As a support professional, you know the benefits of properly training people to use software—a reduced number of technical support calls. However, when dealing with a large number of people with varying work schedules, coordinating regular training sessions that everyone can attend can be a real hassle. Here is a method of providing each person with a one-on-one software training presentation package.

Follow these tips to use PowerPoint XP’s Photo Album tool and the Pack And Go Wizard to create a personal software training presentation that you can distribute through e-mail or through the network.

An outline of the procedure
Creating a personal software training presentation is a relatively straightforward, five-step procedure. First, you’ll use Paint, or some other graphics application, to take screen shots of each step in the operation. Second, you’ll use Word to create an outline detailing each step illustrated by the screen shots.

For the third step, you’ll use PowerPoint XP’s Photo Album tool to create a presentation based on the screen shots. You’ll then import your Word outline into the presentation and organize the slides. Finally, you’ll create a stand-alone presentation package using the Pack And Go Wizard.

An example
To help make illustrating this technique more concrete, let’s set up a simple example operation that you may want to train users to perform. We’ll create a presentation that shows people how to manually clean out Internet Explorer in order to keep everything running smoothly. More specifically, the presentation will show users how to delete Temporary Internet Files, clear the History list, and clear the AutoComplete History.

Creating the screen shots
Creating the screen shots for your personal software training presentation begins with a few trial runs. By that, I simply mean that you should perform the procedure several times to make sure that you have all the steps down pat.

Once you feel confident that you’ve got all the steps covered, you can begin taking screen shots of each screen. For the best results, I suggest that you take full screen images and save them using the TIF format. Most graphics packages, including Windows XP’s version of Paint, can save files using the TIF format.

Creating screen shots with Paint is a little time consuming since you have to perform each step manually; however, since every Windows system comes with Paint, it’s readily available. To take a full screen shot, you simply press the [PrtScn] key, which copies the image of the screen to the clipboard. You then switch over to Paint and press [Ctrl][V] to paste the image into the window. You can then save the image.

Since the screen shots are full screen images, you may want to annotate your images in some way in order to highlight or point out the specific areas that you’re covering in your presentation. For example, I like to use red arrows to direct viewers’ attention to each button that they need to click to progress through each step in the operation. You can use clip art or annotation features built into your graphics program.

Creating the instructions
Creating the instructions for your presentation will take a bit of thought. You want to be clear and detailed, yet you need to be as concise as possible. As you create your instructions, keep in mind that they’re going to end up being bullets in the PowerPoint presentation.

To begin, launch Word and open a blank document. You’ll then use Word’s heading styles to create your set of instructions so that they’re formatted for easy import into PowerPoint. You’ll use Heading 1 to signify a slide title as well as a new slide. Heading 2 then signifies the first level of body text on the slide, which means that Heading 3 signifies the second level of text on the slide, and so on.

Use heading styles to avoid a mess

Keep in mind that if you don’t use heading styles, PowerPoint will create an outline based on paragraphs. If you don’t use Heading 1 styles, PowerPoint  will create a single slide with all the text on it.

As you create your set of instructions, simply type one line after another—don’t use a blank space in between each line. Furthermore, don’t bother with bullets or numbering. You can add any formatting touches later in PowerPoint. As you can see, the document in Figure A, has six consecutive lines—two sets of three lines starting with a line configured with the Heading 1 style, immediately followed by two lines configured with the Heading 2 style. Each of these sets will become an individual slide in PowerPoint. When you’re done, just save the document as you normally would. Then, close Word.

Figure A
These six lines will become two slides in PowerPoint.

Creating the Photo Album of screen shots
Thanks to the ease of the Photo Album tool, creating slides of the screen shots is a snap. To begin, launch PowerPoint XP and immediately close the default presentation template as well as the New Presentation toolbar so that you have a completely blank PowerPoint window like the one shown in Figure B.

Figure B
To avoid confusion, it’s best to start with a completely blank PowerPoint window.

Now, pull down the Insert menu and select the Picture submenu. Then, select the New Photo Album command. When you see the Photo Album dialog box, as shown in Figure C, click the File/Disk button.

Figure C
The Photo Album dialog box starts out pretty bare looking.

You’ll then see the Insert New Pictures dialog box, which is basically a File Open dialog box. Locate and select all of the screen shot files you created and then click the Insert button. When you do, the Photo Album dialog box will look like the one shown in Figure D.

