Not every PowerPoint presentation needs to be displayed in a linear way. Even though the basic PowerPoint presentation style moves forward from one slide to the next, you may sometimes prefer to move your slide deck in a less structured way. Luckily a free, small business software add-in from Microsoft Labs called PptPlex lets you do just that.
With PptPlex you can navigate a presentation in all sorts of different ways, which gives you a more fluid presenting experience. In this column, I'll show you how to get started with PptPlex and how to configure a PowerPoint presentation to use with it.
Get with the Program
Figure 1: When you divide a presentation using Sections PptPlex will treat these as logical groupings of slides.
First things first: you need to download PptPlex. Close PowerPoint, and then download and install the PptPlex application. The next time you launch PowerPoint, you will see the new PptPlex tab appear on the ribbon in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010.
Get the Program Started
Open an existing PowerPoint presentation, and click the PptPlex tab. To get a look at PptPlex, click From Overview, and you will see a screen appear with thumbnail size images of every slide in your presentation.
A few navigation tips will help you look at your slides: Double-click on any slide to zoom it to full-screen size. Use the arrow keys to move from one slide to the next and in reverse. Double-click on a slide to zoom in closer still, and use the mouse to drag the slide across the screen to view just a portion of it. Right-click to zoom back out -- each time you right-click you go one step further out. You can also zoom in and out of the presentation using the scroll wheel of your mouse.
Now you have an idea as to what PptPlex can do, click Esc to return to PowerPoint.
To structure your presentation to take advantage of the power of PptPlex, you should organize your presentation into sections. If you’re using PowerPoint 2007 you’ll need to use the Add Sections tool on the PptPlex tab, because sections aren’t a feature of PowerPoint 2007.
They are, however, a feature of PowerPoint 2010, where you would select the Home tab and click Section > Add Section. This adds an untitled section to the beginning of your slideshow. Right-click the untitled section and choose Rename Section to give it a new name.
Figure 2: Organized with a canvas background and sections where you can select any slide to view it.
You’ll add as many sections as needed to break your slideshow into smaller groups of related slides. In PowerPoint 2010, you right-click on the slide you want first in a new section, and then choose Add Section.
Once you’ve added your sections and named them, return to the PptPlex tab and choose From Overview to view your presentation. This time you will see it is differently organized, and the slides will be grouped by section. Double-click a section name to view the slides in it, and then double-click on a slide to view that slide. You can use the right-click to zoom back out and move around the presentation by dragging with your mouse and double-clicking to zoom in.
Add a Background
You can also add a custom background to your PptPlex-driven presentation. Choose Canvas Background, and then select one of the backgrounds. This becomes the background for the slideshow. You can preview it by looking at the presentation. When you do, you will see your sections are arranged on the slide in an ad hoc design.
Add a title and subtitle where indicated in the background. Then position the sections as desired and resize -- any unused sections in the design don't display, so you don’t have to remove them unless you want to. These canvas backgrounds are theme-aware, meaning that they change if you change the Theme or color scheme.
You can, if desired, make your own background in any software that can create vector shapes. Save the image as a Windows Metafile format image, and then delete the current canvas and import your design in its place. Right-click it and choose Send to Back > Send to Back to send it behind the slides.
PptPlex gives you a novel way of making your presentations. It’s particularly attractive when you have a presentation that doesn’t necessarily need to be displayed in a linear way. Using PptPlex instantly gives you a global view of your presentation, so you can easily move around your presentation to view any slide at any time.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
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