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Performing common PowerPoint tasks in OpenOffice.org 2.0's Impress

In today's business environment, PowerPoint is almost as important an application as Word. If you have users who want to give professional presentations but you don't have the budget to afford Microsoft Office or PowerPoint, OpenOffice 2.0 and Impress may be a good alternative. Greg Shultz shows how to do common PowerPoint tasks in Impress.

When you need to present information to a group of people, OpenOffice.org 2.0's Impress makes it very easy for you to create professional slide shows. In fact, you'll discover that Impress contains almost as many fancy bells and whistles as PowerPoint. To achieve this feat Impress provides you with access to a host of multimedia elements and special effects that will really make your presentation stand out. With this in mind, let's take a look at performing some common PowerPoint tasks in OpenOffice.org 2.0's Impress.

Using animations and transitions to add impact

As you may know, using animation and transitional effects can increase your presentation's effectiveness and visual appeal by redirecting the audience's attention and emphasizing a point. However, be careful not to go overboard—too many fancy effects can have just the opposite effect.

In the world of Impress, animation works on individual elements on a slide while transitions work on the entire slide. When it comes to using animations and transitions you must make two basic decisions: which effect to use and how to time the effect. Of course, the type of information in your presentation will help you decide.

Applying animations and transitions to your Impress presentations is a fairly straightforward procedure and the built-in preview feature allows you to sample before you commit. Once you've essentially created you presentation, you can select and add animations and transitions from the Tasks pane, which appears on the right side of the screen in the Normal View, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A:

You can find both animation and transition effects in the Tasks pane.

To add a transition to an entire slide, you select the slide and then select any of the options in the Slide Transition section of the Tasks Pane. You can separate the Tasks Pane from the screen and enlarge it in order to allow you to better view all your options, as shown in Figure B. There are over 50 different slide transitions to choose from and you can control the speed as well as add sound effects.

Figure B:

Separating the Tasks Pane allows you to more easily view the options.

To add an animation to an element on a slide, such as a heading or a bullet point, select that element and then Click the Add button in the Custom Animation section of the Tasks Pane to display the Custom Animation dialog box, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C:

The Custom Animation dialog box provides you with access to a plethora of special effects.

As you can see, the Custom Animation dialog box contains four tabs that allow you to choose the time and configuration of the effect. For example, on the Entrance tab, you can choose what effect to use when the when the element first appears on the screen. On the Motion Paths tab, you can choose how you want the element to react when you click.

Printing handouts

As a way to complement your Impress presentation, you may want to print handouts for your audience. By providing printed copies of your slides you provide your audience member with an easy way to take notes pertinent to individual slides that that can study later. You may also want to print notes for yourself to help you while you're presenting your show.

To do so, locate and select the Handout tab in the center pane, as shown in Figure D. You can then select one of the page layouts in the Layouts section of the Tasks Pane to choose the number of slides you want per page.

Figure D:

When you click the Handout tab, you can select one of the available layouts.

You can then drag the slide images to different locations on the page to make room for notes. If you want place a few horizontal lines for people to take notes on, you'll need to use the Line tool on the Drawing toolbar to manually draw a set of lines by the first slide. To make them even, select all the lines as a group, right click on any one of the handles, and choose Alignment | Right (or Left, or Center) To align them, select them again, right click on any one of the handles, and choose Distribution from the pop up menu. From the Distribution dialog box, choose Center in the Vertical panel, as shown in Figure E, and click OK.

Figure E:

To align your lines, use the Center option in the Vertical section.

Now, you can select the lines again, right click on any one of the handles, and choose Copy from the pop up menu. Once you paste them, you'll need to drag the lines to the other slides, as shown in Figure F

Figure F:

Once you paste the lines, you'll need to drag them to the other slides.

When you're ready to print your handouts, pull down the File menu, and select the Print command. When you see the Print dialog box, click the Options button to bring up the Printer Options dialog box and make sure that in the Contents section only the Handouts check box is selected, as shown in Figure G. To complete the operation, click OK twice. Keep in mind that it may take some trial and error testing and reconfiguring to get everything to look just right.

Figure G:

It is very important that you only select the Handouts check box in the Contents section.

Presentation tricks

Once you've created your slide show in Impress and are on the road giving your presentation, here are a few tricks that you can use during your talk. If you find yourself at a point where you want to pause the presentation to discuss a point in more detail or to give you audience a break, press the B key to display a black screen or press the W key to display a white screen/ Press any key to resume your presentation.

If an audience discussion leads you back to a previous slide, you can return to a specific slide number by pressing that number key and then [Enter]. To return to the first slide in your presentation, simultaneously double-click both mouse buttons.

Exporting to Macromedia Flash format

If you want to be able to provide your audience with the ability to refer to the material from your presentations at any time they want, you can take advantage of Impress' ability to export presentations to Macromedia Flash format as well as Portable Document Format (PDF) files.

To export presentations to Macromedia Flash format, just pull down the File menu, select the Export command, type a filename in the Export dialog box, select the Macromedia Flash in the File Format list, as shown in Figure H, and click the Save button. You can then run your presentation in any browser that has Macromedia Flash installed.

Figure H:

Impress makes it possible to save your presentation as a Macromedia Flash file.

Leaving a good impression

When it comes to creating presentations, you'll discover that, like PowerPoint, Impress provides you with everything you need to create very professional looking presentations. In this article, we've taken a look at performing some common PowerPoint tasks in OpenOffice.org 2.0's Impress.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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