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The Annoyance:

I have a PowerPoint file that's getting too big to email, and I'm not even finished with it. Is there a way that I can bring this bad-boy down in size?

The Fix:

It isn't the text that's bloating the PowerPoint file, it's the graphics and video. Working on your images can reduce PowerPoint's file size if you follow these tips:

  • Edit your graphics before you import into PowerPoint. Although PowerPoint has some graphic editing tools, you'll end up with smaller files if you edit before you import the image.

  • Crop your image before you drag it into PowerPoint. There are many times (most of the time, actually), when you don't need to see the entire image. You can usually cut out the background or crop in close to a portion of your subject. Take a look at photos used in ads or shots on TV. Frequently, close-ups of people don't include the person's entire head. By cropping, you not only get a smaller file size, but the resulting image is often more powerful.

  • Keep the number of pixels down. If you aren't printing your presentation, you need only image resolution that is as good as your screen or projector. This falls between 72 dpi and about 96 dpi. If you want good quality printouts, however, skip this tip. Another way to reduce the number of pixels is to use your graphics software to reduce the size (in inches) while keeping the resolution fixed. Using PowerPoint's resize handles does not reduce the PowerPoint file size.

  • Convert to grayscale. You can drastically reduce graphics file sizes by going gray. It doesn't work with every image, obviously, but grayscale might even enhance some pictures.

  • Use JPEG instead of TIFF for photos. JPEG images are compressed and take a lot less space than TIFF images. As an added bonus, the JPEGs retain enough image quality for printing.

  • Use GIF for non-photo images. GIF files can only support 256 colors, which take a lot less disk space than the millions of colors found in most photographs.

If your file is still too big to email, you can separate the graphics from the PowerPoint file and send them separately. In this case, PowerPoint links to the graphics rather than embedding them. To do this, go to File → Save As, select PowerPoint Package from the Format pop-up, and click Save. This copies the linked images, movies, and sounds to a separate folder, which you can then send separately if needed.


The Annoyance:

After spending hours carefully crafting a presentation, I discover that it looks terrible on other computers. The fonts other users see on their computers aren't the same fonts I used when I built the presentation, and this throws off the whole layout. You might expect this to happen to Windows users, but Mac users also report similar problems.

The Fix:

The problem here is that PowerPoint doesn't embed fonts in the presentation. It just tells the operating system to display the fonts. In order for everything to look the same, the people viewing your presentation on their own machine must have the same fonts that you used. And if they don't? PowerPoint takes an educated guess and substitutes another font. PowerPoint's guess may be close-but-no-cigar, which means the substituted font sizes differently from the font you've chosen, causing the layout to look like you threw it together at the last minute.

Here are some strategies for preventing font substitution:

  • Only use the fonts that came with Microsoft Office. This is safe for presentations displayed Macs and PCs. Office fonts include Arial, Arial Black, Century Gothic, Comic Sans MS, Copperplate Gothic Bold, Copperplate Gothic Light, Curlz MT, Impact, Lucida Handwriting, Monotype Sorts, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Verdana, and Wingdings. There are also fonts on the Office CD, in the Value Pack folder, but you can't count on those being installed on other users' computers.


    PowerPoint has a pretty good outliner, but it doesn't hold a digital candle to the outliner that has blessed numerous versions of Word for over a decade. Fortunately, it's easy to compose your outline in Word and move it to PowerPoint.

    In Word, just choose File → Send to → Microsoft PowerPoint. PowerPoint creates a new file, imports the outline from Word, and creates the presentation's slides for you. (You can also import Word outlines from within PowerPoint by using File → Open, but this is a bit more work.)

    This works in the opposite direction, too. If you have a PowerPoint presentation you'd like to export to Word, just select File → Send to → Microsoft Word and PowerPoint creates a brand new outline based on your presentation.

  • Use fonts that come with Mac OS X. In addition to Office's fonts, it is safe to use Mac OS X fonts if your presentation will only be displayed on other Macs. Mac OS X's preinstalled fonts include American Typewriter, Baskerville, Big Carlson, Cochin, Copperplate, Didot, Futura, Gill Sans, Helvetica, Herculanum, Marker Felt, Optima, Papyrus, and Zapfino.

  • Bring the fonts with you. If you are doing a presentation on another Mac, copy the fonts you used to a CD and install them on the Mac you'll be using to give the presentation. You'll find most fonts in /Library/Fonts. For the most part, you can't move Mac fonts to a Windows machine, and vice versa. After installing the font, you may need to log out ( Log Out) and log back in again before the font is available to other applications.

  • Save your presentation as a PDF file. If your recipients don't need to edit the presentation, and it doesn't include movies or sound, you can convert it to a PDF file, which just about every computer user can read. From the Print dialog box, click the Save As PDF button.


The Annoyance:

If I insert a QuickTime movie in a PowerPoint file, it doesn't play when I move the file to a Windows machine. When I run the same file on a Mac, the embedded movie plays just fine. Doesn't PowerPoint for Windows support QuickTime?

