Steve's Blank Slide

While watching the iPad 2 event, I noticed a few times where Steve advanced to a blank slide and just talked. It allowed the audience to focus on him as he built up to the next image and it was pretty smart. Maybe this is a simple trick but it never occurred to me before. Expect a few blank slides in my next presentation. is sponsored by Bee Docs Timeline 3D. Make a timeline presentation with your Mac.

Kensington Presenter Pro Review

My beloved remote has failed me. I’ve been using it for at least 6 years without a hitch and suddenly (despite new batteries, cleaning the contacts, and a few kindly whacks) it has stopped advancing slides. So time for a new one and I took advantage of Macworld Expo to do some shopping.

For me the perfect remote has four buttons: advance, backward, dark screen, and laser. I don’t want extra bells and whistles that I will start pressing in nervous fits. So that was my shopping list, a Mac friendly remote with just the right number of buttons. I found my new remote on the expo floor, the Kensington Presenter Pro with Green Laser and Memory.

The Kensington Presenter Pro ($99) (find the manual here) fits nicely in my hand and features four buttons: slide advance, slide back, laser, and dark screen. It includes a dongle that stores inside the remote. The device works on a 2.4 GHz wireless signal that worked for me up to about 100 feet. Everything just works on the Mac. What really makes this remote shine however are the little details

The Laser

The Kensington Presenter Pro uses a green laser. While green lasers aren’t as unique as they used to be, they are still a lot more rare than red lasers, which is great. When I’m speaking, my green laser looks different, and that’s good. People know when I point. There is also some science involved. Green light is right in the middle of the visible spectrum where red light is on the edge (meaning less visible). So it has a bright shiny laser with a different color. That’s a plus.

The Thumb Drive

The USB key does more than talk to the remote. It also has 2 GB of onboard storage and a micro SD slot supporting cards up to 32 GB. That means you can put a copy of your Keynote right on the thumb stick as a last ditch back up in case everything else goes wrong. It also means you could conceivably walk in a room with a remote only, plug it in to a Mac and start talking.

The Power Switch

Another nice touch is the inclusion of a sliding power switch. My old remote didn’t have one and it made me crazy. You never knew when the laser might get accidentally pressed in my bag and I’d get to my location to find the batteries dead. As a result, I still have this manic desire to carry extra AAAs whenever I speak.

The Case

The Presenter Pro also includes a zippered case form fitted to hold your remote. It fits nicely in my bag without a big footprint.

Overall, the new remote is a winner.

iPad Keynote, Still No Remote

In addition to releasing the 4.2 iPad update this week, Apple also updated Keynote for iPad. The update solves several shortcomings with the prior version including an overhaul of the presenter display. You can now see your presenter notes or the next slide on your iPad while you present, a feature that probably should have existed from the beginning.

Despite these improvements, iPad Keynote still has one fatal defect: lack of support for a remote. Watch anyone who gives presentations with any regularity (even Steve) and they will use a remote. Having to stop in the middle of your presentation to stab at your keyboard or (worse) look down at the iPad and fumble around for the slide advance button is just not acceptable. It distracts the audience and, more importantly, the speaker. I’ve tried several work arounds including using a paired Bluetooth keyboard (no dice) and even a failed attempt to use a USB remote dongle plugged into the camera connection kit (which of course would use up the dock connector prohibiting VGA connection even if it worked). I still use iPad Keynote in small settings but until Apple builds in remote slide advance capabilities, it remains crippled for many uses.

So what kind of remote would I like? Ideally a Bluetooth “clicker” style remote. It just needs a few buttons: forward, backward, and a laser pointer for good measure. Apple has a Keynote Remote App for the iPhone that lets you advance Keynote presentations on your Mac but it does not currently work with the iPad. Also, I consider using the iPhone as a remote as a distant second choice to a traditional clicker. Using the phone still requires you to look down to swipe or gesture and often involves setting up dodgy temporary networks.

Presentation Mojo

Recently Ars Technica posted about a study commissioned by the International Journal of Innovation and Learning about the futility of PowerPoint presentations. In summary, it explains how excessive animation and poorly structured presentations put audiences to sleep.

This follows the growing backlash I've seen recently against presentation software in general. I find this curious because I was using presentation software before it became popular. I remember the days of walking into a presentation with a projector and everyone looking at me inquisitively wondering exactly what the heck all that gear was for. (I also remember the bad old days before presentation software where I'd spend lots of money on big unwieldy blow ups.)

