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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Slideshows without slideshow software

I use a Mac, but not only don't I want to pay for PowerPoint, but I also don't want to pay for Keynote. So I like creating slideshows with image-editing software. At the moment I use Skitch because though it's not very powerful, it's ridiculously easy to use. (By contrast, GIMP isn't easy to use but is ridiculously powerful.)

Once I have a bunch of images, I import them into iPhoto. I create an album containing them all in order. Then I make it into a slideshow. I have a "next slide" clicker that came with my MacBook and it's all beautiful.

The problem I've had was wanting to upload to SlideShare, which wants powerpoint, keynote, or pdf format, and I couldn't find a way to turn images into pdfs. I've kludged it by importing the images into PowerPoint on my work machine, then uploading that, but it's a nuisance.

Today while playing with Automator, I discovered it has a "New PDF from images" task. So I created a workflow:
  • Ask for Finder items (prompts for a folder containing a bunch of images)
  • Copy Finder items (to eg the Desktop)
  • Get folder contents
  • Scale images (to 480 pixels - because it's only for the web)
  • New PDF from images (with "Size each page to fit")
For bonus geek points, I saved this workflow as "Make a slideshow" in my Speakable Items folder. So now I can tell my computer, "Make a slideshow", it asks me where to find the images, then it creates a PDF which I can upload to SlideShare.

If you don't have a Mac there's probably another way to do this - but I doubt it's as cool.


Prezi is getting a fair bit of press at the moment for its non-linear style. It is very cool, though very high-powered (and I'm too cheap for it). But I've been thinking more and more that for infolit classes, a slideshow that acted like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure would be really useful - so you didn't have to go through from slide 1 to slide 99, but could ask students a question and change the direction of the presentation to suit their answer. The "bunch of slides" format still works for me; I just want internal hyperlinks. But I'm not happy with the slideshow html templates I've seen, either.

Thinking about this, I realised what it is that I want for my slideshows: Hypercard.

<wanders off, reminiscing about the Good Old Days>