Digital Tools > Tips And Tricks

Published Date
01 - Mar - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Mar - 2007
Digital Tools > Tips And Tricks

Those in marketing can't live without it, your friends often spam you with an offspring of it that contains a corny message, and most presentations depend on it. The beauty of PowerPoint is that it can be used for both personal and professional use, so if you have to present your ideas at a sales meet, your college, or want to irritate your friends with your philosophies on tree-hugging, keep reading…

The Return Of The Ribbon
When you launch PowerPoint 2007, you'll be greeted with the now-famous Ribbon. We're not going to go in depth about it again, because we have already discussed it in previous Tips N Tricks. It should take no more than a few minutes for you to feel at home here, whether you've used other Office 2007 applications or not. You will see tabs such as Home, Insert, Design, Animations, Slide Show, Review and View. From time to time you will see another tab, such as Format, appear when you perform actions in PowerPoint. These are called contextual tabs, which appear only when they are needed, or can be used. You should keep an eye open for them while working to find options easily.

The Ribbon displays almost every setting and effect possible, but not all of them. Keep an eye out for the little downward facing arrows and "More Options…" buttons to see all the options available in every menu. This is especially important for transition effects and the like in PowerPoint. Also make sure to use the live preview feature that has made Office 2007 popular in the first place, so as to see what changes will occur before actually applying them. Just mouse over any option on the menu and you will see what that will do to your slide.

Minimise The Ribbon
For those who want more Desktop area to work with, the ribbon might get in the way. This is especially true for those working on resolutions of 1024x768 or lower - Office 2007 seems to demand higher resolutions. In order to minimize the Ribbon, just right-click on any of the tab names and select "Minimize the Ribbon". Now you will be able to see all the names of the tabs, but not all the buttons. When you need to do some formatting or changes, just click on the name of a tab and all the buttons will return in all their glory.

Customise The Quick Access Bar
By default, next to the Office logo you find the quick access toolbar. By default this has a shortcut to Save, Undo and Redo, which is kind of pointless, because we're all quite adept at using the respective keyboard shortcuts. However, each of us may have some task that we perform regularly, which have difficult to remember keyboard shortcuts, or complicated ones requiring key-combinations. In such cases, it would be wise to customize the quick access toolbar. Just right-click on the toolbar and select "Customise Quick Access Toolbar". Now choose the shortcuts you want to display on the Quick Access toolbar and click OK.

Easy Keyboard Shortcuts
For keyboard warriors, the most irritating thing about the new PowerPoint is the fact that a few of the shortcuts have changed. What most people don't realize is that Office 2007 has shortcuts for every single menu item, which previous versions did not, and they're easy to identify as well, thanks to the little letters that pop up when you press [Alt]. It's advisable that you learn the keyboard shortcuts if you spend a significant amount of time using any Office application, and all you have to do is learn visually using [Alt] and the cues (called Key Tips) provided; it couldn't be simpler! Most of the older [Ctrl] [Some key] shortcuts are left unchanged, so you really will not find yourself too frustrated!

New Slide Layouts
By default, a lot of us just tend to add new slides in PowerPoint, without bothering about the slide layout. We then proceed to change the layout and other options. Instead of just clicking on the New Slide icon, click on the text below it and select the layout of the slide even before you add it. This saves you immense amounts of time and energy. For professionals at work, who need to create presentations with hundreds of slides, this is a great boon.

Content Placeholders
When you add a new slide which has blank content placeholders, you will see that PowerPoint 2007 offers little icons in the middle that act as shortcuts to particular types of content. These icons symbolize adding either a table, chart, SmartArt graphic, picture, Clip Art, media files or plain text. While creating slides, it's likely that you know what it is you're looking to include in a particular place holder, so just click on the associated icon and you can browse through only those types of files on your computer. This, again, will save you hours and days of time in the long run.

Adding Effects
When you add a picture or element into a slide, it might appear too plain. To jazz it up a bit, take a look at the default picture styles available in PowerPoint 2007. One of these is guaranteed to attract your attention. Besides, if you find one that's close to what you want, but not quite it, you can always select it and play around with the 3D settings to modify the style to your liking. To do this, just go to Format > Picture Effects > Presets > 3D Options… and then play around with all the different effects here to get the ideal 3D layout for your picture.

