Friday, November 30, 2012

PowerPoint Presentations for Multiple Machines

PowerPoint Presentations for Multiple Machines
This article reprinted with permission from All 'Bout Computers.

You have this great idea for a PowerPoint presentation that you want to send out for friends and family members to see. You have worked for hours to get the timing of the animations and transitions just right. You selected just the right music to go with the pictures. You even created some great animated gifs to show how things work and some movies to show what people can do with your information.
You copy your presentation from your hard drive to a thumb drive so that you can take the presentation to your brother's house to test. You remember to put all the sounds, animations, and movies there also, because you remembered how much fun it wasn't to deal with those things last time. You even remember to put a copy of the Viewer on your thumb drive in case there isn't a copy of Powerpoint on the other machine. You are all set, or so you believe.
You get to your brother's house and discover that you may have a few problems to deal with. Luckily, his machine does have a USB port for your thumb drive. But, as he so nicely reminds you, Mom and Dad's machine doesn't have one. When you send it out, you will need to send it on CD instead. You have just hit the first of many problems that exist when you build a presentation that is going to run on many different machines.
What is going to happen next you wonder, as you open PowerPoint on your brother's machine and run your presentation? Suddenly, all your perfectly timed sounds, animations, and effects are running very strangely. You can't hear the sound effects - you only hear the music. Your slides change very slowly. Not all of your movies run. And most of your beautiful animation sequences just sit there!
What are you going to do? You are going to go back to the beginning and make some changes to how you put the presentation together to start with.

First: Think about the machines

Always develop on the oldest, slowest, and least powerful machine that you expect the presentation will be run on. If you develop on a high-powered machine, then run on a lower powered machine, you will have many problems. The USB capability is one of those things.
If you depend on multiple effects happening at certain speeds, PowerPoint will get you. As soon as you move to an older or less powerful machine, PowerPoint will have to do more with less. You won't like the results.
If you are concerned that your presentation is going to be a resource hog, make up a little cheat sheet for the people you are sending the presentation to. Tell them to:
  • Turn off all other programs running on their machine. This includes email and internet programs definitely, other programs if possible. In the most extreme cases you will need to figure out some way to prove to them that you don't have a virus embedded in the file, since they will need to turn of the virus checker as well.
  • Clean out their temporary space, their browser history, and to do other regular disk maintenance. The more hard drive and temporary space PowerPoint has to use, the faster it can run and the better it can meet your design.
  • Copy the presentation and linked files to the hard drive, instead of running from the CD or thumb drive. Hard drives are the fast things out there in terms of file access. Thumb drives come next. CD drives are the slowest of the three.

Second: Know what PowerPoint versions people are using

If you are doing all your development on PowerPoint 2002 or 2003, people with PowerPoint 97 and 2000 won't be able to see your presentation. While the newer versions of PowerPoint will handle the older animations, they will not look the same as they do on the older versions.
Be sure that you include the right viewer so that they can see your presentation the way you designed it. If you developed the file in PowerPoint 2002 or 2003, you should provide the link to the "new" or 2003 Viewer. If you developed the file in PowerPoint 97 or 2000, you should provide the link to the "old" or 1997 Viewer.
One last word of warning on PowerPoint versions: Animated Gifs don"t run at all in PowerPoint 97. They run with infinite looping in PowerPoint 2000. PowerPoint 2002 and PowerPoint 2003 do a good job of interpreting the header information, so those versions should be fine with the animated GIFs.

Third: Make your files small

The bigger your PowerPoint file, the more likely resource issues will impact how your presentation runs. You need to make sure that your files are the smallest size possible.
  1. Turn OFF fast saves (Tools--> Options--> Save tab, uncheck the box) and then save the presentation to a new name. If Fast Saves were on, this step alone will cut your presentation size by a good amount (usually 33-50%).
  2. Read up on how to make sure your files are as small as possible at the PPT FAQ. The biggest thing here is to make sure your graphics aren't overscanned or oversized and that you inserted them the right way. What's the right way? Insert--> Picture, Not copy and paste!
  3. Make sure your music is the minimum quality you can live with. There is no reason to distribute a sound file that is CD quality if the presentation is only ever going to be played over a mono-speaker on a laptop. Play around with the quality of your sound files and see what you can live with in the quality of sound vs. size of file battle.

Fourth: Use fonts wisely

If you are using any unusual fonts, embed them. If you used anything out of the ordinary and didn't embed them, PowerPoint on the other computers will have to to guess at the best possible match from the fonts on the machine. This makes it so that there is very little chance of everyone else seeing what you want them to see.
If you embed the fonts, you at least have a shot at them seeing what you want them to see. Since not all fonts are embeddable, you may still have some font problems, but they should be minimized. (Not sure if your fonts are embeddable? Go read my article on PowerPoint 2003. While the limitations on opening files with fonts in them is new to PowerPoint 2003, the information provided there on how to know if a font is embeddable is old news.)

Fifth: Know the multimedia capabilities of the other machines

You can't control what other computers have for speakers. Most machines won't play more than two sounds at a time. Most laptops will have problems playing more than one at a time. If you need to have multiple sounds to get your point across, you can forestall the problems by editting your sound files so that all the sounds are coming from one file. If that isn't an option, be sure that you tell people they won’t be getting the full effect without a somewhat fancy sound card.
If you are sharing presentations with movies, you need to be sure that you have created the movies with the most common CODECS (codecs are the files on your computer that tell the multimedia players how to compress and de-compress your movie files so that they can play).

Sixth: Distribute the presentation correctly

Send the sounds with the presentation. Make sure the links don't break when you move your presentation and the sound files around. Information on that problem is also on the PPT FAQ website. Make sure you save your presentation as a PowerPoint Show, so that it will play on a double click (instead of opening in PPT's edit mode).

Seventh: Relax

Even if you set all of the above up perfectly, your presentation is not going to run the same on any two machines. It probably won’t even run the same two times in a row on the same machine. The differences won’t be as noticeable on the same machine, but they are there.
If all else fails, and you need to have a perfectly timed, perfectly repeatable presentation, then it may be time to consider using another program to create or present your information. If you don’t want to loose all the work you have put into the presentation, then look into recoding your presentation or using Vic Ferri's service to create a self-contained presentation package

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