The Fix:

The problem is that PowerPoint for Windows supports older versions of QuickTime only, while the Mac version supports the latest. Specifically, PowerPoint for Windows does not support the newer coder/decoders (known as codecs), such as Sorenson, used to compress the video in more recent versions of QuickTime. To solve this problem, you can use video editing software to replace the codec of the movie with the older Cinepak codec. You do this before embedding the QuickTime movie into the PowerPoint presentation.

You can make this change with QuickTime Pro, which is a $30 upgrade to the version of QuickTime that is part of Mac OS X (see http://www.apple.com/quicktime/upgrade/). Once you've purchased and registered QuickTime Pro in the QuickTime preference panel (go to System Preferences → QuickTime, and then click on the Registration button), here's what you do:

  1. Open the movie with QuickTime Player.

  2. Go to File → Export; a dialog opens.

  3. In the Export pop-up menu, select "Movie to QuickTime movie."

  4. Click the Options button; the Movie Settings dialog opens.

  5. Click the Settings button; the Compression Settings dialog opens.

  6. Select Cinepak from the Video pop-up menu.

  7. Click OK in the Compression Settings and Movie Settings dialogs.

  8. Click Save in the Export dialog. (Make sure the filename ends with the .mov extension.)

Now, when you insert the QuickTime movie in your PowerPoint presentation and send it to a Windows user, they shouldn't have any problems running it on their PC.


The Annoyance:

There's nothing more embarrassing than having my audience see PowerPoint's user interface when I've finished showing my presentation. I'm not doing a demo of PowerPoint, so why should I display the toolbars, formatting palette, and other gizmos? I don't like to leave my final slide up on the screen, because I like to turn up the lights and have the attention focused on me.

The Fix:

A single key solves this problem for you. When you get to the last slide, just hit the B key-this turns the screen to black. You can then turn up the lights and turn off the project without exposing PowerPoint's GUI to your audience. You can also hit the B key any time during the presentation-for example, when someone in the audience asks you a question and you need to pause to respond. Pressing the B key again brings you back to the current slide so you can pick up where you left off. Just remember "B" is for "black."


The Annoyance:

I'm sick and tired of the same old boring templates that came with PowerPoint. They all look kind of, well, "Microsoft-ish." Besides, I want my presentation to stand out, not look like everyone else's.

The Fix:

There are plenty of places that you can find templates to add to PowerPoint's repertoire.

Microsoft has a bunch of templates you can download for free (http://www.microsoft.com/mac/downloads.aspx). Of course, these are by definition "Microsoft-ish." Another source is PowerBacks (http://www.powerbacks.com), which offers several bundles of PowerPoint templates. To give you an idea of the cost, one bundle from PowerBacks includes 1200 PowerPoint templates for a mere $12. They also offer packs of 2400 templates. Not that you would ever need that many templates, but you are more likely to find templates you like from a huge selection of templates than you would with a smaller choice.

Another web site, http://www.123powerpoint.com/, offers hundreds of templates that you can purchase and download individually.

If you really want to get away from a Microsoft look and feel, you can abandon PowerPoint altogether and switch over to Apple's own presentation software, Keynote. For more on Keynote, keep reading.


The Annoyance:

PowerPoint and I just don't get along. The interface is too complex, and I don't have enough control over the design and placement of text and graphics. The annoyances are just too many to put up with.

The Fix:

This sounds like a job for Keynote (http://www.apple.com/keynote), Apple's rival presentation application. Apple developed Keynote for Steve Jobs, who uses it whenever he needs to give a keynote address (hence its name). The first thing you'll notice is that Keynote's presentations don't look anything like those created with PowerPoint. They look more like the iPhoto books you iDVD layouts that you can produce.

You start out in Keynote by choosing a "theme," as you to do in iDVD. Once you get going, you'll notice how easy Keynote presentations are to modify. For instance, you can adjust the placement of text and graphics by gently snapping objects to various grid alignments. Text kerning and anti-aliasing is automatic, and the included fonts are beautiful. You can place photos and movies on a slide and in tables, and you can resize images by simply dragging the image controls. Keynote also has some very cool 2D and 3D transition effects, such as a rotating cube to move between slides.


As with PowerPoint, you're bound to get tired of the same old presentation themes that come with Keynote. Fortunately, Keynote Theme Park (http://www.keynotethemepark.com) has some great themes you can download for free, and if you're willing to shell out a few bucks, you can opt to pay for one of their ThemePaks.

Keynote can also import from and export to PowerPoint's file format, but not without requiring you to do a little bit of reformatting. If you need to send a presentation to a group of people, you're better off exporting it as a PDF file (via File → Export).

The bottom line is that Keynote is easier to use than PowerPoint and produces more polished-looking slides. If you don't yet have a presentation program, the $99 Keynote gives you more bang for the buck than PowerPoint's $229 bill.

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