Do The Same For Text
As simple as the header above is, it's the truth. You can add all the same effects, if not more, to your text as you did for your pictures. Apart from the standard Word Art selections, you can also apply similar 3D effects to your text. If you insert the text in the same placeholder as the picture, you can apply 3D effects globally, to both the text and the picture at the same time. This works especially well when you want to add a caption to a picture that you have applied 3D effects to - you don't want your presentation looking lame with a cool 3D picture and a standard 2D caption, now do you?

Convert to SmartArt
Instead of creating an organization chart on your own, all you need to do is create a bulleted list, and then use the Convert to SmartArt button. You will find this button under Home > Convert to SmartArt, or by using the keyboard shortcut [Alt] [H] [M]. You can also opt to convert the text you have typed into any sort of other SmartArt graphic as well.

In order to animate your slides, you have the Animations tab which puts everything in plain sight and within easy reach. From within the Animations tab, look for the Custom Animations button ([Alt] [A] [C]). This will open up a Custom Animations pane on the right, from where you can add animations to individual contents of your slide, instead of animating the entire slide itself. Once you have added your effects, you can just drag them about to reorder them, which makes storyboarding your slide very easy. Also remember to play your animation, using the little play button at the bottom of the Custom Animations pane, to check your progress.

In this same pane, you can set various parameters of the animation, including the event (time delay or on click), directions and speed. Every effect in that pane also has a drop down arrow, which will give you further options.

Advanced Timeline
While animating objects as described in the previous tip, you should use the Advanced Timeline option. Just right-click in the Custom Animation pane and select Show Advanced Timeline. Here you will get little orange boxes on the timeline that indicate the animation event and how long it takes. You can resize these boxes (prolong or shorten the animation) or move them about (fine tune the event orders). When making a presentation, sometimes the animation sequences that PowerPoint provides seem a little to scripted and artificial. It's advisable to use this Advanced Timeline to edit and change things a bit to bring a little "reality" into the animations. Like when causing an Organization Chart to fly-in, instead of having it all fly in one by one, or fly-in one branch at a time, sometimes a little haphazardness to the motion and sequence works better.

Effect Options
From the same Custom Animation pane, right-clicking and selecting Effect Options will bring up a dialog box that will let you tweak effect settings. Here you can add sounds to events and effects and modify the behavior of an object after the animation completes, such as having it disappear automatically or on the next click, etc. you can also assign the effect to be executed by clicking on another item in the slide.

Resize Proportionately 
When you want to resize items in a slide, instead of doing so individually, and ruining the aspect ratios in respect to one another, you can just select multiple objects by [Shift] Clicking on them to select them and then resizing using your mouse to drag the corners. Remember to keep [Shift] pressed in order to make sure that individual aspect ratios are maintained. This works with both text and pictures or any other content selected, so just select and resize without worry!

Viewing Sizes
This tip applies throughout Office 2007, and is with regards to the Zoom feature. Most of us use [Ctrl] mouse scroll down/up to zoom in or out. However, this does so in increments of 10 per cent. For obsessive compulsive people like those of us here at ~Digit~, we often find our documents zooming to just inside the screen boundaries or just out of it. In such cases the perfect zoom might be something like 154 per cent. Using the Zoom slider on the bottom right of the Office application window, you can achieve these exact zoom levels.

When it comes to image manipulation, nothing (and we do mean ~nothing~) beats IrfanView, This tiny and light freeware application uses negligible system resources, is fast and has a gazillion options to help you manipulate images. It can also do basic touchups to your images, apart from the regular resizing and Web compression that it is most popularly used for! Let's see what exactly is possible with this little wonder software. You can find the installer for IrfanView on every month's Digit CD under the Digital Tools > Essentials section.

Easy Screenshots
For ~Digit~ writers, taking screenshots is second nature. However, a lot of people out there need to take screenshots on a regular basis - to post content online, show an expert for help with troubleshooting, explain solutions (if they're the expert), for blog posts, etc. Most of us just press [Print Screen] and then paste into an image editing program such as MS Paint or Adobe Photoshop. IrfanView, however, can make such a task as easy as apple pie: just start IrfanView, press [C] and you should see the Capture Setup dialog box. Here you can choose a Hot key for screen capture, where to save the captured file and even what format to save it in. No more hassles taking screenshots!

