Follow the expert: Making an OpenOffice.org 2.0 presentation

In this tip, follow OpenOffice.org instructor and author Solveig Haugland as she describes the step-by-step process for creating a presentation in the new 2.0 release of OpenOffice.

Solveig Haugland
Solveig Haugland, OpenOffice.org Expert
In this tip, follow OpenOffice.org instructor and author Solveig Haugland as she describes the step-by-step process for creating a presentation in the new 2.0 release of OpenOffice. Haugland's forthcoming book on OpenOffice.org 2.0 will be available from Prentice Hall. -- Editor

I've poked around in OpenOffice.org 2.0 a lot. I've read the specs, and I've tried a lot of different features. But I haven't created a new Impress presentation from scratch. So, this article is about my first shot at that task.

Let's go through what happened when I started up the program. I'll present an overview of the main features, in the context of my experience of making a complete presentation for the first time.

Getting started

The first step, as always, is to choose "File > New > Presentation." And as always, I get this window:

I click through a couple of the "Next" windows and find there are fewer than usual; just the one where you pick transitions and the one where you can pick another background. There's no messing around with a summary slide or deleting slides. I like the change; the extra windows were sometimes useful but mostly confusing, so I always told my students to skip the "Next" buttons altogether.

I'm not interested in backgrounds or slide transitions right now, so I just click "Create" in the main window. In the 1.x version I get a window after clicking "Create," asking me to pick the slide layout I want: title with subtitle, title with bullets, etc. But this time it just picks one for me and shows me a new blank presentation with one completely blank slide.

I like this too -- the fewer choices to make before getting a new presentation, the better. Plus, as I look at the right side of the window, I can easily change the layout by just clicking on one of the displayed layouts, instead of right-clicking on the slide tab or one of the numerous less-obvious approaches in 1.x. I click on another layout, "Title Slide," and now it's applied to my single slide instead of the blank layout.

The next step is to create a few more slides. One of my standard tips in class is "When in doubt, right-click," so I click under the lone existing slide and there it is, the New Slide option.

I don't want the title slide option on all my new slides, so I'll select a different layout. I make sure my new slide is selected, and I click on the standard text with bullets master view on the right side. Then I create a few more new slides the same way, and they're all created with that master view. That's what I'd expect.

Adding content to the presentation

I considered putting together a nice staid presentation for a made-up corporation of some sort, chock full of fictional quarterly financial results, but we all see those way too much. So instead, let's say I'm going to teach some friends the finer points of poker, and I need a presentation to do so.

It's time to put in some content for my poker presentation. I'll start with the title page so I click on the top slide thumbnail in the left-hand panel. This is a lot easier for navigation than the tiny tabs of the 1.x versions.

Two of the slides need layouts with a little extra formatting. I need two columns to show all the poker hands, so I click on the "Title, Two Text Blocks" layout for that slide, then I type in the content. (I choose "Insert > Special Characters" to get the card symbols.)

I also have a slide where I want to show four separate pieces of information in four separate chunks, so I switch to that slide and choose the "Title, Four Objects" slide layout. (There are a lot of slide layouts -- I counted 24, including some new horizontal ones.)

This time I double-click in each box to get content, rather than just typing. I choose a formula object and then use the formula feature this time to put in the card symbols. It works the same as it did in 1.x, so there's nothing new there.

That about does it for the basics. I've put in my content and applied the right layouts. It's easy, since all my options are sitting there. On the left side, there are options that let me easily get from one slide to another, and on the right side, selections that let me easily pick formatting/layout options.

Formatting

Let's see what formatting this presentation is like. It's still pretty plain, so I want to change the font and the background color or graphics. This can all be defined in a master page. To see what kind of master pages there are, I look at the right-hand navigation area, and the Master Pages section is right there -- I just click the triangle to expand that area. Again, this is much easier to find than in 1.x, where the navigation was confusing and the terminology didn't help, either.

None of these master pages is actually what I want. To make my own master page, I'll just choose "View > Master > Slide Master." I want to create a new master page, so I'll try what worked before -- right-clicking in the left-hand panel. That works just like I'd expect; I get the option to create a new master page.

