and I'm all out of bubble gum…

Original #lazyweb tweet

So, I’ve spent far more of this fall mucking about in the Stygian stables of PowerPoint than I would really prefer. I don’t use it regularly myself, but have been working on converting a bunch of lesson units that were sent to my team as PowerPoints into an actual, y’know, shareable format. I’ve detailed at length my battles with converting PowerPoints into web pages (short version: don’t — I already knew this, of course, but had PowerPoints and needed web pages…).

Some quick history: these PowerPoints are created in Israel in Windows, I believe as PPTX files (i.e. Office 2007 documents). They’re saved as PPT files on those Israeli Windows systems. Which means that, in fact, my Mac PowerPoint 2008 converts the PPT files as they’re opened (into what, no one knows — they get “converted” again every time I save them, so I’m guessing it “converts” the PPTs into PPTXs).

Right now, I’m at a point where I need to pore over several hundred PowerPoint slides one-by-one and double-check hyperlinks, rebuilding pages that contain structures that PowerPoint is (mysteriously) incapable of exporting to the web correctly. And I see this bizarre view:

Too Wide Slide PreviewNo, your eyes do not deceive you: the slide preview on the left is roughly double the size of the actual, editable, slide on the right. That left column is my list of slide thumbnails. I kid you not. And, it turns, out, that I can’t drag the divider very far to shrink it, maybe only 30 pixels:

Still Too Wide Slide PreviewThis isn’t much of an improvement. (And, lest you think I haven’t clicked around enough, it turns out that if I try to close the left-hand slide thumbnail column by clicking the close box next to the divider… all that happens is that the column contracts to this slightly narrower width.) And I still have this miserable, unworkable right-hand pane in which to edit the actual slide. To add insult to injury, it turns out that I can control-click in the slide preview column and choose a zoom level for the previews:

Previews Zoomed to 100%So, this is the slide previews zoomed to 100% (which implies that they were previously displayed at something like 200% or 300% of their actual size). But I still can’t move the dang divider and create enough space to edit the actual goldang slide. As Obelix would say: “rhubarbrhubarbrhubarbrhubarb…”

Moreover, it turns out that when I switch from slide preview view to outline view, I can slide the divider around as much as I want. But the outline view doesn’t work for me, since these slides are made almost entirely of images and text boxes (and therefore the outline shows nothing). And, when I switch back from outline to slide preview mode… the flippin’ divider pops back to take up two thirds of my window.

I did some futzing around. It turns out that if I open the presentation in OpenOffice and save it as a PPT again, the slide previews go back to normal, reasonable, adjustable sizes…. but all of the links to supporting documents are destroyed because OpenOffice doesn’t support hyperlinks in presentations yet. Apparently. Ditto Keynote (it borks the layout, hyperlinks get munged, etc.).

And now, here’s the cherry on top: when I open the file in PowerPoint 2003 on Windows, it opens with the slide preview on the right. As though I were using an Israeli system. Same proportions — wide left column for editing, narrow preview column on the right. But I can’t move the preview column over to the left. I can only hide or show it. It seems that PowerPoint is saving column widths, but not remembering which column goes in which width: it opens it in Windows “Israeli-style” and knows the narrow right column is for previews, but on the Mac, it only sees the narrow right column — not that it’s a preview, and assumes — because I’m in the US, that the actual slide editor is the right column. But doesn’t let me adjust the width.

And, since I’m trying to get these PowerPoints working for Mac users… it’s not really a solution to edit them in Windows. Or to travel to Israel.

Argh. And the Microsoft “support” forums are populated by ignoramuses and arrogrant dimwits. And is aimed at Windows users.


December 10th, 2009

Posted In: Ouroboros

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