Trying to schedule training sessions for end users can be practically impossible -- and attendance is never a sure thing, either. One good solution is to put together a series of annotated screen shots that illustrate a procedure or set of features or usage scenarios and create a PowerPoint presentation using those images. You can then distribute the presentation via e-mail, put it on the company intranet, share it on CD, or periodically host a brown bag lunch and run the slide show for those users who can make it.
It takes a certain amount of thought to grab the most useful screen shots and make sure your instructions are clear -- but of course, that's true of any training material or documentation you produce. At least you don't have to worry about spending a lot of time creating the presentation. PowerPoint's Photo Album feature makes that part of the process a breeze. Let's run through the process.
Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.
- Launch PowerPoint and then close the blank presentation that opens by default. (We're starting from scratch.)
- Choose Picture from the Insert menu and select New Photo Album (Figure A).
- In the Photo Album dialog box (Figure B), you'll find options for choosing the desired pictures.
- Click the File/Disk button to open the Insert New Pictures dialog box (Figure C).
- Locate and select the images you want to use and then click Insert. As Figure D shows, PowerPoint will place them in the Picture In Album List. You can use the up and down arrow buttons to reorder the images, if necessary.
- By default, the Picture Layout option is set to Fit To Slide, which is what we want for this example. But with this setting selected, you can't make any other design changes here. So go ahead and temporarily choose 1 Picture from the Picture Layout drop-down list to activate the other options.
- Choose a Frame Shape option if desired -- we'll go with Beveled. Then click Browse and locate the design template you want to apply to your presentation. (This is optional, but you'll probably want to improve the readability and appearance of the slides, and this is the easiest way to do it.)
- There are various ways to add the instructions that will go along with your images, but to keep things simple we're going to add a separate slide to hold the explanatory text that will precede each screen shot. To set this up, click the New Text Box button as many times as necessary, matching the number of images in your presentation (Figure E).
- Change the Picture Layout setting back to Fit To Slide and then click Create.
Final setupThe rest of the process is simply a matter of arranging the slides and entering/formatting the text. Figure F shows our sample presentation in Slide Sorter view. As you can see, all the text box slides are at the end of the presentation, so we'll start by clicking on each one and dragging it to the correct spot.
Once the slides are all in place, we can double-click each text slide to display it in Slide view, enter the instructions that will introduce the screen shot that follows, and format the text, if necessary. In this case, we selected the heading text (Step 1, Step 2, etc.) and made it 48 points. Then, we formatted the body text to be 32 points. Once we edited the title slide (which PowerPoint creates automatically for photo albums), the job was complete. Figure G shows the results.
This is a somewhat quick-and-dirty way to pull together a training presentation, and you may want to make various refinements. For instance, you might decide to include your instructions on the same slide as its corresponding screen shot, or you may want more than one image per slide. But even with the bare-bones approach we've outlined here, you'll find that you can convey a set of instructions quite effectively with a presentation like this.
PowerPoint also offers the advantage of portability, making it easy to distribute and share your presentation. Just choose Package For CD from the File menu to create a CD that contains all the necessary files, along with the PowerPoint Viewer. (Prior to PowerPoint 2003, this feature was called the Pack And Go Wizard.) You can also export the package to a selected folder instead of putting it on a CD. For details on how this works, see "How do I... Put a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on a CD?"
Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.