Tag Archives: Tips and Tricks

The Case For PowerPoint… episode four

I’m still at it! As you can probably tell, I’ve been on a bit of an imagery bender this last couple of weeks, and now I’m about to continue along that thread with…

Part Four Custom Clipart

Did you even know that you can pull some clipart images apart and just grab the bits you like? Yeah, I just caused a brain explosion, didn’t I?

This only applies to illustrations, and not all of them – but if you find an image and you like one piece of it, it’s worth a go.

SO HOW DO I DO IT? It’s so easy it’s embarrassing. Just select your clipart picture, paste it into your powerpoint and right click it. From the Group category, select ‘ungroup’. You’ll probably get a message that looks like this:

Clipart Message

Click yes, then repeat the ungrouping – right click, group, ungroup. Your image will now look like a bunch of little bits. Click away to deselect all the parts, then start deleting the bits you don’t want. When you’re left with the remaining parts, just regroup them and you have yourself a custom clipart image!

Here’s some examples I pulled together from an eLearning module I made a few years back.

Beer and Pizza

Repairs Combo

Pretty cool, right? Here’s a few tips to bear in mind though:

  • Not all illustrations can be altered, it’s just a case of tough luck if you can’t.
  • If you want to save your custom image as a new file, I recommend saving it as an Enhanced Windows Metafile (that’s an option alongside your standard jpg, png etc…). The bonus of a metafile is that when you insert it into a PowerPoint presentation, you can still alter the parts; i.e. it’s an image file you can still ungroup.
  • Always try clipart before paying for imagery. Really! The image tagging used in clipart is great, meaning you can get great returns on a basic search, where just a part of the illustration relates to your keyword. You might want a picture of a pencil, for example. If you search for ‘pencil’ your search will return images of pencils on desks, in cups, maybe next to a book etc. And now you know how to ungroup the illustration and snatch the pencil from it’s setting!
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Friday Infographic: 14 Wild Ways People Soothe Their Sunburn

Infographic List is ‘for those who love infographics’, so it makes sense I follow them, right?

They put this beauty up the other day, and it couldn’t have come at a better time – the weather is getting warmer here, and I’ve been spending more of my weekend hours in the garden. I have the worst possible complexion for someone who lives in NZ, where we have little ozone protection from the sun. Seriously, on a summer day in NZ you get sunburnt in about five minutes. Skin cancers account for 80% of new cancers diagnosed each year, and we have one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world.

So, yeah. I have a pasty complexion with freckles to boot – not ideal for being out in the sun. I’m pretty good with my sun protection, but sometimes I’m not good enough. Would I use these methods to soothe sunburn? Not all of them, some are pretty out-there! But I DO highly recommend having a supply of aloe gel or cubes in the freezer; in my experience it takes the burn right out of the skin – even bad burns.

The idea of putting vinegar on a burn kind of scares me. Take a look at these weird and wacky solutions:

Infographic credit: via Infographic List

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My Own Personal Image Collection

I don’t consider myself very good at social media – I’m too verbose for Twitter, too informal for Facebook (I friended too many family members and now I think that anything funny I have to say will offend someone) and I don’t have the attention span for Pinterest.

I’m pretty good at Instagram though. I always enjoyed photography class at school, and getting an iPhone with a decent camera in it was pretty exciting. I’m still impressed by the quality of the photos I can take using my phone. It occurred to me a few weeks back that I’m starting to form a pretty great personal image collection too. I’ve developed the habit of trying to take a photo myself before trawling the internet for a free version too – especially for photos of surfaces, textures and the like, which are pretty easy to pull together right here at home.

Below are a few PowerPoint slides I pulled together* using some images from my phone. They’re pretty good, I think!

Eat Fresh

Parks

Prints

*I pulled these together using my imagination. I love Auckland parks but I have no idea how many people go to them compared to pre-2011, and I’m not fashionable, so don’t wear stuff because I said so. Really.

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Only Dummies Don’t Use Images

Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of 30 Rock, so I’m doing a Liz Lemon and calling everyone a dummy at the moment.

My point is supposed to be, if you’re presenting your information as just text, or just talk, you’re missing out! Here’s why:

1. Who wants to look at screeds and screeds of words? Sorry, but I didn’t show up to read a book – and that’s the only exception to my ‘words, words, words, boring, boring, boring’ mantra that I just made up now. Let’s take a look at some slides from a corporate team-building quiz night I organised a few years back. Each slide was simple: question on one side of the slide, image on the other. The design won’t set your world alight, BUT compared to a slide that’s just text, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to look at!

Quiz Slides with pics

2. If they’re reading, they’re not listening. You know how your significant other might be talking away to you while you’re surfing the net and you’re making ‘uh huh… mmm hmm’ noises at them? Yeah, you’re not listening. You’re reading, aren’t you?

Presenting is the same – if you put lots of text on a slide, your audience won’t be listening to you, they’re reading your content instead. Great, they’re getting the message that way, but you’ve removed yourself from the occasion! You might as well have stayed at your desk and played solitaire. This is a PowerPoint 101 point to make, but I’m going to make it anyway. Keep your text brief, but I reckon that if you can make your point with an image, and talk to that, even better! Here’s a couple examples I threw together using the Shakespeare quiz slide above:

Don't do it1

Do the Bard1

3. There’s plenty of good, free images to use. There really is! They might not be quite as good as paid stock imagery, but Clipart has definitely levelled up in the last year or two. Be prepared to trawl around a bit, but you’ll find some gems, I guarantee it.

