The many views of Impress

Presentation software isn't complicated compared to a word processor or spreadsheet. It doesn't need to be. Maybe that's why's Impress offers a variety of views of your work. These views not only allow you to focus on a particular aspect of your presentation, such as the contents or your speaker notes, but also accommodate both verbally and visually oriented users, as well as a variety of needs, such as handouts. If you spend some time exploring Impress, you can easily find the views that are most suitable to your preferences and needs.

From what I've observed, most Impress users stick with the default Normal view, and don't even bother to customize that. However, even within the Normal view, you have options that you may not have noticed. Go into other views, and the options increase. For most of them, all you need to do is to select a view from the tabs in the middle of the screen, or select an option from the top of the View menu. And now, there is even a special view for when you are actually presenting a slide show, thanks to a recently-released extension.

Normal View

Impress's Normal view sets the standard for other views. It consists of the current slide in the middle, and the Slides pane to the left and the Task pane to the right.

This setup makes for a crowded window in which the current slide pane is too small to work in. You will almost certainly want to work with Impress maximized.

Moreover, if you do not have a wide screen monitor, you might want to consider removing the Slides and Tasks panes from the editing window. You can remove them completely by clicking the small X icon in the upper right of each pane , then restore them as needed from the View menu.

Alternatively, if you left-click on the title bar of either pane, you can undock it so that it floats independently of the editing window, and can be easily moved out of the way. When you want to redock one of the panes, drag it slowly by the title bar towards the left or right side of the editing window and release it when the rectangle outlined in gray appears. You can use the same feature to reposition the panes or put them both on the same side of the current slide view.

And, speaking of customization, notice that you can change the contents of the task bar by selecting or unselecting items in the View menu on the right side of the title bar to remove clutter. After you have designed and applied the master slide, for example, you generally have little reason to keep that tab on the Task pane available.

Outline View

In the Outline View, top level entries are the title of a slide, and other entries are the levels of bullet points on the slide. You are forced by default to create each entry at the top level, but you can use the horizontal icons in the task bar to quickly convert an entry to a bullet point in the previous slide or the next one. You can also use the vertical arrows to reposition a slide. Best of all, as you can see from the Slides pane in the view, slides are added or deleted according to the changes that you make.

This view is actually a reasonably useful outliner, so you can use it for planning documents other than slide shows. However, like any outliner, it is most suitable for the needs of the verbally oriented. If you are visually oriented, you may find that the Slide Sorter view fits your work methods better. (see below)

Notes View

Notes view shows the current slide in miniature, with a text frame below it for entering your speaker notes. You can format the text with any of the features from Format -> Character or Format -> Paragraph menu items, and you might want to use a larger font than you would ordinarily use, so that you can read the notes more easily while giving the presentations.

If necessary, the text frame expands as needed, but only the contents to the margin of the page is printed, and contents beyond that point is also hard to read online. Practically speaking, these limits mean that you are limited to notes of 150-200 words, depending on the size of the font you're using. You can create a longer page for easy viewing online, but it won't print cleanly.

I can't help thinking there's got to be a better way to implement notes, although I'm not sure what it might be. For myself, I prefer to avoid it and print my notes separately in Writer.

Handout View

The Handout tab is not so much a view as a template for preparing a hard copy or online summary version of your presentation. In my experience, handouts tend to be lacking, since by definition they exclude the details of your talk, and encourage people to skip the session, but many conferences and individuals request them all the same.

From this tab, you can set the number of slides in your handouts, and the number, position, and size of the slides on each page from the choices in the Layout tab of the view's task pane.

For me, the best layout is the two-column one with slides down the left and room for brief notes on the right. Strangely, the notes column does not actually display the notes you enter for each slide, but you can use the Drawing toolbar to quickly add some text frames for some brief notes.

Slide Sorter View

Like a light tray with physical slides, the Slide Sorter is handy for rearranging slides. Its functionality is similar to that of the Slide Pane in the Normal view or the Outline view. However, it can be handier than either, showing a dozen or more slides at once compared to the Slide Pane's two or three, and presenting slides graphically, instead of just the text in Outline view. Unfortunately, you cannot change the zoom on the view, a limitation that sometimes reduces its convenience.

