Following last week’s missive on Notepad, including the obscure tip on how to create a log file, the topic of inserting and handling dates in other applications is worth a (re-)visit. Each individual app may choose to offer different methods and formats, but for common Office applications there are a handful of memorable tricks and shortcuts.
In Word, there are plenty of ways to insert and manage dates – perhaps the most useful way to remind the reader when the document was last updated (manually showing when a document was last reviewed or published). On the Insert tab, you’ll find Date & Time on the right-hand side, letting you add appropriate info in the format of your choice. You can also tick a box to update the field automatically, though that simply means every time the document is opened, it will show today’s date… which feels a bit pointless.
More useful could be to tell the reader when the document was created or last saved, by referencing the actual properties of the document (though be careful; auto-save might mean someone opened an old document, realised it was irrelevant, but had inadvertently saved it back).
On the Insert tab / Quick Parts, look under Field, then pick the doc property and format you’d like to show.
It is worth pointing out that showing a date as 10/1/21 (or similar) is ambiguous given that a few hundred million people will expect it be month-day-year while many of the remaining 7 billion will assume the day comes first, with a couple of billion presuming the format should normally start with the year, such as yyyy-mm-dd (which is arguably the most sensible of all; and it sorts properly, too).
A more daily usable short format like dd-mmm-yy (ie 13-Aug-21) should perhaps be the norm, especially when the date is appearing as text in a document. Pressing SHIFT+ALT+D in Word will insert the current Date as a field (so you can edit the format to remove ambiguity) and SHIFT+ALT+T inserts the current time too. In PowerPoint, both of these combos bring up the “Date & Time” dialogue to add the chosen content and format as plain text.
When formatting dates, incidentally, the convention is that two letters refer to the short number (eg dd = 13), whereas 3 d’s or m’s will use the short form of spelling the day or month, with 4 meaning the whole thing (ie Friday, August). Try formatting a cell in Excel as Custom, and you can preview what the format would be, by typing in a variety of letters.
While in Excel, it’s worth learning the short cut key to insert the date and time – CTRL+; and SHIFT+CTRL+; respectively (no doubt there’s a reason why Excel has a different shortcut to other Office apps – some legacy of Lotus 1-2-3 perhaps?).
OneNote fans will want to remember that SHIFT+ALT+D / T combo as it inserts the date/time into the notebook; really handy when taking notes of a phone call or similar. SHIFT+ALT+F puts both day and time, something that Word doesn’t offer. In both Desktop OneNote and users of the Windows Store version, it’s just plain text that gets added, so you’re on your own when it comes to formatting.
OneNote pages will typically have a date & time showing under their title – on the Desktop version, it’s possible to change that so as to mark a page as having been recently updated. No such luck on the lame duck Store version.
At least when stalwarts insist on writing – or worse, saying – a short-form date as something like “ten one”, there’s more than half of each month where one number in the date could only mean “day” – starting with the thirteenth (as in, 8/13 can never by the 8th of a month, but 8/12 could be a few days before Christmas to Europeans, or the date when tweedy Americans start looking for grouse in the Yorkshire moors and Scottish Highlands).
The Pandemic may have exposed millions of new WFHers to the delights of video conferencing, but the Zoom in this week’s ToW has nothing to do with the eponymous meeting company, rather it deals with a very cool yet somewhat obscure feature in PowerPoint, called, er, Zoom.
Way back when, there were numerous product incubation groups in Microsoft, who tried out new features as addins or companion products; over time, most of them have disappeared or the prototype products they produced made their way into the mainstream (or just quietly went away). Innovation continues within the various engineering groups, of course, and some is curated in the Microsoft Garage.
One OfficeLabs project that showed promise was pptPlex – an addin to PowerPoint that made it easy to create and present “non-linear” presentations, offering a kind of “Seadragon” type experience of zooming into content. The actual pptPlex software is long-gone but if you want a reminder of what it was like, or even to recall how funky Office 2007 looked, check out this video tutorial.
