Impress: Preparing a Slide Show

Once you finish adding content to your presentation in Impress, your efforts aren't over yet. You still need to prepare how you will deliver it. These preparations are partly a matter of choosing various options for slide transitions and delivering the show, but they also include some practical choices and -- worst of all -- the practical considerations such as making sure that you have all the graphics, fonts, and audio files you need, and are ready to work with dual monitors in a world in which GNU/Linux is still a rarity.

Choosing slide transitions

Slide transitions are the bits of built-in animation that play when you switch slides during a presentation. You can set transitions any time you want, but leaving them until you've finished adding slides helps you to focus on content instead of diverting your attention to format.

Whenever you set transitions, you'll find them in the tasks pane on the right side of the editing window. Impress gives you a choice of 56 transitions, although many are just variations of each other -- for instance, Wipe Up or Wipe Down -- and, irritatingly enough, the tasks pane doesn't list them in alphabetical order for easy reference.

Like many formatting features, transitions are easy to overdo. Just as you should usually limit your fonts to two -- one for headers and one for body text -- so you should usually limit your transitions to two -- one to announce a new section of your presentation, and one for ordinary transitions. And even those two might be more effective if you chose variations of the same transition. Geeking out and using more transitions is only going to make your presentation look cluttered and disorganized.

The same is true for the sounds accompanying transitions, except even more so. Nor do you want to loop the transition sound until the next one -- unless, of course, you're consciously setting out to annoy your audience.

Which transitions you use are largely a matter of personal preference. At times, a topic may suggest a particular transition; for example, if you are talking about time management, you might consider Wheel Clockwise, One Spoke a close analogy of an analog clock.

Personally, though, I doubt that most members of an audience will catch such subtleties unless they are bored and looking for distractions as you talk. You really need no more than a simple Wipe, and might even consider no transition at all -- transitions being one of the more over-rated design features of a presentation.

Other than the type of transition, the most important setting is the speed of the transition. No matter how recent your machine, that speed should probably be Fast. The medium and slow settings are glacial on any machine, and only over-emphasize the transition at the expense of your content. The slower settings are useful mainly to emphasize a change to a new section.

Mostly, you'll want to set the transition to happen when you click your mouse. But, if your presentation is going to run unattended, or you need to keep to a tight schedule, you might set the transition to occur automatically after the number of seconds you specify.

The easiest way to set transitions is to configure the standard one first, then click the Apply to All Slides button at the bottom of the panel. Transitions automatically preview when you select them, but you can click the Play button to repeat one before you select it. Then, go to the last side in each section of your presentation and set its transition individually.

Configuring presentations

You can fine-tune your presentation using items in the Slide Show menu.

If you are planning to show the same presentation to different audiences -- for instance, two different categories of buyers for your product -- you might want to be economical with your time and disk space and make a single slide show for both audiences, and create two Custom Slide Shows.

Once you have created any Custom Slide shows, go to Slide Show -> Slide Show Settings. Some of these settings, like Range, Type or Multiple Monitors, you will want to adjust just before you deliver a show, but the miscellaneous Options on the lower right of the Slide Show Settings windows can be set beforehand to suit your needs and personal preferences.

For instance, having the mouse point visible or usable as a pointer can be useful if you plan on referring to details of a diagram on a slide because, by constantly moving the point, you can easily draw the audience's attention to what you refer to. Similarly, having the Navigator visible can help you jump between slides -- although you might prefer to hide the navigation aid and install the Sun Presenter Console extension instead. And if you choose the Window Type of presentation, selecting the option Presentation Always on Top seems only sensible. By contrast, you probably don't want to de-select the default Animations allowed option unless you having serious speed problems, while The Change slides by clicking on background option is probably useful in any circumstance.

With the basic options chosen, you might also want to rehearse your presentation using Slide Show -> Rehearse Timings. This view shows the current slide with a digital stop watch in the lower left, so you can see how long you need to display each slide. A practical rule is to plan on speaking for two-thirds of your allotted time, so that you have room for questions, your sudden inspirations, and unexpected circumstances. Very few audiences, in my experience, will complain about a presentation that runs short -- but they are less forgiving about ones that run long.

Preparing to deliver the slide show

Presentations are almost always easiest when you are running your own computer. However, if you are using another computer, you might consider running the show from a flash drive that includes

In fact, with flash drives being so cheap these days, why not include an entire operating system so you can work with familiar tools? Performance will be slightly slower than running the show from a hard drive, but in many cases that will be a small price to pay for guaranteeing that you have everything you need. The last thing you need is a setback just before you deliver your presentation.

If you must use another computer, make sure that you put graphics, sound clips, and other elements of your slide show in a single folder as you work, so that you can easily copy them over to the computer you are using. Just as with a web site, that is usually best practice anyway.

Your main problem will be ensuring that the other computer has the same fonts, as well as a copy of, so carry both along with you, just in case you need to install them. Alternatively, you can use generic fonts like Times Roman that any computer is likely to have.

Another major problem will be setting up the dual monitors you will probably be using -- namely, the screen for your computer, and the projector screen. Exactly how you prepare to use dual monitors can vary with your video driver and card, so make sure you research the subject before you arrive to present. The last version of GNOME makes setting up dual-monitors easier than before, but, even so, it can be difficult to get right, so don't leave the configuration for the last moment.

However, when you have successfully configured dual monitors, you can set the projector screen under Slide Show -> Slide Show Settings -> Multiple Monitors.

While you are in Slide Show Settings, you should also take the time to choose the Range of slide you plan to show. The default is All, but you can also select a starting slide if you want to shorten the presentation, or else a Custom slide show that you have already created.

Now is also the time to set the type, if necessary. The default assumes a separate presentation screen, but, if you are running the presentation from your computer, you might want to set the Type to Window. You can also set the presentation to Auto, selecting a set time between slides.

If you really want to, you can also display the logo before an Auto slide show begins again, although the only reason I can think for doing so is to promote free software. And, unfortunately, you cannot change the logo that displays.


If you don't deliver presentations regularly, the process can be intimidating. For that matter, even the most accomplished speakers often feel nervous before going on stage. You can't control the need to wait, so the next thing is to have everything ready to run smoothly. You can control preparation, and doing so will not only help to calm your nerves, but also prevent the stress of unexpected disasters, such as not knowing how to set up dual monitors. For these reasons, go easy on yourself and understand and use the tools Impress includes for preparing and delivering your presentations.

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