by Alan Zisman (c) 2006 Digital
presentations have become increasingly popular over the past decade,
spurred on by Microsoft's bundling of its PowerPoint presentation
software with its Microsoft Office software suite. They have moved from
sales pitches and corporate year-end reports
to university students and
on down to high school and now accompany even upper-elementary school
student oral reports.
Microsoft's PowerPoint has name recognition, but it's not the only
software in this product category. Like Kleenex or Xerox, it has become
almost a generic name. And it has become a bit of a cliche, with too
many presentations using the same generic PowerPoint templates while a
speaker drones on and on. It has been stereotyped as
For this tutorial, we're going to walk through the process of creating
an enhancing a presentation using a different, PowerPoint-like piece of
software: Impress, which is part of the OpenOffice.org software suite.
OpenOffice.org, like Microsoft Office, includes a word processor and
spreadsheet in addition to presentation software. Each of its
components can open and save in the corresponding Microsoft Office file
format. Unlike PowerPoint, OpenOffice.org is available for free--
the latest version for Windows or Linux can be downloaded from www.openoffice.org,
and NeoOffice for Mac OS X can be found at: www.planamesa.com.
(Click for my
on customizing your OpenOffice.org installation so that, among other
things, it will save in Microsoft Office formats by default).
OpenOffice.org is essentially the same program as Sun's StarOffice
suite, which is also being distributed as part of Google's Google
Pack- regardless of what your version is called, these instructions
Before you get started
Plan ahead. Think about the purpose of your presentation and your
audience. Are you wanting to create a standalone photo display that is
intended to run unaccompanied? A report combining text and images (and
optionally sound or video) to accompany an oral report or discussion?
Do you already have the images (and optional music and video clips)
that you need?
Think about your text. Your presentation should not be too text-heavy.
Text in a presentation should present an outline of what you're
planning to say-- not actual paragraphs of content. Like an outline, it
shows the main points- a summary.
In fact, you may want to write out an outline before you begin entering
anything into your presentation-- though there's also an outline mode
in your presentation software. Alternatively, I encourage users to
prepare a list of questions; each question (and an outline of the
answer) can easily become a slide in the presentation.
If you've got OpenOffice.org 2.x installed onto a computer running
Windows, there are two ways to start a new presentation. The default
installation puts a folder into the Start Menu labelled OpenOffice.org
2.0, with icons inside it with the names of the various components.
Click on the one named OpenOffice.org
Impress to start a new presentation.
you should see a little icon in the lower-right hand corner of the
Taskbar- this area is sometimes referred to as the 'system tray' (or
just 'tray') though Microsoft now calls it the 'notification area'.
that little icon pops up a menu; you can select Presentation
from that menu (by left-clicking) to start a new presentation. Using
the Impress Start Menu icon or right-clicking the little tray icon does
exactly the same thing.
Either way, you'll see a series of dialogue boxes to get you started
with a new presentation. Let's look at each one.
You start with three choices; I generally recommend choosing an empty
presentation. Impress has few pre-made templates compared to Microsoft
PowerPoint, and templates become cliched very quickly. Of course, if
you want, you can open an existing presentation.
If you click on the From template
option, the dialogue box mutates to show you Impress's paltry selection
of templates, with pictures of each appearing in the Preview area.
Note that if you start with an 'empty presentation' you can always
change your mind and apply a template later. I'm going to continue as
if you chose an empty presentation, and click Next.
a slide design again gives you a paltry selection of pre-made designs;
if you choose one (of two) it is applied to all slides. Again, I'm
going to leave things empty and click Next.
(Note that you can skip all these preliminary stages by clicking Create at any time).
transitions are, perhaps, more interesting... transitions appear when
you move from one slide to another, letting the next slide fade in or
appear from the top-left corner on down. Any transition you choose now
will be applied to all slides; again, you can ignore this now and add
transitions later, which also lets you apply a different transition
effect to each slide if desired.
