OpenOffice.org: an outline for preparing your slides

In the last few days I've seen a number of friends struggle with OOo. Mostly it comes through as tweets and dents and complaints. Like every other piece of software, OpenOffice.org has a learning curve. People struggle with other pieces of software, ask questions, report bugs and work to improve their toolkit. I admit that I'm as bad as the next person when it comes to reporting UI bugs about OOo, but it still amazes me a bit that people would rather complain about their tools than learn how to use them without resentment, or work to improve them.

For those who don't have the inclination to read documentation for a tool they're only going to use once or twice a year, here's an outline of how I use OOo to create new presentations.

  1. Start in the outline mode. Above the slides you can see several tabs. One of these is outline. Click that tab. See the little square icon at the top that's vaguely bullet-like? That signifies "slide." Start typing. You're making a heading. Press enter and then press tab. You now have your first bullet point on your first slide. Repeat these steps to generate the table of contents (or "outline") for your presentation. Once you have the structure for your talk you can work on formatting and finesse.
  2. Create and customize templates. Once you've created your outline it's time to go back and add some finesse. Switch to the "Normal" tab (which is essentially the edit mode). Your slides may look ugly. That's fine. We're going to fix that. Navigate to View -> View master. A new slide will come up. Customize the way this looks to suit your needs. Add a background image if it's relevant. If you want multiple slide designs (e.g. "intro" vs. "data") create these templates now. When you've finished creating templates, close the master view. There should be a little window floating around that has a button to "close master view."
  3. Apply templates. Now that you've created the master templates, it's time to apply them. In the "normal" view, right click on a slide and choose, Slide -> Slide design. Choose the master template that is appropriate (repeat for each slide). In the right hand side on your screen you will also see "layouts." You can choose the most appropriate layout for each slide as well. By default a blank slide with no text is used. Once you've added content to the outline you will see that a new slide layout is selected. The layout is the only option you should customize per slide. All other formatting changes should be done in the master templates with new master templates being created as appropriate. Update: At this stage I also import my photos. I do a lot of whole-slide photos, but this is still a step that's done AFTER I've created the outline.
  4. Adjust the order. Once things are written you need to go back through and make sure the content is in the right order. Run through your slides in presentation mode (F5 to start a slide show, Esc to return to the editing view) and see if they make sense. If they don't, return to the editing view for your slide show and choose the "Slide Sorter" tab. Change the order of your slides by dragging them into the correct order.

Formatting Notes:

  • If the slides look like text is wrong or otherwise not "following the rules" make sure that you have default formatting applied to the fonts. Sometimes when you copy from other applications it caries formatting with it. Although it doesn't appear to be formatted, it might be. Select the rogue text, right click and choose "Default Format."
  • You must change the colour of the bullets separately from the colour of the text on the master slide view. This is a feature, not a bug. To adjust the bullet colour select all of the text in the editing window. Right click on the selected text and choose, "Numbering and Bullets." In the window that pops up choose, "Customize." Change the "colour" which appears in the middle of the screen (or use a graphic bullet if you prefer). Click "ok" to apply your changes.

I'm also thinking about starting up the screen casting software and showing you how I get myself ready to start working on a new presentation. Please let me know if there's anything specific you want covered and I'll do my best to fit it in.

Update #2: This is just information on how to use your presentation software. If you want more information on how to deliver a conference presentation (and you've got time to sit through it) you may find my Presenting You workshop and session from DrupalCon useful.

Systems and creative thinking

I am a system person. I like things to be in their places and a little bit orderly. When my own life gets too chaotic I look for things that I can line up, arrange and sort. Whether it's a quilt top, a desk drawer or weeds in the garden, I often crave order.

This weekend I spent a few hours with my sister who is, among other things, a scrapbooker. I took my albums with me and talked about the things I want to be able to do with my memories and she helped me set up a system (she also likes systems--I wonder if it's genetic?).

My new system has three scrapbooks: family, work/travel and photography.

  1. The first album is a small "momento" book. It holds 2-3 photos on a page and is meant to capture a few of the things that I blog but would otherwise be lost in a digital archive. The first page of this book was the story of winning the auction that put my mum on the icemaking machine at the local arena. This album replaces the one I'm currently finishing up which is "family and the school-aged years."
  2. The second album is for my travelling. I've been doing a lot lately and I often take more than a few pictures. Some of the pages will be mostly city-related (for example: Brussels is almost all architecture) and some will be people related (for example: DrupalCon, DC). These are images with stories.
  3. The third albums is for my "photography." These are images that stand on their own. They often come in a group of related images, but they don't necessarily have stories. They're just really great images.   Prince Edward Island St. Raphael's and Hartland, NB

Once I had the containers figured out it was a matter of sorting my tools. I'd already done a fair amount of sorting, but I knew that things weren't as good as they could be. Finding the right shade of paper was time consuming and sort of annoying. Everything was in plastic pages in a binder. Which is fine if you know what you're looking for, but really hard if you can't memorize shades of yellow as you're flipping through sheets. I'm now using six plastic folders and a brochure rack that I've had for ages:


I've got all kinds of scraps sorted by colour in these folders. Now I can pick out "green" or "red" or "blue" or "yellow" or "black/white" or "words and stickers" and pull together a coordinated theme. My yarn leftovers and fabric scraps are also sorted by colour. It has made my fiber life a lot easier, so it makes sense it would make my paper life easier too.

Tonight I was writing up a new proposal for a new client. I was having trouble putting all of the ideas in a row (read: linear proposal). Instead of staring blankly at the computer screen I took a break and did a little recreational sorting. I pulled out my system of scrapbook, sorted paper and "hardware." Then I chose a group of photos (from the Deep River Science Academy) and relevant colours. Once I had everything set out, I started moving around memories and shapes. I cropped some of the images and tried to get a feel for what I was going to put on the page. A green circle sticker stuck out as a strong visual. I decided to create a page of circles.

 Deep River Science Academy

Once I had the theme, colours and shapes it became very easy to see which images were truly valuable in creating a whole memory and which were merely photos. The page came together in very little time once I'd done enough sorting to see the vision. For every image I asked myself: does this picture contributed significantly to the story of my summer at DRSA? Images that didn't make the cut include a photo of me sitting in the speaker's chair in the national parliament buildings (we had a mock parliamentary debate *in* the House of Commons). It was definitely very cool, but it was not a significant part of the experience. (I've saved the photo because there might be another story where it is relevant.)

With the sorting exercise finished and all of my scrapbooking supplies cleaned up, I went back to my Web site proposal and took another look at all of the components. I sorted the components into what was truly important for a whole vision, and what was merely legacy and historical information. I threw in a few radical ideas for good measure too. Just like the scrapbook page I'd put together earlier in the evening I saw that sometimes you need create a whole picture out of the most appropriate parts instead of feeling obliged to use every photo in your arsenal.

Remote install of Debian overtop of RedHat

A very long time ago I leased some server space that had RedHat and I wanted Debian. So I did a remote install using the /swap partition as a / partition. I thought the notes were lost, but I found them. I include them here for historical (hysterical?) purposes only.

# One hundred thank yous to Azhrarn and Karsten.
# Their HOWTOs and personal support were infinitely useful
# http://twiki.iwethey.org/Main/DebianChrootInstall by Karsten
# http://trilldev.sourceforge.net/files/remotedeb.html by Azhrarn (Erik Jacobson)
# ~ emma jane hogbin

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