Monday, June 6, 2011

Computer free

As we all know, you can fill your house with computers, as many as you like, and they will all fail at once. We have two main computers at home, my Air and Noel's iBook. Both have failures that require them to go to the shop this week. The Air left today to have a broken hinge replaced; Noel will be calling about his battery-bulge problem tomorrow.

And of course, the moment they all fail is one of the several times a year when you have some public presentation to make that isn't a simple matter to transfer to another device. I have a Keynote presentation I give to incoming freshmen at our summer orientation session, which takes place this Thursday. I could export it to a Powerpoint and use a Windows laptop to present it -- if my Windows laptop weren't essentially a desktop right now, with a dead screen requiring it to be hooked up to an external monitor to be useful. That works in a pinch for a presentation, but it's not optimal to have to glance behind you at the screen to know what you're projecting.

Before sending off the Air, I put the presentation on my iPad (through the GoodReader file transfer and PDF reader app), and today, with some trepidation, I downloaded the iPad version of Keynote to see if I could do the presentation directly from the device. The presentation needed some serious updating for this year, too, and so I began working through the process of editing it. My trepidation turned gradually to delight. Placing elements on the slides, adding transitions and orchestrating movement, even grabbing screenshots from other apps (PDFs, webpages) and inserting them into the show was far more intuitive than using a mouse and screen interface. I especially appreciated the ease of zooming in on anything the iPad can display, taking a screenshot, inserting the image from the iPad's photo library, resizing and masking it to show just the part I need, and adding annotations and highlights.

The experience was exhilarating. I ended up going much farther in improving the presentation, replacing outdated images to more closely match what the families will be looking at on their handouts, and making the flow more intuitive. Next time I'm skipping the laptop and going straight to the iPad to make my presentation -- and I can't wait to experimenting with hooking the device up to the projector and controlling it via touch.

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