Random productivity-software idea from a discussion at the start of the theory seminar today:

The speaker had made printouts of his powerpoint slides and spread them out on the podium so that he would have a better idea what was coming next. But, we soon realized, there's no reason something like this couldn't be done in software. Why not have a 4-up display of the current and coming slides, or maybe one large slide and a column of three coming smaller ones, on the laptop screen visible to the speaker, while the projector displays to the audience a single slide in full-screen mode as usual? I don't know of current presentation software that will do that and keep the two displays automatically synchronized, but I don't see any technical obstacles to such a system.



There are a lot of possibilities for what one could do with distinguishing between the laptop screen and the projected screen. From what I've seen at conferences, I'd expect that the biggest technical difficulty is that laptops all seem to be a bit different in how they handle multiple screens and how one sets them up to do so, such that getting it to work reliably on all sorts of laptops with all sorts of users would be a mess. But hopefully that's getting a bit better as time goes on.

One thing I'd been thinking about for this was having a "presenter" version of the slide on the laptop screen, which has large key talking points superimposed on a slightly grayed-out version of the slide. Thus, the projected version might have a large graph of results, and the laptop version would have notes on what aspects of that graph the presenter wanted to talk about.

I like the upcoming-slide idea, though. There have been a few times where I've forgotten to talk about the setup for the next slide before switching to it, or have started to talk about something forgetting that I made the point in more detail on the next slide.

Part of what's wrong with the whole Powerpoint phenomenon (c.f. Tufte's screeds on the dangers of same) is that it amounts to having the speaker use their speaking notes as a visual aid. Separating those again seems like a useful thing.


Keynote Ver. 2 (the presentation software for Macs) can do this ... although I've never tried it. To set it up you need to configure your laptop to be the primary display and the projector to be a secondary display. Whenever I've been giving talks on the road, I never have time to monkey with their projection equipment to see if I could get this running properly. But in theory (or according to the manual, at least :) this is supposed to be possible.


Interesting. Despite using Macs and having a copy of Keynote preloaded from the most recent one I bought, I've never tried it. Most talks I see these days are presented either with Powerpoint or Acrobat. Powerpoint suffers from the usual annoying Microsoftisms (e.g. today's speaker couldn't easily figure out how to turn off its habits of capitalizing starts of lines and adding periods to ends of lines) while Acrobat requires a separate tool for putting together the presentation; I've been using InDesign, which is overkill, not specialized to the task, and not any better than the Microsoft software at equations. With Keynote I'd worry about portability in case I wanted to use a non-Mac for the presentation, but I expect it's easy to export or print to PDF, so one could use Acrobat as a fallback. Maybe I'll have to try it the next time I put together a new presentation.


Wow, InDesign? I'm impressed. :)

I've been using Keynote since ver 1, and I think it's pretty nifty. It allows you to save to Powerpoint, and at first every time I'd give a talk I'd save a ppt copy of it onto my flash drive in case I couldn't connect my iBook to the projector. But I stopped doing that because I'm always able to get my computer connected (usually more easily than a PC).

The only real annoyance I've found with Keynote is the lack of an easy way to do sub- and superscripts. I found a way around this by using Microsoft's equation editor--it'll copy and paste into Keynote perfectly, as it turns out. (Although for complicated formulas I'll use TeXShop and copy and paste them into Keynote, but TexFoG looks like a better way.) But over all I recommend Keynote pretty highly.


The only real annoyance I've found with Keynote is the lack of an easy way to do sub- and superscripts.

With InDesign one can set up various predefined character styles, so I just use two for sub- and superscripts that change the font size to smaller and raise or lower the text appropriately. They only work well for text the same size as the main body text (anything else and I'd have to manually tweak the size and raise/lower amounts) but that's usually the only context in which I need them.

On the other hand, for a more integrated Mac app like Keynote I'd expect Equation Service to work pretty well. So maybe it wouldn't be such a problem...


Just installed Equation Service. Neat! Thanks! It doesn't work as completely as one might hope--I have to use "Typeset to Pasteboard" and then paste the PDF graphic into Keynote. But it's still pretty snazzy. Thanks!


Keynote, keynote, keynote. It's some of the best software I have ever used, works very well with PDF, so inserting LaTeX-typeset maths is a breeze (if you think your presentations need formulas). And it looks great.


Keynote 2 has keyboard shortcuts for sub- and superscripts as well, by the way.


if you think your presentations need formulas

I try to avoid big difficult-to-understand formulas in my talks, except when I'm using them for effect (slide two of this talk, for instance). But sometimes they're difficult to avoid. And sometimes (e.g. "\(O(n^4)\)" vs "biquadratic") I think small formulas can be more readable than text.

None: powerpoint presenter view

Besides the "one large slide and a column of three coming smaller ones", it also allows you to see the speaker's notes on each slide. I use this feature quite a bit. I believe it was there since version 2002.


P.S. You can see a screenshot here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/ha010565471033.aspx

None: Keynote does it

I use keynote for all of my presentation needs. It has an excellent and customizable presenter screen. You can select several elements to display (currrent slide, next slide, clock, notes, timer, advance indicator). You can even edit the presenter layout in a simple drag-and drop way, dragging and resizing the elements to an arbitrary layout once you figure out which elements you want on your screen. (the default is pretty good, though). This means that you can make your current slide huge while the next one is a thumbnail, or vice-versa, and that you can have a set of notes for each slide which only you can see while presenting.

A word on equations in keynote:

Keynote actually interperets equations better than powerpoint for mac does in some cases. I have experienced some presentations with unreadable equations (they turned up as black blocks instead of symbols and letters). My only gripe with keynote's interpretation of MS equations is that parenthasis around fractions have a divided by sign which erroniously gets displayed in the close parenthesis. For my personal use, I use LaTexIt, which allows you to keep pallets of equations and drag/drop them directly into keynote as pdf fragments. The only drawback to this is that they are not directly editable from keynote as you have to re-compost them in latexit and drag a new copy in to make changes.