Just because your travel budget got cut doesn’t mean you’re grounded. With Microsoft PowerPoint’s round trip capabilities, you can create, maintain, and deliver your presentations over the Web.
Round-tripping PowerPoint files to HTML and publishing presentations to the Web is no different than round-tripping MS Word documents or MS Excel spreadsheets and workbooks. The result is that several individuals can easily collaborate in the creation and maintenance of presentations. Anyone with a Web browser can then view the files online.
This arrangement makes it far easier to maintain presentations that may be used by many people in a widespread organization. For example, a sales presentation can be updated and redeployed to a global sales force in a matter of minutes.
Another advantage is that all presentation graphics — including photographic images, clip art, AutoShapes, text boxes, and WordArt — are converted to image types that are supported on the Web, namely GIF, JPEG, and PNG. When the Web pages are reopened in PowerPoint, the graphics can be edited easily.
What’s Different in PowerPoint
PowerPoint files are different in many respects from other Microsoft Office files. Some of the differences include:
- Graphics of many kinds, in large numbers, are included in PowerPoint files.
PowerPoint files include presentation logic, such as animation of elements of each slide and the slide transitions.
- There are frequently links to other files or objects.
- There is a greater likelihood of embedded multimedia files.
As a result, the presentation author must keep a number of things in mind when preparing a show that will be saved to HTML. PowerPoint files can be quite large, for example. It may be advisable to find ways to break up a long presentation into several smaller files in order to minimize download time for users on slow dial-up connections. Furthermore, if an existing (legacy) presentation is to be placed on the Web, there may be quite a bit of editing involved to ensure an effective transformation to HTML.
PowerPoint provides methods to deal with most of the transformation issues, but not all. Few of the issues are handled automatically when a presentation is saved as HTML.
Look Out for These Transformation Issues
PowerPoint saves slides to HTML as “frames,” meaning some browsers will be unable to display these slides as the author intended. Special steps can be taken to correct this problem but the results can be unsatisfactory. The best advice is to view the converted presentation in older and in newer versions of all the popular browsers and make adjustments as needed to obtain the best overall results.
Most images to be displayed on the Web should have ALT text assigned to them in the HTML. The ALT text provides additional information about an image. This text generates the little “label” that pops up when a user rests the mouse pointer on an image. The ALT text also provides a description of the image for display when the user sets the browser to not display images. Some audio tools for the visually impaired also use the ALT text to describe the image. But PowerPoint does not automatically create ALT text when saving to HTML, so the designer must insert these items another way.
In addition to ALT text, every image should also have associated size (width and height) information. This can make it possible for the images to load faster in browsers. This is another detail left to the designer to handle. Here is an example of what the HTML for an image might look like, in order to optimize the image:
<img src=”yourimage.gif” width=”50” height=”50” alt=”Bullet”>
There are many files to be coordinated and managed when a PowerPoint presentation is saved to HTML and uploaded. Each unique bullet on a slide, for example, may be a separate graphic file. PowerPoint handles this coordination.
There are inconsistencies in the way browsers handle certain graphic types, especially animated GIFs. As a result, designers may want to leave these graphic types out of their presentations or replace them with types that can be more universally rendered. In addition, presentations can look different on other computers, due to font changes and screen resolution settings. PowerPoint makes provision for dealing with these issues, but they are not handled automatically.
Graphics may be embedded in the presentation files or they may be linked — the choice is not trivial. Hyperlinks embedded in slides can easily become “dead links.” Embedding graphics increases file size, and linking graphics creates more opportunities for dead links. These issues must also be resolved manually.
A PowerPoint presentation saved as a Web page but not “published” will be optimized for, and can only be edited from, the Internet Explorer 4.0 browser or later; everyone on the content maintenance team will have to meet this minimum. The optimization problem can be addressed when the presentation is published, using options in the publishing dialog.
