Presentations: what you don't want to use

Fifteen years ago, talks at scientific conferences were exclusively presented with the help of overhead projectors. The slides projected were fabricated by various, and sometimes rudimentary means. Indeed, some people still used handwritten transparencies, which allowed the use of color without the need to purchase a color printer (which were very expensive at that time).

The advent of both inexpensive and performant personal computing as well as affordable video projectors changed this scenario completely. Nowadays, there's one overwhelmingly dominant solution for preparing a scientific presentation: Powerpoint, with the graphs displayed mostly being created by Origin. In (experimental) physics, this combination easily accounts for 95% of all talks. I know Linux users who install Wine for the sole reason of running Powerpoint ...

Not that I can blame them, as it's really convenient. Once you finished the graph in Origin, copy it, and paste it in Powerpoint. Microsoft has introduced an exchange format for vector graphics already with Windows 3.1. This format, despite its shortcomings, allows applications under Windows to seamlessly exchange vector graphics. The graph you just pasted into Powerpoint thus looks as it should also in full-screen presentation mode. The same functionality, by the way, is available when using OpenOffice Impress instead of Powerpoint.

But how's the situation under Linux? Well, in contrast to Windows and Mac OS, Linux still does not offer a vector-based format for exchanging data across arbitrary applications. That means, plain and simple, that a graph created in qtiplot and pasted into OpenOffice will be a bitmap.

In principle, OpenOffice supports the most important vector-graphics formats, namely, eps as well as svg. However, the preview for the former is automatically rendered as (low resolution) bitmap when inserted. One can (under Windows) provide a wmf- or even emf-based preview when creating the eps, and OpenOffice then displays nice, smooth curves. Unless, that is, you are in presentation mode, where the curves simply disappear. Oh, and svgs are only displayed correctly when they were created by OpenOffice itself. Inkscape and Scribus artworks seems to overtax OpenOffice by a large margin (all that applies to the current version, 3.0.1).

But how, you might ask, can we then use OpenOffice for presentations?

The answer is very simple: you can't. At least not for serious stuff. Use it for a presentation of the latest cheerleader costumes in your local football club, but do not use it for anything remotely important.

What you should use instead is the topic of the next post. 😄