But like other Labs innovations, the ideas were re-born in other ways, in this case in the PowerPoint Zoom feature. This lets you essentially embed a thumbnail of a slide into another one, optionally even replacing the mini-version of the slide graphic with a custom image; in the example shown below, rather than a miniscule chart of stock price, we’ve put the company logo instead, but clicking on it drives a nice zoom transition to a separate slide which has the real chart.
It’s probably easiest to see by example so check out the download here – to experience the Zoom effect, put the file into Slideshow mode.
Remember when presenting to a room full of people was a thing? At some point, we may get back to needing to do that, but in the meantime we’re probably presenting to smaller groups of people using Teams or some other form of video meeting.
It’s still worth tailoring your presentation style, especially so when you can’t necessarily see the audience – that guy who’d be dozing off in the front row of the presentation room? He’s now doing that on mute and with camera switched off. Creating compelling content is another huge topic which is even more important than the means by which you present it.
Firstly, when it’s time to present your slides in a Team meeting, please don’t just share your screen. Most of the time, the PowerPoint sharing experience that is built into Teams is good enough.
If you have a specific reason to share the screen or app then please at least “Present” in PowerPoint, since simply showing a PPT window is a massive waste of screen real estate and your attendees won’t be able to read it.
If you’re wary of presenting in a multiple-monitor setup (in case your slides end up on the screen you’re not sharing, and the non-existent speaker notes gets displayed to the meeting attendees), then go into Set Up Show on the Slide Show tab in PowerPoint and choose which monitor you want the slide presentation to appear on (and share that one in Teams). Worst case, just disable Presenter View in that same dialog, and then PowerPoint will only use one monitor.
The simplest way to present slides on Teams is to use the PowerPoint Live feature from within the Share icon – it will show you a list of recently opened PowerPoint decks, or let you browse your machine for one if it’s not visible.
This view will let you share content in a more efficient manner, and also gives the option of letting other presenters easily manage the transition from slide-to-slide, rather than having to rely on trying to take control of the presenter’s PC in order to advance them, and avoiding the “Next Slide Please” request. Attendees can privately move around your deck if you allow it.
You can also start the sharing from within PowerPoint, as long as the source slide deck is saved to OneDrive or Sharepoint, as the content is rendered as a web view. Go to the Slide Show tab and you’ll see a Present in Teams icon; click on that when you’re in a meeting, and it will automate the whole sharing process to start presenting your current slide deck.
Assuming you’ve managed to create slides which are not a mess and are comfortable about how you’re going to present them, the next step might be to polish your own performance.
You could use Rehearse Timings to do a dry run of your presentation, and it will record the time it takes to cover each slide (and will also save that timing so you could auto-matically advance the slides during a future presentation).
If you’d like an unbiased assessment of your presentation style, try out the new Rehearse with Coach feature – as well as getting some real-time tips during the rehearsal, you’ll get a report when completed, praising for a job well done or admonishing you for speaking too fast, just reading the slides out loud, using, errm, non-inclusive language etc – all of which might be used to help improve your delivery for the next time.
Have a play with the Presenter Coach – presuming it’s an automated service rather than a real human listening in, it’s fun to try and see how the recommendations given – see how many profanities you can get it to recognise?
If you’ve ever used PowerPoint to present to a group of people, you’ll be familiar with the Slide Show menu to some degree; unless you’re the annoying would-be presenter merely mirroring your primary screen and flicking through their slides without going into the full-screen slide show mode.
When they do it properly, you’ll often see presenters kick off by fishing about with their mouse to click on the little slide-show icon in the toolbar on the bottom. It’s usually quicker to just hit F5 to start, or Shift+F5 to start from the currently-selected slide.
Unfortunately, it’s still pretty common to then see the speaker be surprised because the config of their displays isn’t what they expect – especially the case if they’re sharing their screen on a online meeting, but their laptop is also connected to more than one monitor.