I right-click on the new master page and choose "Rename" and call it "pokermaster." I'm ready to format the master page. And at this point everything works pretty much the same was as in 1.x. I can change the background to a color, gradient, or another option; I can change the font and font color, change the bullet options, insert pictures or shapes, and so on. Here's what I came up with. It's nothing fancy, but I figure it won't make my poker students gack.

I choose "View > Normal" to get back to the main view. I click on my new master in the right-hand pane, and it applies to every slide in the presentation. This makes me wonder about having two different master pages in the same presentation. It's a little twitchy in 1.x, so I'm hoping for something better in 2.0. I would kind of like to have a different look, for the first slide anyway, so I switch back to the master view and make a new master page with a red background.

I come back to the normal view and click on the first slide, which is the only place I want this new master page. As always, I try right-clicking on the new red background master page where it's displayed on the right-hand side. Happily, I get the option "Apply to Selected Slides" and choose it. The first slide now has the red master page, and the rest have the blue one still. It's just what I wanted, and straightforward, too.

There's one more thing I want to add. I want to show each of the poker hands and talk about them for a while. So, I want an effect where each bullet comes on one at a time. I look at the right-hand panel, and, yet again, it's easy to find what I want. I click on the triangle by "Custom Animation."

Nothing actually shows up here to let me select effects, but when I click "Add," I get a window with four tabs. Here are all the tabs at once.

As I select each effect, the preview runs. "Automatic Preview" is checked by default at the bottom of the window. This is nice, since turning on the preview in 1.x was easy to forget; plus, when you opened the preview window, all your selections got de-selected. So, turning on by default with no ill effects is good.

I have to apply the effect to each column, which is what I'd expect. I just click on one text box, select an effect and click "OK," then repeat the steps for the other text box.

Now I'll run the presentation and see what happens. I choose "Slide Show > Slide Show," just like before, though there's also a "Slide Show" button at the bottom of the right-hand panel that works. The presentation starts running. I click, and each new slide appears. However, there's something I do not expect: In 1.x, the effect was applied by default to each bullet separately. I clicked once to show the first bulleted item, clicked again to show the second bullet, and so on. This time, however, I got everything in the same text box at once. That's not what I wanted and, I think, probably not what most people want.

I go back and look for some sort of way to change this. The "Change" button doesn't help. When I (again) right-click, however -- this time on the effect in the right-hand pane -- I get an options window.

In this window, I have to burrow around for a while, but finally find the tab that lets me specify whether to apply the changes to each bullet at once, by level. I want each top-level bullet and the associated second-level bullets to come on all together, so I pick the "fdfd" option.

This works when I run it again, but I wish I could have set it up all at once. Perhaps there's an option I didn't see in the main window, but if so it's hard to find. However, overall it's a lot simpler and more obvious than in 1.x, and there are a lot of new effects.

I run the presentation again and this time it's just what I want.

I'm pretty happy with the new design. It's a lot like Microsoft, of course. For anyone wondering just how close, here's my poker presentation in Powerpoint and in Impress. I'm not going to label them just to make you look a little closer. (By the way, saving it as a Powerpoint file and opening it in Powerpoint worked great. There were no conversion issues that I could see. The effects ran the same way in each.)

The features are easier to find and easier to apply in OpenOffice.org 2.0. The whole application is just simpler to get started with now. This is great, and I'll be able to take advantage of it when I teach.

In my main OpenOffice.org/StarOffice Core Office Suite class, I leave Impress until the end of the day, since it's more fun and a little lighter than Writer and Calc. However, this can be problematic since it takes a long time to teach important features like master pages and effects. I have to make sure that students can find the tiny icons to get in and out of the background, that they do all five steps for effects in the right order, and so on. I sometimes end up without enough time at the end of the day, so I have to skip these features rather than try to teach these topics without sufficient time. With the new design, my Impress students are going to learn a lot more, more easily.

This was first published in October 2005

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