Fullscreen Control
This one's easy, just press [Enter] after you open an image. You can use the right arrow key or the space bar to go to the next image in the directory, and the left arrow key to see the previous image. This is child's play, however. What is interesting is that if your images are rather dark, they will end up blending into the default black background that IrfanView uses. instead of settling for this black background, you can choose another colour. Go to Options > Properties (or just press [P]) and then click on the "Full Screen" tab. Here you will see the option for Screen color. Just click on the colour and select something from the palette that pops up.

Format Conversion
Very often we find ourselves stuck with BMP or TIFF images, which we may want to upload to the Web. Now these files are generally large, and for screen rendering (images on Web sites) no one needs anything higher in quality than JPEG. So instead of uploading a 1 MB image of your vacation to the states, do everyone in your mailing list a favour and covert it to a more manageable JPEG. All you need to do is press [S] and the "Save Picture As..." dialog box pops up. Select the directory you want to save it to, the Save  quality (compression level) - 70 per cent should be fine - and even save as a progressive JPG. You would have seen such pictures online, where the whole picture appears, blurry at first and then clears up, instead of slowly displaying a line at a time from the top down.

With all the 5 mega pixel (or higher) digital cameras around the place, everyone seems to be taking really high resolution images of everything from vacation spots to family gatherings and even their pets. Now if you're one of these shutter-happy bugs, and always click at the highest resolution setting for your camera, you probably have a lot of images stored that exceed 1 MB in size and have greater resolutions than 1600x1200. Considering that the standard Desktop has a resolution of just 1024x768 (0.8 mega pixel), and most sites are designed with this resolution in mind, uploading the complete 5 megapixel image to your photo gallery is kind of pointless. Do the visitors to your site really have to see how many wrinkles your grandmother has on the tip of her nose?
The first thing you should do is resize your images, before you even think of uploading them. In IrfanView this is easy. Just press [Ctrl] [R] to get to the "Resize/Resample image" dialog box. Here, you can change the image resolution, but make sure to tick the Preserve aspect ratio check box to make sure you do not distort the image. Choose a saner size, even 800x600 is more than enough for any Web page, and make sure you set the DPI (dots per inch) to 72 - displaying an image on screen (for the Web) needs nothing more than 72 DPI. Also remember to make sure that the option to Resample is selected instead of Resize, because Resampling the image will provide better quality. Once your satisfied with the right size, just [press [S] to Save As... or [Ctrl] [S] to overwritethe original.

Batch Conversion
Now the tip above works fine if you have only a couple of images you want to resize/resample. But what if you have 6000 images you want to resize? Some of these are portrait and some landscape, some are BMPs, some are TIFFs and some JPGs, what now? If you sit down to resize/resample each image individually, it will take you forever. instead, open the first image in the folder, then press [B]. Now you will see the "Batch conversion" dialog box pop up. Just select all the images from that folder and click on Add (or just click on "Add all'.

Now it's time to see the resize/resample options that will help IrfanView automatically resize your images. Look for the "Use advanced options" checkbox and tick it. now click on the Set advanced options button. In order to resize proportionately, again, make sure th Preserve aspect ration checkbox is ticked. Now click on the Resize checkbox and then select the option to either set longer or shorter side to whatever size you want. This is helpful because you might have portraits mixed with landscapes...

Also remember to look at the JPG options, to make sure that everything is fine. Next, you should look at the path in which IrfanView is saving the resized images. The best way we've found is to click on the "Use this directory as output" button, and then add some folder name to the Output directory path. "resized" or "smaller" is what we prefer to call the new folder.  After all this, just click on Start and watch in amazement how IrfanView goes about mercilessly reducing image sizes!

Command Line
IrfanView has some very good command line options. Here's a table that will help you remember them.