PowerPoint will typically be set up to use Presenter View by default, and the screen that’s being shared will be showing the speaker notes / next slides etc, while the full-screen content is being displayed on the 2nd monitor that isn’t being shared.
To the right of the Monitor setup for presenter view, you may also see an intriguing option that has been added to PowerPoint – automatic subtitling, and translation too. It’s part of the ongoing Office 365 servicing that brings updates on a regular basis.
Choose the language you’d like to display, the location of the subtitles and when you start presenting, the machine will listen to every word you say and will either display what it thinks you’ve said in your own language, or it can use an online service to translate to subtitles in over 60 languages.
There’s an older add-in which achieves much the same thing, if you’re not using O365 – see here for more info. The Presentation Translator addin also allows the audience to follow along and even interact with the presenter using the Microsoft Translator app on their phone.
Windows has a closed captioning setting page that applies to other apps that support it, too, if you’d like to show subtitles on video that has the content already defined.
Closed Captioning is legislated by several countries, for traditionally-broadcast media as well as online video.
You may also want to add captions to videos that you plan to embed – more, here.
|Morph was a clay stop-motion animated figure from the late 1970s, who featured on a BBC children’s programme, Take Hart. He was created by Aardman Animations, who later went on to create Wallace and Gromit, amongst many others.
Morphing is a special effect used to move between two forms or images, gaining ground from the late 1980s as software allowed smooth transitions between different pictures or moving images – used heavily in movies like Terminator 2, for example.
This week’s tip was inspired by Dan Scarfe of New Signature, who commented, “I think of my life in two halves: pre-morph and after-morph.” It’s not often a feature in a software package can have such a life-changing effect, and for most of us it will be less profound than on Dan. Still, it’s worth a closer look – and was first mentioned on ToW back in July 2016, a tumultuous time in British politics. Plus ça change…
The Morph feature is a Transition in PowerPoint – meaning it’s applied when moving from one slide to another, when presenting. These are powerful capabilities that need to be used carefully for maximum effect – there’s a temptation to add whiz-bang transitions and animations just because you can, but often, a subtle and steady hand works better. See some tips here.
If you want to animate shapes moving from one part of the screen to another, just copy the starting slide from within the slide sorter view, paste it to create the destination, and then move/size/colour the shapes as you see fit. Select the second slide and in the Transitions menu, chose Morph… and that’s it.
Example: blue rectangle 1 will move to the opposite corner of the screen, the number size will shrink and it’ll change to green. 2 will slide across to the top left and the number size will grow, while 3 will drop down and also grow. The star changes shape and orientation, adopts a textured fill, all while also moving to the lower left.
Here’s a screen-grab taken during the transition – it’s smooth and, basically, magic.
Back to Morph, the plasticine man: turns out he did have a life in the 21st century as well – after a Kickstarter campaign, two whole new series of short videos were commissioned and along with lots of archive material, released on Morph’s official YouTube channel.
PowerPoint files can be quite big. Not that it matters too much, now that we have huge amounts of local and cloud storage available, and even email quotas tend to allow large message sizes, so your 25MB PowerPoint file will typically still get through.
What lots of people do when they’re building a new PowerPoint deck, is to start with a template they like – a conference slide deck, or a jazzy marketing one they got a copy of. They delete the slides they don’t need, and maybe create a few of their own, and there’s a beautiful new document, ready to use.
As the decks morph in these ways, lots of hidden stuff stays embedded, even when it’s not used. In a recent group exercise, a bunch of people were asked to create a business plan deck for every one of hundreds of accounts, but the template they were asked to use was nearly 10MB in size before there was any real content within.
In this case, the reason was that the slide deck had over 200 master slide layouts within the template, many of which had large embedded bitmap images. If you find a slide deck whose file size is huge even if there isn’t much content in the slides themselves, you may see the same behaviour. ToW #276, some 4 years ago, covered a few things you can do to make the file smaller, but here’s a slightly more straightforward solution.