In the ensuing years, PowerPoint became a staple of business, sales, education, and just about every other scenario where one person needs to communicate information to another. I appreciate that a lot people are sick and tired of "death by PowerPoint." I disagree that presentation software as a tool is a bad thing. To refine matters, I believe people are sick of bad presentations, not presentations as a whole.

The problem is, that most presentations are bad. While everyone is busy adding animations, transitions, and jingles (yes, jingles) to their presentations, nobody is bothering to figure out how to do one correctly. Using Apple's Keynote is a good start. It looks so different from the usual PowerPoint templates that it gives you an immediate head start. That is only the beginning though. Keynote is just as easily abused as PowerPoint.

Software developers are not making it any easier with the arms race of tricky animations and visual effects. While these are a lot of fun (when used sparingly), for a lot of misguided presenters, they become a crutch upon which to give a cheesy, sleep inducing presentation. Don't even get me started on the subject of bullet points and full screen paragraphs.

When done right, a Keynote presentation can complement an oral presentation beautifully. Maybe the problem is people think the presentation software can do the work for them. It doesn't replace the presenter's job of conveying information, it only enhances it. The answer is not to abandon presentation software. The answer is to make better presentations.

Speaking and Carnegie Hall Require Practice

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Today the Uncluterer website posted an excellent article on giving presentations. I do quite a bit of presentation work and following years of hard knocks I'd have to agree with just about everything the author says. Especially the part about practice. Presentations don't happen magically. Unless you are some sort of freak, the only way to come off smoothly is to practice. Believe me. I've tried it the other way and it always turns out ugly.

So when I know I'm about to give an important presentation, I practice. No one and no thing is safe from my practice. Mirrors, co-workers, traffic, family members, unsuspecting door to door salesmen: They are all liable to be dragged through an opening statement, a presentation, or a particular analogy that I have yet to get just right. It is good to know I'm not alone.

Keynote Free Stuff


My friend and MacSparky reader Marie pointed me to Jumsoft's free "Jam" download of Keynote 3d images. Several of them are useful for presentation work and definitely worth the download. Check it out. As a little Keynote tip, I actually keep a separate folder called "Keynote Source Documents" where I have slides and presentation with re-usable resources. If you haven't done something like this yourself, this is the perfect place to start.

The Brotherhood of Mac


So tomorrow I'm starting a big case and I want to give a print out of my Keynote to the judge with space on the side for him to take notes. It is never a bad idea to have the guy wearing the black robe go home with my Keynote in his briefcase while the other guy creates funny adjectives for me like "slick" and "fancy".

Anyway, I put a PDF version of the Keynote on a thumb drive and cruised into the nearest Kinkos to have them run it on their gazillion dollar color machine. After all that work, it needs to look pretty. The only problem was the Kinkos guy could not get it to print. He was surrounded with customers and invited me "behind the counter" to try and figure it out myself. For some reason the Kinkos machine was hanging up in the middle of the print job. They poor guy was swamped and he really didn't have time to help me. It is early December at Kinkos and that means the "Christmas Letter Gang" is in full swing. You know those Christmas letters, right? The one that explains about Uncle Earl's Lumbago and how Linus finally won the cow chip throwing contest? (Yes, there is such a thing as cow chip throwing.)

Well, I really need to win tomorrow so I told him I'd grab my laptop out of the car and re-create the PDF to see if that was the issue. He then shrugged at me . . . probably secretly hoping I just wouldn't come back.

Anyway, I went to the car and returned with my trusty Mac. That was when things changed for the better.

The Kinko's guy, demonstrating an instinctual Mac geekiness, popped his head out of the crowd of irate Yuletiders like a lemur on the first night of mating season. Suddenly the Christmas letters weren't so important. Turns out the Kinkos guy was part of "The Brotherhood." He explained he is a proud owner of a G5 and card carrying member of the Brotherhood of Mac.

He brushed aside the Lumbago gang like so much rubbish and came straight over to bask in the glory that is my MacBook Pro. We reset the PDF and I gave him a quick spin on OmniFocus and then we went back to the big Kinkos machine. Suddenly he had all the time in the world for me.

Turns out the problem was Kinkos' monster printer but we figured it out and in no time I had some beautiful color copies of my Keynote and a new MacGeek friend.

Never underestimate the Power of the Brotherhood.

Review - Keynote ‘08


Presentations and word processing are my bread and butter. That is, I earn my living writing and presenting. I have been writing Power Point presentations for years. I'm actually very good at them and occasionally freelance for my geek challenged colleagues. It is with those years of experience in mind that I was initially skeptical about using Apple's presentation software, Keynote. That was, at least, until the first time I saw a Keynote presentation.