You can preview each of a long list of transitions in the preview
window by clicking the little arrow next to the words currently
reading: No Effect. (Note that
on older, slower computers, transitions that appear smooth in the
preview window may in fact be slow and unbearable displayed on the full
Another choice here: the default presentation type requires a mouse
click (or pressing Enter or the right-arrow key) to move to the next
slide. If you want a kiosk-type presentation where slides change on
their own, select Automatic
then set the duration for each page.
When you've made your choices, click Create.
Add your content
OpenOffice.org 2.0's Impress module has an improved interface from the
earlier version 1.x (which, as I write, is still used in the Mac
NeoOffice release version):
interface has three main areas: On the left, there are small versions
of each slide, currently with only one slide appearing. When there are
multiple slides, you can scroll up and down, and select an individual
slide. The centre section has a larger view of the currently-selected
slide, allowing you to add text, images, etc. Notice that along the top
of this section are tabs, allowing you to switch from this Normal view
to Outline view, a view of your handouts, notes, etc.
On the right, you'll see a variety of pre-made slide layouts. In this
section, you can also see options for Master Pages (the same slim
selection we passed up on when we were getting started), Custom
Animations (more on that later), and (again) Slide Transitions.
Let's start by moving our mouse over to the right-hand slide layout in
the top row (in that right, Layouts panel). Notice that if you let your
mouse cursor point there for a moment, a label: Title Slide pops up.
Click it and see how the slide in the centre section changes and now
has the Title Slide design, complete with hints: Click to Add Title and
Click to Add Text. (These hints, along with the grey lines outlining
the different areas don't appear in the actual presentation or if you
print your file). Feel free to give your publication a title, and add
your name, date, etc. in the lower section. Don't worry about
background colour, pictures, etc for now.
Thereare two main ways to create
a presentation. Some people prefer to type right into slides, as they
appear in the Normal view
pictured above, creating new slides as needed. An alternative is to
work in Outline view, by
clicking on the second, Outline tab.
When you do that, you simply type an outline, and the software creates
new generic slides everytime you make a new main heading by pressing
Enter. When you press Enter to move to a new line, a new slide is
created... instead, press Tab to change it to an indented sub-heading.
Pressing Tab again, indents further. If you've indented too far, hold
the Shift key down while you press Tab to move one level back to the
After you've added all your text, you can move back to Normal view,
change the slide layouts and add graphics, etc.
Instead, we're going to type right into slides in the Normal view.
When you need to add a new slide, either click on the Insert menu and choose Slide or right-click in an empty
piece of the left-hand Slides panel and pick New Slide from the popup
Notice how the new slide is also formatted as a title slide (since
that's what you picked last)... look over the various sample formats in
the Layouts section on the right. You can use the scrollbar for that
section to see additional layouts. Perhaps most popular are the ones
with a title and two columns, one for text, and one (with a picture of
a house) for an image. There are versions with the image on the left or
with the image on the right. Note that there are similar-looking
layouts with the picture of the house replaced with a bar-graph. Unless
you are planning to add a graph from data contained in a spreadsheet,
you don'twant one of those!
Notice also that the layout suggests that any text you add in the text
frame will appear bulleted. You can turn this off, but it's a reminder
that your text is an outline-- in point form. Choose the slide design
with the little house on the left. Type in a title and some bullet
points of text. Notice that you can type too much text to fit on the
slide. If that happens, you could select your text and set it to a
smaller size... but better might be to limit the amount of text on that
slide and add it to another slide-- your audience can't digest too much
text at one time.
Note the little picture of the house on the left, along with the hint:
"Double-click to add graphics". Do it. You'll be prompted to choose a
piece of clipart from OpenOffice's default clipart folder: Gallery. You
can navigate to another location to find the picture of your choice.
Very handy: at the bottom of the dialogue box, there's a check box
(currently unchecked) labelled [
] Preview. You may want to check it-- this will let you
see what a graphic looks like before inserting it into your
Notice that when you insert a picture this way, it is automatically
resized to fit in the available space. Once the picture is inserted
onto the slide, you can click on it to select it. With it selected, you
can move it around the slide with your mouse, resize it (by dragging
one of the little green boxes along the sides), or delete it by
pressing the Delete key.