In your huge yet seemingly empty file, try going into the View tab in PowerPoint and look under the Slide Master view. You’ll see a vertical list of thumbnails for all the different slide layouts (where each contains background graphics as well as layout controls).
Hover over each thumbnail, and a tool-tip will tell you if that layout is used (and on which slides in your deck). If it’s not being used… then maybe you could ditch it and save some space?
A simpler way than deleting all the unwanted layouts – if there are many – would be to create a new, blank PowerPoint, then (back in the normal slide sorter view, rather than slide master), copy the slides from the the huge slide deck, and simply paste them into the new, blank file. You may want to force it to Keep Source Formatting – but this process will copy only the used slide layouts into the new deck.
In this example, copying the slides to a new deck and saving that, reduced the size from nearly 10MB to only 750KB.
Microsoft people love PowerPoint. Even when using it for completely unsuitable purposes (writing reports using PPT instead of Word, OneNote etc – filling slides with very dense and small text) or simply putting too much stuff on a slide, so a presenter has to say “this is an eyechart but…”
There are many resources out there to try to help you make better slides – from how-to videos to sites puffing a mix of obvious things and a few obscure and never-used tricks (eg here or here), and PowerPoint itself is adding technology to try to guide you within the app.
The PowerPoint Designer functionality uses AI technology to suggest better layouts for the content you’ve already put on your slide – drab text, even a few Icons (a library of useful-looking, commonly-used symbols) or graphics from your favourite source of moody pics.
If you don’t see the Design Ideas pane on the right, look for the icon on the Design tab, under, er Designer.
The PowerPoint Designer team has recently announced that one billion slides have been created or massaged using this technology, and they have previewed some other exciting stuff to come – read more here.
A cool Presenter Coach function will soon let you practice your presentation to the machine – presumably there isn’t some poor soul listening in for real – and you’ll get feedback on pace, use of words and so on. Watch the preview. No need to imagine Presenter Coach is sitting in his or her undies either.
When it comes to laying out simple objects on a slide, though, you might not need advanced AI to guide you, rather a gentle helping hand. As well as using the Align functionality that will ensure shapes, boxes, charts etc, are lined up with each other, spread evenly and so on, when you’re dragging or resizing items you might see dotted lines indicating how the object is placed in relation to other shapes or to the slide itself…
In the diagram above, the blue box is now in the middle of the slide, and is as far from the orange box as the gap between the top of the orange box and the top of the grey one. There are lots of subtle clues like this when sizing and placing objects, and it’s even possible to set your own guides up if you’re customising a slide master.
Sometimes, news can pass you by and it’s only some time later when you are confronted by it, that you realise just what it all means. There’s been a lot of news in the UK of late (eg Larry the Downing St cat not only keeps his post as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office but is confirmed as one of the great survivors of modern British politics, outlasting the leaders of Labour, the Conservatives, Greens, Liberals, SNP and UKIP).
On a slightly more mundane front, a demo was shown during the day #2 keynote at Worldwide Partner Conference, which drew mild gasps from the audience, even though the feature had been unveiled more than 6 months ago. The coolness in question was PowerPoint Designer, something available only if you’re running Office 2016 and have an Office365 subscription.
The Designer manifests itself as a selection of suggested layouts that will be displayed in the right-hand task pane of the PowerPoint app, after you’ve inserted some photos from your own collection or from the various online sources. A suitable colour scheme will also be found, depending on the predominant colours in the photo(s) you’ve pasted or inserted. It’s subtle and clever.
There’s a Design Ideas icon on the Design tab, if you want to manually invoke the Designer functionality too. When you start the Designer for the first time, you need to accept that the images you use within the designer will be sent to a cloud service for analysis. See here for more.