 /one -   force 'Only one instance' 

 /bf -   force 'Fit images to desktop' display option  ,

 /title=text ,

 /convert=filename -   convert input file to 'filename' and close IrfanView  ,

     (see Pattern page for additional filename options)  ,

 /slideshow=txtfile -   play slideshow with the files from 'txtfile'  ,

 /slideshow=folder -   play slideshow with the files from 'folder'  ,

 /thumbs -   force thumbnails  ,

 /killmesoftly -   close all IrfanView instances  ,

 /closeslideshow, -   close slideshow and close IrfanView after the last image  ,

 /page=X -   open page number X from a multipage input image 

 /panorama=(X,files) -   create panorama image from input files; X = direction (1 or 2) 

 /jpgq=X -   set JPG save quality 

 /monitor=X -   start EXE-Slideshow on monitor X 

Keyboard Shortcuts
If command line isn;t your scene, then you will love the ease with which IrfanView can be controlled using keyboard and mouse shortcuts,

 Key: Function: 


 CTRL Page Up Show previous page in a multipage image OR load previous file in directory 

 CTRL Page Down Show next page in a multipage image OR load next file in directory 

 TAB Switch between main and thumbnail window (if visible) 

 CTRL TAB Control switch in the thumbnail window 

 Pause/Break Pause an automatic slideshow. Press this key again to resume the slideshow. 

 Home Scroll to begin (horizontal scroll) OR load first file in directory 

 CTRL Home Load first file in the directory 

 CTRL End Load last file in the directory 

 F3 Show image in HEX viewer 

 F4 Append current file to current slideshow 

 F5 or U Refresh (display and directory list) 

 F7 Move file 

 F8 Copy file 


 C Capture dialog 

 D Edit -> Delete 

 E Show EXIF dialog for JPGs with available EXIF data 

 F Switch (toggle) between 'Fit images to desktop' and 'Fit window to image' 

 G Stop GIF or ANI animation 

 H Horizontal flip 

 K Filter Factory dialog 

 M Minimize IrfanView window

 N Toggle fullscreen/slideshow text display 

 T Thumbnails 

 V Vertical flip 

 CTRL A Select all thumbnails (thumbnail window) 

 CTRL B Open "Browse-Subfolders" dialog 

 CTRL C Copy image to clipboard 

 CTRL E Effects setup 

 CTRL F Search files 

 CTRL H Original size (no zoom) 

 CTRL I Show IPTC dialog for JPGs 

 CTRL K Adobe 8BF filters dialog 

 CTRL M Open random image from the directory 

 CTRL Q Edit multipage TIF 

 CTRL R Resample dialog 

 CTRL S Save dialog 

 CTRL T Edit -> Insert text into selection 

 CTRL W Start slideshow with current directory files 

 CTRL X Cut selection rectangle 

 CTRL Y Crop selection rectangle 



 SHIFT A Start/stop automatic viewing (slideshow in window) 

 SHIFT C Edit -> Create custom selection 

 SHIFT E Open in external viewer/editor 

 SHIFT G Enhance colors 

 SHIFT J JPG lossless operations 

 SHIFT L Lock/unlock zoom (also in full screen mode) 

 SHIFT M Send image by email 

 SHIFT R Reopen file 

 SHIFT S Sharpen 

 SHIFT T Jump into the toolbar edit field 

 SHIFT U Auto color correction 

 SHIFT Y Red eye reduction 


 Alt SHIFT S Show/hide status bar 

 Alt SHIFT T Show/hide toolbar 

 Alt SHIFT M Show/hide menu bar 

 Alt SHIFT C Show/hide caption 


 CTRL SHIFT A Acquire/Batch Scanning 

 CTRL SHIFT L Lossless JPG rotation - to Left 

 CTRL SHIFT R Lossless JPG rotation - to Right 

 1 Full screen mode: Show images/movies with the original size (1:1) 

 2 Full screen mode: Fit to screen: large images only 

 3 Full screen mode: Fit to screen: all images/movies 

 4 Full screen mode: Stretch all images/movies to screen 


Mouse Shortcuts
A lot of us  cannot use either command line or keyboard shortcuts, so then, here are a few mouse shortcuts to help you et started:
 Left button click drag Make a selection rectangle 

 CTRL Left button click drag Resize the selection rectangle using the actual rectangle aspect ratio 

 Right button click drag Scroll image in direction of drag. If within the selection, move the selection rectangle. 

 Left button double click Switch to full screen mode 

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