How to Save a PowerPoint Presentation as a Web Page
To help avoid problems that could arise when several collaborators attempt to edit the same PowerPoint presentation, PowerPoint offers the original file author several important choices. Unfortunately, these choices are not highlighted in the conversion process. What follows is a step-by-step description of the procedure and the options.
The procedure to save a PowerPoint presentation as a Web page begins with choosing “File Save As…” from the menu bar. This opens the Save As dialog (Figure 1).
Choose Save As type: Web page (*htm, *html) from the drop-down menu and give the file an appropriate name. This will only set the filename on the server. By default, the Web page as displayed in the browser will display “PowerPoint Presentation” in the browser title bar. If you want to change this to something more apt or evocative, select the Change Title… button on the dialog.
Choose Tools from the menu bar. This is where most of your tailoring will take place. Notice that by default, PowerPoint will save the True Type fonts used in the presentation by embedding them in the HTML file (Figure 2). This is to make sure the text displays correctly on other computers. This will increase the size of the file. If you have used nothing but Arial and Times New Roman, you can safely uncheck this box.
Remember how MS Word would tell you which, if any, of the features in a document are not supported by Web browsers, and how many times each of these features is used? PowerPoint will not do this, unfortunately. As a result, you must manually set the Web options in order to begin optimizing the file for others to view.
Choose Web Options… from the Tools menu. You will notice four tabs on the dialogue that opens. In most cases, only two of these tabs are going to be important, but we will review all four here. You can also open this dialogue when you choose to publish your presentation to the Web.
The dialogue opens with the General tab selected (Figure 3). Here, you can choose to place the standard slide “navigation buttons” in your presentation. This is chosen by default; you will probably want to change the color setting to “Presentation colors (accent colors)” for best visibility and appearance. Next, you can choose to show the slide animation while browsing. This will slow down the editing process, so leaving the choice unchecked is probably the best idea. Finally, you may choose to resize the graphics in your presentation so they are in proportion to the rest of the page. This feature will resize the graphics only if your users are going to be viewing the presentation using Internet Explorer 4.0 or later.
The second tab, Files, allows you to manage the files that PowerPoint will save to support the presentation on the Web (Figure 4). Since each graphic and each slide (at a minimum) will be a separate file, this is important. Generally you will want to leave these three defaults checked: Organize supporting files in a folder, use long file names, and update the links to the supporting files whenever you save the presentation. Finally, you will be able to make Office the default editor — again, a good idea.
The third tab, Pictures, is potentially as important as the first tab (Figure 5). You will usually leave the first two choices set at their defaults. Relying on VML and allowing PNG to be used means presentation pages will download faster and less storage space is required; however, if your viewers are not using a browser that supports VML or PNG, they may not benefit. If you are not sure whether the browsers support the formats, or if you know for a fact that they do not, then do not choose this option.
But the real importance of the third tab is in the drop down box that allows you to choose the “target monitor size.” This is critical if you must be sure of the appearance of your presentation on the monitors of the viewers.
Use the drop down box to select the screen size of the monitors on which the Web pages will be displayed. Your choice can affect the size and layout of images on Web pages. To ensure that your Web page looks the way that you expect it to, try viewing the page using different Web browsers and with different screen size settings.
The final tab, Encoding, is only important if you are editing with a different language character set, and you wish to be sure that the accent marks, and so on, appear correctly to the viewers.
When finished, click OK on the Web Options dialogue and Save on the Save As dialogue. Your presentation will be saved as an HTML file with the same name as the presentation, plus a folder with the same name. The folder will contain the graphics, an image file for each slide, a Frame file, and an XML file with the round trip code in it.
The saved HTML file and folder should be on your system in a location where all of the collaborators can reach it. When it is time to update the presentation, open this version in your browser. Click the Edit button (Figure 6) to make changes using PowerPoint as the editor.
When finished editing, Save As PowerPoint again and republish the presentation.
Now all we need is frequent flyer miles every time we round trip PowerPoint instead of employees!