read the review here...

Categories: powerpoint, presentationpoint

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Thursday, October 11, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 1:13 PM IST



Ppted released a new PowerPoint template set -- this one is called Halloween. Not only do you get five great template designs, you also get the actual backgrounds so that you can use the same designs elsewhere. In this collection, you also get wide screen templates and backgrounds, and ten transparent PNGs you can use in your presentations -- at no extra cost.

Templates



Transparent PNGs


None of the templates at Ppted.com are free -- these are all designer templates. I just wanted to say that because lots of readers write in to say that their Indezine passwords don't let them download all the Ppted templates for free!

Categories: powerpoint, templates

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posted by Geetesh on 12:51 PM IST



Ppted released a new PowerPoint template set -- this one is called Electric. Not only do you get five great template designs, you also get the actual backgrounds so that you can use the same designs elsewhere. In this collection, you also get wide screen templates and backgrounds, and ten transparent PNGs you can use in your presentations -- at no extra cost.

Templates



Transparent PNGs


None of the templates at Ppted.com are free -- these are all designer templates. I just wanted to say that because lots of readers write in to say that their Indezine passwords don't let them download all the Ppted templates for free!

Categories: powerpoint, templates

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 7:55 AM IST



Colby DevittColby Devitt is the president and co-founder of Wildform, a multimedia software company based out of Los Angeles, USA. In this conversation, Colby discusses Wildform Online, their new online service that lets you host surveys and quizzes.

Geetesh: Tell us more about Wildform Online, and how it can help users do simple tasks?

Colby: With Wildform Online people can upload their e-learning quizzes, tests, surveys and presentations to the web and track viewership and score results without the expense and labor typically associated with using an LMS (Learning Management System). For as low as $19.99 a month, we host and track how their employees, students, customers and prospects interact with their projects.

For example, if a teacher creates a quiz, she can post it online, invite her students to take the quiz, track the test scores of her students, and if she wants, send them their results. She can choose to publish her quiz for a general audience or restrict it to just her students. Wildform Online also creates detailed reports for her - she can see how many people viewed her quiz, who took it and how they did. Wildform Online is also a great way to conduct surveys and polls - just upload your survey, invite people to take it and view the results. It's also an effective way to host and track the results of interactive presentations and online courses.

Geetesh: How does Wildform Online integrate with other Wildform products?

Colby: Wildform Online works fantastically with our product WildPresenter Pro, which lets you create multimedia presentations, quizzes, tests, surveys, and product demos, as well as converting PowerPoint to Flash, and recording onscreen activity . It is because of WildPresenter's quiz and survey creation capabilities that we built Wildform Online. Many of our customers created quizzes and surveys and then wanted to know how to upload them to the web and track the results from people taking them. What they were asking for typically requires an expensive and complex LMS (Learning Management System) that frequently costs in the tens of thousands of dollars. We offer this service to our customers for only $19.99 a month.

Categories: interviews, powerpoint, powerpoint_flash, wildpresenter

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Monday, October 08, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 10:38 AM IST



Ppted's Charting collection has been updated with extras! Take a look here to see...

Not only do you get five great template designs, you also get the actual backgrounds so that you can use the same designs elsewhere. In this collection, you also get wide screen templates and backgrounds, and ten transparent PNGs you can use in your presentations -- at no extra cost.

Templates



Transparent PNGs


None of the templates at Ppted.com are free -- these are all designer templates. I just wanted to say that because lots of readers write in to say that their Indezine passwords don't let them download all the Ppted templates for free!

Categories: powerpoint, templates

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0 comments




Saturday, October 06, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 1:54 PM IST



Katherine Murray is the author of more than 50 books on technology and writes articles for various Microsoft sites. She also writes and edits the Microsoft Mindshare newsletter and contributes articles to CNET's TechRepublic. In addition to books and articles, Katherine publishes BlogOffice, a blog sharing tips and ideas related to various versions of Microsoft Office.



Read the interview here...

Categories: interviews, microsoft_office, powerpoint

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0 comments




Wednesday, October 03, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 12:45 PM IST



Colby Devitt of Wildform says that their new Wildform Online Service has gone live, and it is an easy, cost-effective alternative to expensive LMS Systems.

Wildform Online customers can:

  • Publish quizzes, test, surveys and & presentations and securely deliver that content to any audience.
  • Track who is viewing their e-learning courses, and how they respond to their quizzes and surveys with detailed, easy-to-understand reports.
  • Have quiz and survey results sent to anyone on the web.
Wildform Online offers several pricing plans starting at only $19.99 month. Also, a 30 day free trial is available at the Wildorm Online site...

And here's the press release...

Categories: powerpoint, wildpresenter,

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Monday, October 01, 2007
posted by Geetesh on 1:42 PM IST



James Gordon has been a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) since 2000 and can be found in the Microsoft Macintosh newsgroups for Excel, PowerPoint and Word. PowerPoint users will recognize Jim as the creator of InsertPicture add-in for Macintosh. At SUNY University at Buffalo, Jim works helping faculty, staff and instructors with a wide array of technologies for higher education.



Read the interview here...

Categories: interviews, office_mac, powerpoint

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