Sun Presenter Console extension

No talk about the views in Impress would be complete without mention of the Sun Presenter Console, an extensions released a couple of months ago by Sun Microsystems for 3.0.

As the name suggests, the Sun Presenter Console is a view that runs only on your computer when you are delivering a presentation. It gives you three views: The default, which gives the current slide and the next one; a Notes view with a zoom, and the Slide view, which resembles the Slide Sorter view.

To use the Sun Presenter Console, you need to have your system configured for two monitors that are set not to mirror each other -- a configuration that can vary with your video card, and often requires some web searches and trial and error to achieve. However, once you have the configuration figured out and have added the extension to your installation via Tools -> Extension Manager, Sun Presenter Console will start automatically when you run a slide show. If you present regularly, you may find the Sun Presenter Console the most indispensable view of all.


The simplicity of slide-shows gives Impress plenty of room for optional views. The next time you need to produce a presentation, don't just stay in the default Normal View. Instead, take a few minutes to explore the views of the presentation that Impress makes available to you. The chances are, you will find options that fit your work habits more closely.


-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)


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How do I give a presentation

Anonymous's picture

How do I give a presentation so that my audience can only see the slide on the screen but I can see my slide as well as speaker notes on my computer?

Open Office is versatile

lancest's picture

Today several of students could not open .pptx files in the lab's old Windows 2000 pc. I had my Linux notebook handy and was able to open their .pptx files and rescue them for presentation. Thanks Open Office- for being so versatile! Thumbs down to office 2007 for it's weird & incompatible file format.

Though Open Office is easy

anny's picture

Though Open Office is easy to find and download (use or http:/ for that), I don't find it very convenient. I pprefer using ordinary office instead.

How to remove date and page numbers from bottom of page

Winner Reales's picture

Hello I'm new user of Impress before i use PP. I make a presentation then i want to remove date, page number from bottom of mu page. Please how to do that

Change paper file size in impress

patricks's picture

I want to simply set up an 8.5 x 11 landscape page to plot boxes on for pics etc. in Impress. Can't seem to locate "page set up" with landscape and size change window like in PP.

I want to basically set up boxes and make a template that someone else can open and drop pics into and adjust/crop to fit a predetermined box size. I've plotted all the boxes but they don't line up with another 8.5 x 11 template that I have in Indesign and lock the box too. I thought perhaps I could do it in draw but can't find landscape there either.


Page Size in Impress

daxx's picture

It's unfortunate that a year later, you still can't modify the page size or even affect it's orientation in Impress.

I am un-Impress-ed.

help about impress

 unrwa_school teacher from palestine's picture

How can we save openoffice impress as a show?

About the notes management:

Anonymous's picture

About the notes management: there surely is a better way to implement that, and that is of Office 2007. In PowerPoint, notes for each slide can be displayed at the bottom of the page, at the choice of the user - a different view page is indeed implemented as in OpenOffice, but the lower panel allows to actually take and read notes while studying or listening to the presentation itself in class. I have been looking for months for something similar, but it seems that there is no such option in OpenOffice. Shame.

Impress is not complicated?

Anonymous's picture

Impress is not complicated? Did you try to change background or import new to Impress?
It's event *better* then page numbering in Writer.....


Colin Dean's picture

It would be helpful to have screenshots or even pictures of a presentation using these modes.

I concur

Rokr's picture

Having no screenshots make Linux Journal look second class and "amateurish." I remember reading Linux Journal back in 2005 in my high school class senior year. Now, it's December 2008 and this writer makes a veteran magazine look like crap.

Shame on him/her for not including screenshots with this article. This author did slipshod work and deserves to be punished.

I do not ...

doctorcam's picture

... at least not completely. I found the description quite clear as it was. I also read it (and am composing this email) on my Palm TX, so screenshots would have been a pain. I will say, though, that having just completed and presented one, much of what was in the article made more sense than it would otherwise. I think this is one of those situations where you need to actually go through the motions while you read the article: experience is still the best teacher.

Just my .oo2

Anonymous's picture

Oh Bah !!

An article on visual software without visuals ?

The first thing that came to mind when I read this article was ...Why do an article on presentation software and not have some screen shots ?

Screen shots as links , for those using mobile devices.

It just seemed like an ironic omission.

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