Monday, March 12, 2007

Review of OpenOffice Impress

The first talk I ever gave at work was done in S5. I like S5 quite a bit; it produces very nice HTML slides. However when showing the slides on a projector the fonts sometimes look too small and run off the edge of the screen if you try to make them bigger. When I attended PyCon earlier this year I noticed that a number of presenters had similar problems with S5. So while I still think S5 is nice, I'd like to find a better tool because I care about how the slides look on the projector.

When I decided to do a Unicode talk at ChiPy, I went looking for alternatives. I ruled out PowerPoint pretty early on because it doesn't generate HTML slides that look good in Firefox (this may have changed in newer versions, but I refuse to upgrade just for that one feature). I also tried to use Bruce, but I couldn't get up and running in a short amount of time.

So I ended up going with OpenOffice Impress. Unfortunately, I came away pretty disappointed with my decision. First of all, there is a debilitating bug in Impress that disables the Text Formatting toolbar when a lot of text is entered into a text area. There are workarounds that you can use to get the Text Formatting toolbar enabled again, but it caused me to waste a lot of time.

When it came time to publish my slides on the web, I was underwhelmed by the export features:

  • Exporting to HTML causes every slide to be turned into an image, and fails to render the embedded tables (created using OpenOffice Calc).
  • Exporting to PDF was mostly OK, except that if you choose the "Export notes" option you'll essentially generate two pages for each slide -- one without notes, one with notes.
  • The Flash (SWF) version looks fine but has no navigation buttons. Also, I don't think you can resize the text in it.

Although my overall experience was not good, I may use Impress again in the future. After all, the slides did look decent on the projector, and it was easy to embed Calc tables into the presentation. But if I can find something better I'll definitely be using that instead.

Unicode Talk

On March 8, 2007 I gave a presentation on Unicode to the Chicago Python Users Group. Unlike most talks on Unicode, mine was geared for small children.

Anyway, here are the downloads for the talk in various formats:

  • OpenOffice Impress (this is the best version to look at, if you have OpenOffice installed)
  • PDF (my notes are embedded into the PDF, but you have to scroll to the end to see them)
  • HTML (warning: the "horse vs unicode" and "ISO8859 vs unicode" tables don't show up)

Also, here are the demos associated with the talk. I didn't have time to show any of them, but hopefully the comments inside the source files are pretty understandable.