I think Keynote (even before this recent update) is superior to PowerPoint in both ease of use and final product. With the release of Keynote '08, the gap has just grown larger. For the purpose of this review, I'm going to skip over a lot of the features that already existed in Keynote and focus on the new additions. If you are not familiar with Keynote, even before the upgrade it was full of stellar templates, transitions, and text effects that made producing convincing presentations a breeze. Indeed there are even more new transitions and effects but that is just the start of some fantastic changes and additional features.

With the new point to point animation you can tell an object where to go on the screen and how to get there. For example, if you have a map of the forest and want to show exactly how the wolf went to the three little pigs homes, you can plot the motion paths with a one click procedure for each stop and Keynote does the rest. With each click during your presentation the wolf will move across the screen at the speed, acceleration, and motion path that you set. The way I used to accomplish this was a very convoluted procedure involving Final Cut's Motion program and a lot of praying. Now its a breeze.

Another new feature is one I didn't even realize I needed but now I couldn't live without. Its called "Instant Alpha". It allows me to incorporate picture, pdfs, and other objects and remove the background. I've talked about how much I like using OmniGraffle but what I've never posted on is the frustration of making a beautiful diagram in OmniGraffle and then having to look at that ugly white background when I import it into Keynote. I guess I could have removed the background all along in Photoshop Elements, but to be honest I never really thought of it. Regardless, with the new Keynote, you just tap the "Instant Alpha" button and then put the mouse inside the color you want to remove. You click and drag and it removes the background on screen for you. When you get it just right, you hit the enter key and its done. It is really easy and extremely useful.

Inevitably, every slideshow I prepare has a run of pictures. A lot of my work involves construction projects and buildings and pictures are essential for demonstrating particular issues. The new keynote has an excellent feature called "Smart Build" that lets you put an entire series of pictures into one slide and easily pick a transition that is flashy or subtle.

Keynote will also now insert a frame around a picture or text box. This is really nice for setting a picture or highlighting text I pull out of a document image. In powerpoint this took two separate images and it was an absolute pain. No more “send to back”. No more resizing and moving multiple objects. Just one clicky. Thanks Apple.

Navigating and sorting also got easier with adjustable sizes and new views. Formatting and auto-correcting also got a lot easier with new tools to make production of your keynote faster and more efficient.

Apple also improved the movie import and export function. You can now key a quicktime movie on a mouse click instead of it starting automatically on the slide transition. It also allows you to export your presentation to Quicktime. This export is not, however, just a static movie but you can actually set it to advance on clicks just as if you are viewing it in Keynote. Are you getting this? That means you can take your Keynote and play it on any machine that has Quicktime. Even a beige box that has requires Norton and is covered with stickers that say “Intel inside”. This feature will be extremely useful to me when I have to give a presentation using somebody else’s windows rig. It will also leave them all wondering, “How did he do that?” And that is a wonderful thing.

So in case you haven’t figured it out I’m giving the new Keynote two big thumbs up. You can purchase it as part of the iWork suite for just $79 or $99 for the family pack. Next week I’ll be following up this review with my look at Pages ’08.

You can listen to this review on the Surfbits MacReview Cast Episode 121.

Law Parents and Humpty Dumpty


Attention All of you Law Dads and Moms...During my fifth grader’s parent teacher conference I offered to come in and help the kids learn a bit about the judicial system and how it fits into our three branches of government. I had heard about a case that one of the bar associations had put together letting the kids roleplay a trial. Well it took me some six months to track it down but I finally did get the transcript for a kids trial. Humpty Dumpty ... did he actually fall? or was he pushed? It is a great little trial where the kids play the roles of the judge, attorneys, parties, witnesses, bailiff, and jury.

I also put together a keynote presentation to give the kids before doing the trial (which has been exported to Powerpoint for those of you that are Mac challenged). The kids were very attentive during the presentation and asked some very good question. “How do you defend someone if you know he is guilty?” Since I’ve done all this work I thought I might as well share it.Below you can download "the case" along with my Keynote Presentation. For those folks still on Windows, download the Quicktime and it will work just like Keynote on your Dell. You can live life large. Grin. If you do use it, please drop me a note and let me know how it goes.

The kids seemed to have a good time and I've already agreed to go back to the fifth grade next year and do it for the next group (even though I won't actually have any kids in the class)

By the way... My daughter’s class had two juries because of size. One said he fell, the other said he was pushed. Can anyone say double jeopardy?

Download "The Case" in PDF

Keynote File

Quicktime File