Extensions for OpenOffice.org Impress

Extensions for OpenOffice.org Impress

Extensions have long been written for OpenOffice.org Writer. However, the fact that attention is finally being paid to other applications seems a sign that OpenOffice.org is finally starting to develop an active extension-writing community.

A case in point is the recent availability of extensions for Impress, OpenOffice.org's slide show program. Extensions for Impress are still outnumbered four or five to one by those for Writer, but at least they are now being written. Just as importantly, they are filling important gaps in functionality, and encouraging uses for slide shows other than the standard presentation in work or education.

All these extensions are installed in the normal way -- that is, you download their files, and then use Tools - > Extension Manager from within OpenOffice.org to activate them. If you are installing them just for the current account, then select My Extensions before navigating to an extension's file to install it.

eVoice

Written in Java, eVoice helps to close the functionality gap between Impress and MS PowerPoint by allowing you to add a sound clip to each slide. You will also need a microphone plugged into your sound card and set up in your operating system.

The extension adds an eVoice item to the top level of menus. To add an extension, select Insert from the eVoice menu. You are presented with a dialog with Record, Stop, Play, and Pause buttons across the top to do the recording, and OK and Cancel buttons on the bottom to save the recording or discard it.

Finished recordings take the form of a gray object at the bottom right of the slide while you are working, and is invisible when you actually run the slide show. As with any OpenOffice.org object, you can re-position the object by clicking it and dragging it when the border with the green handles appears around it -- a bit of functionality that will inevitably come in handy when you designing your slide layouts. You can have only one sound clip per slide, and attempting to add a second will delete the first.

eVoice's home page suggests that it is designed for adding narration to a slide show, and probably that is what most people will use it for. However, you can also use a two-way jack to record sound clips directly from a sound system or MP3 player.

In fact, with some experimentation and selection, as well as quick slide transitions, you can even create the illusion of continuous sound playing through the slide show. However, the effort to achieve this effect can be considerable, so you probably shouldn't consider it unless the presentation you are working on is important enough to justify the time it takes.

Sun Presentation Minimizer

Like PPT minimizer, which it is obviously based on, Sun Presentation Minimizer is designed to reduce the size of a slide show. Admittedly, in these days of 8 gigabyte flashdrives, there is less need for this functionality than even a few years ago, but this extension is still useful if you want to coax maximum speed out of your slide show or else make it available as a download for others on a web site.

Sun Presentation Manager adds an item to the Tool menu that opens a wizard that guides you step by step through reducing the size of your slide show. In general, it works by taking out unnecessary items, such as unused master files or hidden files and the cropped areas of photos, and reducing the resolution of graphics -- since presentations are typically shown online, you don't need more than a 96 dpi resolution unless you are planning on printing your slides.

The extension also offers to use static versions of what OpenOffice.org refers to as OLE objects. Since GNU/Linux does not use OLE objects, this term is somewhat misleading, but what it refers to is other files embedded in your current one.

You can select which of these file-reducing measures to implement, or, if you are unsure how to proceed, choose one of the three pre-set options from the first slide. On the last slide, you can also save your own current options as a pre-set.

How much space you save depends on the contents of your slide show and the options you choose. However, you can generally reduce the size of a presentation to 15-75% of the original size. The final screen in the wizard shows you how much space you are saving, and by default saves the reduced file under a different name so that you can preserve the original.

When I tested it, Sun Presentation Minimizer was unable to deliver as promised with so-called OLE Objects. It also needed some help to make clear to less experienced users exactly what was going on. However, these points aside, the extension is still worth investigating.

PhotoAlbum

A photo album is one of the secondary uses of a slide show, especially in education. The home page for PhotoAlbum promises to produce a slide show in four clicks, and I am happy to say that the extension not only keeps this promise, but is simple to use throughout.

To use PhotoAlbum, place the images you plan to display in a separate directory and start a new Impress file. Then go to -> Add-Ons -> Create Photo Album. The menu item opens your file manager, so that you can select the images' directory, and the extension creates an album for you with one image per slide, and filling the entire slide. Images appear in numeric then alphabetical order.

The album defaults to random slide transitions and is set to loop constantly. However, if these settings aren't to your liking, you can easily change them after you create the album. As you probably know (or can easily find out), slide transitions are set from Slide Show -> Slide Transitions, and the loopback from Slide Show -> Slide Show Settings -> Type.

As well as the purpose stated in its name, PhotoAlbum can also be useful in reducing the tedium of inserting images in the slides of an ordinary presentation. If you number all your images in the order in which they appear, or name them alphabetically, you can easily add all your images at once. Of course, you will probably want to adjust the slide layouts and the size and position of the images, but PhotoAlbum will cut out the tedium of adding images one at a time, if you can only get yourself minimally organized.

Conclusion

These are not the only extensions available for Impress. For one thing, many general extensions, such as CropOOo also work in Impress.

For another, I am always interested in alternative uses for slide shows (on the grounds that the conventional presentation is too static and common to be effective any more), I hoped to be able to mention OpenCards, which creates a series of flash cards. a technique that is popular in teaching languages. Unfortunately, OpenCards crashed on all my available systems, no matter which version of Java was installed, so I am unable to to describe its workings.

However, the three extensions mentioned here are good examples of some of the work being done now. All of them are useful enough that, with any luck, they will be included by default in an OpenOffice.org install.

______________________

--
Bruce Byfield (nanday)

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OpenCards crashed

Holger's picture

Hi Bruce.

thanks for your interest in OpenCards, and sorry for inconvenience with it.

> OpenCards crashed on all my available systems, no matter which
> version of Java was installed
What's your OS? Was there any kind of stacktrace/error-message?

OpenCards should work without problems with all major Linux distributions (like Ubuntu, Suse10, etc.) and Windows XP/vista.

It requires a Sun java v5/6. Other versions of java are known to crash with it.

Best regards,
Holger (OpenCards-developer)

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