At the same time as the Designer appeared, another premium O365 service was also added, called Morph (not to be confused with Tony Hart). The Morph service makes animating slide transitions really easy, and it’s probably simpler to demonstrate than to explain. Try this:
For more details on Morph & Designer, see Kirk Koenigsbauer’s blog post from November 2015.
Windows Explorer has a search function which can filter found files, based on some attribute or other – so you return files that are only of a particular type or age, or maybe of a specific size. The problem is, the understanding of what is a big file has changed over the years.
In the days of the floppy disk, any file larger than 1Mb was a bit unwieldy. When server hard disks cost £1,000 per Gb, then file servers would impose quotas of maybe a few 10s of Mbs per user.
But now, with storage so cheap (e.g. a 4Tb hard drive is a little over £100, Azure storage is a few pennies per Gb/month, and OneDrive seemingly can’t wait to give it away) it’s easy to become blasé about very large files.
One particular culprit in the generation of unnecessarily mahoosive files is PowerPoint. With the ease of inserting graphics and video, especially, it’s not hard to get files well into double figures of megabytes, which can be problematic to email and take ages to open. There are a few tips that can help you keep the size a little more trim.
Delete stuff you don’t need
Well, duh. Obviously, deleting stuff can make a big difference to the file size: before distributing a deck, maybe dump the hidden slides and the many appendix slides unless you feel they might be a useful reference…
It’s sometimes not as easy as ditching slides you don’t need, however – the template you’re using might have a lot of imagery that’s unnecessary in it, so it may be worth cleaning up a little.
Go into the View tab, look under Slide Master and you’ll be able to see the slide templates that define the look and the layout of new slides. It’s not uncommon to find hundreds of these, though in most cases they’re not a cause for concern – unless they have lots of images embedded.
This is particularly the case when an elaborate slide deck is produced for a conference, and people start using that template as the basis for their own presentations, because it’s got a really nice background or whatever – not realizing that the template might have 10Mb of grinning stooges holding long-obsolete mobile devices and conference logos from years gone by. If you don’t use the graphics slides, feel free to delete them from the master, then Close Master View to go back the regular deck. (Might be an idea to save a copy of the deck first, just in case you muck it up…)
The PPTX file format that has been used by PowerPoint since 2007 is part of the Open XML file formats – the idea being that instead of a proprietary binary file, the artefacts and contents within the file are described using XML according to a published format, so other applications could re-use the files. In order to achieve this and not end up with huge file bloat (XML not being well known for its brevity), the whole shebang is compressed.
What you may not know is that all of the Open XML formats use the same compression as ZIP files, and if you rename the .PPTX extension to .ZIP, you’ll be able to see inside it.
Navigate to your file location, and make sure can see the file extensions – go to the View tab in Explorer and tick the File name extensions box if you can’t see them. Make a copy of the PPTX file you want to work on, select it and right-click to Rename (or just press F2). Now overtype the .pptx bit at the end with .zip, and agree to the dire warning that the Earth might stop turning if you continue.
Now open the ZIP file up and look in a couple of places to see what is likely to be making it huge – ppt\media and ppt\embeddings are a couple of notable sources (the former when you’ve maybe got a video or just lots of high-res pictures embedded, and the latter is a common source of embedded XLS files which might be unnecessary… ie. Maybe you could get away with a simple copy of relevant data, rather than the whole file?). Maybe the best way to slim down the file is to open the un-renamed one in PowerPoint, then navigate to the place where the huge content was and resize, compress or replace it.
A very simple way of cutting the size of large files without digging around in their innards might be just to compress pictures – you can get to that from the Format tab when you have a picture selected, and individually reduce the size and resolution of each image.
Alternatively, when it’s time to save your work, use Save As and under the Tools drop down in the lower right of the dialog, you can invoke the same function, but which applies to every image in the deck.
Choose the appropriate resolution – Screen is probably a good one for PPT, though the same picture compression functionality is also available in Word and Outlook, so if you’re pasting images into an email then resizing them, it’s an idea to compress them and you can get away with an even lower resolution there.