So go forth and use some images already!

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The Case For Powerpoint… Yes, it Continues

Can you believe I’ve stuck with this series for three whole entries? Craziness. Let’s not dawdle though:

Part Three Image Editing

PowerPoint is many things, but it isn’t Photoshop. It’s not the most powerful image editing software you can use, but that’s not what it’s for. It CAN do the basics though, and it can do them simply. All you need is your image, and the Picture Tools – Format tab on your ribbon.

So, what image editing features does PowerPoint offer?

Crop, Align and Rotate Images: these are definitely essentials of photo editing, especially if you’re working with multiple images. The cropping tool is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth noting that you have the option to crop to a shape which is really useful – crop your image into a circle, star, chord; whatever you fancy. Once you start using the align tool, you’ll never look back. You’ll also become annoyed when viewing presentations where items aren’t aligned. I particularly rate the ‘distribute horizontally/vertically’ option, which is great if you want a series of items evenly spaced on the slide.

Artistic Effects, Colours and Corrections: To be honest, I don’t use Artistic Effects or Colours very often, because the result has been pretty naff when I’ve tried it. There are times when the Corrections tool will be your friend though – if you have varying images sourced from different places, use this tool to correct tonal differences. Voila!

Remove Background/Set Transparent Colour: This is the single most exciting tool in PowerPoint for me. I use it ALL THE TIME. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when presentations are full of images with white backgrounds sitting on a coloured slide. It’s especially annoying to me now I know that it can be fixed in two or three clicks.

The Remove Background tool does what it says on the tin, and you have control over which parts of the image stay or go if you have a particularly tricky image you’re working with. The Set Transparent Colour tool is simply marvellous (you’ll find it under the Colours menu), but only use it when you’re dealing with a vector image or a graphic with very clear lines and colours.

Here’s some examples I put together using images from Fauxgo. You really should check Fauxgo out, its a super cute collection of logos from fictional companies and brands featured in TV and film.

Grape Soda Combo

See? Not removing the background makes the slide look LAME.

SCDP combo

It only takes two clicks. Now you have no excuses.

If you want to know more about the Remove Background and Set Transparent Colours tools, you can check out this eLearning Heroes tutorial (which uses PowerPoint 2010). Enjoy!

Image Credits: Fauxgo

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How Sesame Street Helps Make My Work Better

Over at Full Potential a week back, we were talking about the importance of self-teaching and team-teaching at the start of a new project to make sure we have a working understanding of the job at hand. Makes sense, right? Surely you need to know what you’re talking about in order for your work to be functional in the context it will be used in. You would think so.

When you think how many industries there are out there, and how many roles and tasks are at play in each industry… well, that’s a lot of information to take in. But if, as an Instructional Designer, you don’t take the time to understand the actual content that you’re working with, you’re doing both yourself and your client a real disservice.

Which brings us to my Sesame Street approach to new projects. My favourite clips growing up were ones that explained processes, or how things are made – for example, how a jar of PB is made (“it takes a lot of little nuts to make a jar of peanut butter!”). More recently, I saw an episode where Elmo was learning how the postal service works. When I think I have a decent grasp on new content, I consider how I would explain it to a kid, or someone with little working knowledge of the content. I don’t actually go find a kid, but I think about how I’d explain it, and fill in any knowledge blanks that fall out of my imaginary conversation.

I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that I don’t know EVERYTHING. In fact, I find it challenging – and I’m often surprised at how seemingly ‘unsexy’ industries or ‘boring’ content turns out to be anything but.

I’ll leave you with the Sesame Street Clip where they go to the crayon factory to learn how to make crayons. It’s my absolute favourite.

Crayons

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My Case For Powerpoint continues…

Part Two Fun With Shapes

A couple years back, when I saw my first post from eLearning Heroes about making your own symbols and pictures using shapes in PowerPoint, I was fairly unimpressed. I figured I could just use clipart or if I really needed, check for paid stock imagery that would get the job done. Then I worked out that a) I didn’t have a budget for stock imagery, and b) there were plenty of symbols and icons on clipart, but not necessarily collected nicely together, and in the style I wanted. So I started building them myself.

Start by getting yourself sorted with the ‘combine shapes’ tool on your ribbon (find out about that here) and then take some time to play around with the tool and see the difference between shape union and shape combine. Shape subtract is great, but if it goes awry on you, just Control+Z!

Here’s a few things I find helpful when I’m making custom shapes and icons:

GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND Sometimes, I find it helps to google image search for what I’m trying to make and deconstruct the shape from there.

DUPE, DUPE, DUPE Duplicate your shapes before combining. This way, if the combine doesn’t quite look right, you still have your original shapes to rejig then dupe and combine again – you can compare different combined custom shapes until you get it right.

BUILD BIG Make your icons in a large form, then group and minimise using your shift key to constrain the shape. Boom.

I recently made a series of lunch food icons for a resource I was making for a client. I reckon they’re pretty great – and all made in PowerPoint!

Food Icons

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