Delete the picture you just inserted... notice that there's no obvious
way to add a different picture. Here's what you can do (and you do this
to add a picture on your title slide or anywhere else):
Click on the Insert menu.
Choose Picture and then From File.
This time, the dialogue box will go to the same folder where you found
the first picture. Pick the same picture or another one. Notice that
this time, the picture is not automatically placed or sized... move
your picture and resize it as needed.
Using the Insert/Picture/From File menu item lets you add multiple
pictures onto one slide and make any arrangement you like.
Insert additional slides, adding text and images as needed.
There is a lot of 'eye candy' in presentation software... you can spend
huge amounts of time fiddling with fonts, sizes, animations,
transitions, backgrounds, and more. My suggestions:
your basic text and pictures first... when you've got all the content
entered, then (if time permits) fiddle with the background,
transitions, and animations (in that order).
eye candy is not necessarily better. It's easy to create a presentation
that distracts your audience from your content. Ask yourself whether
your presentation is effective at communicating with your audience.
Don't add special effects just because you can!
you've created all your slides and added your text and images, you may
decide that you want something other than a plain white background. To
change the background on one (or more) slides, select a slide from the
Slides list on the left. Then click on the Format menu, then choose Page and finally, click on the Background
tab. You'll get an empty-seeming dialogue box because your Fill is
currently set to None. Click on the little arrow beside the word None,
and you'll see several choices: Color, Gradient, Hatching, and Bitmap.
Clicking Color lets you choose from a drop-down list of solid colors or
Gradient gives a range of choices of 'gradient fills', which are smooth
blends from one colour to another. Hatching is (in my opinion) a set of
boring cross-hatch patterns. Bitmap lets you choose from a range of
pre-made pictures: sky, water, marble, rocks, bricks, leaves, etc. Each
will be previewed if you select it. I've picked Brownstone and
When I do that, a small dialogue box pops up asking "Background
settings for all pages?" Clicking Yes applies that background to all
your slides, clicking No applies it to the selected slide (or slides)
It looks like my text is now difficult to read. To be sure, run your
presentation to see how it looks at 'real' size. Two ways to do this:
Click the SlideShow
menu then select SlideShow
Press the F5
key on the top row on the keyboard.
Enter to move to the next
slide or Esc
to close the slide
Yes, my text is now unreadable. I could pick a different background, or
I can try to change my text to a different colour. To do this, I need
to go through my slides, one at a time, and select the text in each
separate section. With the text in one section selected, click on the Format menu and choose Character and then go to the Font Effects tab. The Font Color item let me pick bright
yellow, which is much more visible against that background. Repeat as
While you might have set a default transition when first creating your
presentation file, you can set or change the transition at any time--
for one (or more) slides or for all the slides in your presentation. To
do this, look near the bottom of the right-hand panel, for the a label:
> Slide Transition .
Note the little arrow to the left of the words. The arrow pointing to
the left indicates that this section is closed, while the Layouts section is opened. Clicking
on the arrow or the words Slide Transition opens that section (and
closes the Layouts section). Alternatively, click
the Slide Show menu and
selecting Slide Transition.
can check out each of the transitions on the list; note that you can
scroll the list to see more than appear at first. When you click on
one, you'll see its effect on the slide in the middle panel.
You can modify the transition speed, and again will see its effect.
(Note however, that should always run the slideshow, as described
above, to see whether it will work smoothly on your hardware. Some of
the more complex effects will look OK when previewed, but display
poorly on older hardware during the actual slide show.
The Sound item lets you add a
sound, which will play as your slide appears. There is a list of sounds
that are included with OpenOffice.org; the Other Sound... item lets you use a
sound file saved elsewhere on your hard drive.
in versions of Impress prior to 2.3, sounds would only play as long as
an individual slide was displayed. Version 2.3 added the ability to
have a sound or music clip playing across multiple slides or under an
The Advance Slide section
defaults to move to the next slide on a mouse click (or keyboard
press); alternatively you can set to move to the next slide
automatically after a set time delay.