Figure D
The Photo Album dialog box allows you to insert all the screen shots into the presentation in one fell swoop.

To continue, you’ll add a design template to spice up your text boxes. To do so, you’ll use the controls in the Album Layout panel. As you can see, the default Picture Layout setting is Fit To Slide, which is the setting that you’ll want to use for your software training presentation.

The only way to add a design template in the Album Layout panel is to select a different Picture Layout setting. Once you do, the Frame Shape and the Design Template boxes are activated. Then, click the Browse button and select the template you want to use. As soon as you do, return the Picture Layout setting to Fit To Slide. Click the Create button and PowerPoint will create a slide show based on the Photo Album.

Inserting the instructions
Once you add the Photo Album to the slide show, your PowerPoint window will look like the one shown in Figure E. As you can see, PowerPoint adds a default title page, which you can easily edit.

Figure E
After you add the Photo Album to the slide show, PowerPoint adds a default title page for the presentation.

On the left side of the PowerPoint window is a two-tabbed bar. The default view shows thumbnails of the slides currently in the slide show. To continue, select the Outline tab and scroll to and select the last slide.

Now, pull down the Insert menu and select the Slides From Outline command. When you see the Insert Outline dialog box, simply locate the Word document you created earlier and click the Insert button. PowerPoint will then import the outline and create a set of slides using the design template that you selected, as shown in Figure F. Before you continue, you should save your presentation.

Figure F
Using the Insert | Slides From Outline command allows you to quickly add your instructions to the slide show.

You can now go through each of the slides created from the outline and reformat the text and layout. For example, you may want to change font size, add spaces between lines, or change the bullets to numbers. However, keep in mind that some of these format changes may not show up on the final presentation, depending on the system the presentation is being run on.

Now, you’ll want to place the text-based slides in between the appropriate screen shot slides. To do so, just select a text-based slide and drag it to the correct location. When you finish, you can press [F5] to view the slide show.

Creating a stand-alone slide show
Chances are that not all of the employees in your organization have PowerPoint installed on their systems. However, you can use the Pack And Go Wizard to create a stand-alone slide show that includes the PowerPoint Viewer.

To begin, you need to download and install the PowerPoint Viewer, if you haven’t done so previously. Point your browser to the PowerPoint Viewer 97 for PowerPoint 97, 2000, and 2002 Users page of the Microsoft Office site. Then, follow the instructions to download and install the PowerPoint Viewer. Keep in mind that although the file is named Ppview97.exe and the utility is called PowerPoint Viewer 97, the viewer will work for all versions of PowerPoint.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the PowerPoint Viewer, you’re ready to launch the Pack And Go Wizard. Pull down the File menu and select the Pack And Go command.

There are 6 screens in the Pack And Go Wizard. The first screen simply contains an introduction while the second screen prompts you to choose either the current presentation or another. If you still have the software training presentation loaded, just click Next. The third screen will prompt you to choose a destination for the package.

The fourth screen, shown in Figure G, prompts you to embed Linked Files and TrueType fonts. The Include Linked Files check box is selected by default and in this case means that the screen shot files will be embedded into the package. If you’ve used any nonstandard fonts in the presentation, you need to select the Embed TrueType fonts check box as well. If you don’t, and the system that the presentation is run on doesn’t have that font installed, Windows will substitute a similar font. Keep in mind that if the TrueType font has a strict copyright restriction, PowerPoint won’t be able to embed the font into the presentation.

Figure G
You’ll be prompted to embed Linked Files and TrueType fonts into the presentation.

The fifth screen prompts you to include the PowerPoint Viewer. Make sure that you select that radio button, as it’s not selected by default. The sixth screen simply contains confirmation information and you can click Finish when you’re ready.

As the Pack And Go Wizard does its job, you’ll see a progress dialog box appear on the screen. When it’s done, you’ll find two files on the destination drive that you chose earlier: Pres0.ppz and Pngsetup.exe.

Distributing the presentation
To distribute the presentation, all you have to do is copy the two files to a server or send them out as e-mail attachments. Anyone who receives the files will need to install the Pack And Go presentation package by running the Pngsetup.exe self-extracting executable file. Once the installation is complete, you’ll be prompted to run the slide show and can just click Yes. If you want to run the presentation again at a later date, find and double-click the standard .PPT file.