2014-04-09

In search of the perfect technology for slides

I many cases, if you are presenting in front of an audience, you will create slides, visual material of some kind. I’m a very visual person myself and learn much better if I can read in addition to listen. Slides are also helpful when you lose attention for a few seconds.

There are a variety of software technologies out there for helping you with creating slides. Following are ones that I find intriguing:

  • PDF: somewhat surprisingly, I still find PDF the best format for slides (I would have expected it to be HTML by now). Why? You get a single, easily portable and printable file that scales well to various screen sizes and resolutions. Furthermore, all modern web browsers have excellent PDF support, which means that you don’t even have to “leave the web” if you want to check out a PDF file. Lastly, Speakerdeck is a convenient way of putting PDF slides online. As examples, you can check out my slides.
  • LaTeX: works remarkably well for slides, via the built-in Beamer package. Things I love about this technology:
    • You can directly produce PDF and use PDF images.
    • The file with the slide data is plain text, which means you can easily version-control it. Additionally LaTeX lets you include external text content and you can generate some of your own content via scripts.
    • SyncTeX allows you to jump from a PDF to a text editor and vice versa. That is, you get both the advantages of WYSIWYG and rendered content.
    • Many features: tables, sophisticated math, “pauses” to reveal content incrementally, automatic syntax highlighting etc.
    • No need to tweak: Well, actually, this is both an advantage and a disadvantage. I love that you simply author the content and LaTeX places everything automatically. Unfortunately, creating your own theme takes work.
  • PowerPoint and Keynote: One benefit of these apps is that they work well on tablets.
  • Deckset: is a new app for OS X. It has many of the advantages of LaTeX, because you author your slides in Markdown and display them via the Deckset app. That app also exports PDF. However, it does not yet offer as many features as LaTeX (tables, math, pauses) and doesn’t have something similar to SyncTeX.
  • HTML5-based slides: I recently asked on Twitter and got a few great recommendations. Most frequently mentioned were: Both allow you to export to PDF.
Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments…

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