Finally, the Apple to All Slides
button applies your transition settings to all the slides- not just the
selected slide (or slides).
Be careful with animations
All the hesitations I have about transitions apply doubly to
animations. While transitions are effects that apply to the whole slide
when it first appears, animations are special effects applied to
individual blocks of text (even to single letters) or to graphics,
after the slide has appeared.
I'm not going to go into detail about animations; you can access these
features by selecting the Custom
Animation option in the right-hand panel (or by clicking the Slide Show menu and selecting Custom
If you think you want to use this feature, experiment!
Turning your presentation
into a web page
OpenOffice.org does a good job of turning a presentation into a series
of web pages. Unlike the similar feature in Microsoft's PowerPoint, it
does not require the use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.
However, note that when you make a website out of your presentation,
you lose special effects such as transitions and animations. Moreover,
OO.o makes two sets of pages-- one set is a series of pictures of your
slides. Any web links in your text will no longer work in the picture
of the text. OO.o also makes a set of text-only webpages... these don't
have any pictures, but any web links will work.
To make your presentation into a website, first make sure your
presentation is in a form you're happy with. Make sure you have no
spelling mistakes (etc), and save your presentation. Then click the File menu, and select Export.
You'll be prompted for a location (on your hard drive) for your
exported website, and for a file-name for the first slide. I'd suggest
you change the name of the file to index.html.
Click Next, then on the next screen, remove the checkmarks from Create Title Page and from Show Notes.
Click Next. You'll be asked to
select a screen resolution and optionally an quality for the exported
images. If you used sounds as each slide loaded, you can choose to
I would recommend that you experiment with either 640x480 or 800x600
resolutions. People with monitors set to low resolutions will have
problems viewing your page if you choose High (1024x768) resolution.
You may want to raise the saved graphics quality from the default 75%
to a higher figure. Click Next.
You'll be prompted to pick a set of control buttons for your webpages:
Click Next... leave the option
to [x] Apply color scheme from
document set (which will do a good job matching the web page
background to the the colours in your slides). Click Create. You'll be prompted to name
and save your HTML design. Click Do
In a moment, your website should be created in the location you
selected. Go there and you'll see a large number of files; go down the
list of files until you see Index.html. This will open your site's
start page. Now it's up to you to upload the contents of that folder
onto the Internet.
You may want to print your publication with one slide per sheet of
paper-- this is especially handy if you want to use Impress to make a
set of acetates to use with an overhead projector. (Not a bad idea
given how often computers crash or users are unable to make them work
with an unfamiliar digital projector).
Also useful is to print out a set of handouts-- with scaled-down
versions of multiple slides per sheet of paper. To do that, start with
the File menu and select Print... but don't rush to click the
Instead, click the Options
I've checked the Handouts
option which will print 6 slides per page-- I need to remember to uncheck the Drawing option, which would alsoprint full-page
versions of each slide. I changed the print quality to Grayscale (I could also have tried
Black & White) since I'm going to ultimately be photocopying
handouts. And I chose to Fit to Page.
You may want to experiment... in some cases, you may need to
reset your backgrounds to white before printing, for instance.
November 2011: Reader Dr.
Martin Firth wondered: "I have spent two days trying to fathom how I
can make lines of text on an ODP slide appear one after the other at a
mouse click. I am sure I have done this in the past, though on
Powerpoint, - even to the point of making previous lines fade slightly
to give prominence to the new line of text being displayed."
After a little bit of experimentation I replied: "I'm attaching a little (one slide) presentation (right
click on the link to download to your computer) I just threw
together... it should open showing just the title - each successive
click displays a line of text.
To create it, I made the slide, including all the lines of text.
I selected the first line, and open the Custom Animation section in the
Task Pane (on the right)... and clicked Add. I picked the Appear
effect from the Entrance list and clicked OK - making sure that
the effect was set to occur On Click. Then I selected the second line,
and did the same thing, then the third line, then the fourth.