A Cool New Tool for Presenting Slides on the Ipad

I use slide decks a lot, I get up to speak a lot, and I like it. And I like my iPad, which these days usually travels with me when I go. And, furthermore, iPad apps are (in my opinion) amazingly cheap. So when Seth Godin posted this earlier this month about NonLinear, an iPad slide show manager, saying …

Nonlinear lets you import a PDF or PPT file and then jump around. It’s not for building slides, it’s for navigating them, and even includes a way to drive an external monitor in a clever way.

…  I jumped onto the app store to find it. And I’m glad I did. After I figured out how to get my files to it, it ends up giving me a very powerful tool for managing the slide deck while I’m delivering. Let me show you with the illustration here:

What you see there is one of the views I get on the iPad. The highlight in red there, which is my addition for emphasis, is where I point the output to the projector via the VGA dongle. And what doesn’t show up well in the screenshot here, but does in practice, is which slide I’m on. And what the audience sees, through the projector, is that slide only.

That highlight in red is the icon that tells NonLinear to send the output to the projector as an image of a slide.

And this next illustration, to the right,  is what I see on my iPad if I choose a single slide. As with the context above, the audience is looking at the slide, which appears exactly as it is supposed to look. Notice that I can navigate, using my finger, to the next slide, or previous, or up or down or diagonally. And of course I could go back to the view above, with the whole slide deck. It’s cool, and it’s powerful, because it makes jumping around the norm, which, in my opinion, makes a better presentation for the audience.

… And now the bad news

First: I was taken aback at first by the the reviews on the store. Apparently a lot of people are disappointed by problems getting the appropriate files onto the iPad; and a lot are disappointed by Apple’s VGA $29.95 output dongle that puts the iPad visual onto a projector. Still, it was $9.95, which is what I pay for a sandwich these days, and it’s a work tool, so I figured what the heck, try it. And even with the Apple VGA attachment, it was still less than $40.

(Aside: is it only me, or is it amazing how cheap apps are in the new world. $1, $2, $5 and $10 for a working app? It seems like nothing. And some people complain!)

Second: It took me a while to figure out how to get my slide decks from my computers to my iPad. As far as I can tell, the import works only with PDF, JPG, and MOV files, not PPT. After fussing with PPTX files for a while, I gave up that effort and I just exported from my PowerPoint 2007 on Windows 7 to PDF slide presentation files. I saved them to my DropBox account, then opened the DropBox app on my iPad, copied the URL, and pasted it into the input field in NonLinear to get the files in.  And once they’re in, they’re in.

Third: Also, the Apple VGA output dongle: it’s annoying that it doesn’t just automatically project whatever is on the iPad to the projector. It doesn’t. The built-in video works with it. I got my Penultimate note taker to work with the dongle, turning the iPad into a magic whiteboard. And I managed to get GoodReader to work with slides to project a PowerPoint file, but (unless I worked it wrong) I couldn’t get QuickOffice to do the same.

Conclusion: I’m glad to have it. It pays for itself with a single presentation next week. The iPad is fun, so it’s doubly nice to see that it has its business uses too.


Tim Berry Tim Berry is Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, Founder of Bplans, Co-Founder of Borland International, Stanford MBA, and co-founder of Have Presence. He is the author of several books and thousands of articles on business planning, small business, social media and startup business.

7 Reactions
  1. So the positives far outweight the cons?

    Looks like I need an iPad…

  2. Hi Tim,

    I enjoyed the article and am glad you value software in general and are willing to support tools you use.

    I have an app called 6S Slide Show in the app store that you may be interested in. Its a really simple image based presentation viewer. You can import images from your photos folder, through iTunes or through Dropbox and organize them in your presentation. The idea is that the app is always ready to do your presentation/pitch. Its free for one presentation so you can try it out and there is an in app purchase if you decide its a useful tool. There’s more info at http://www.e-string.com/6S Thanks.


  3. Barry,

    Non-linear looks like an interesting presentation tool. You might also find PictureLink a useful non-linear tool for making presentations that require hyperlinking zones on images, slides, etc.


    Most presentation apps require you to output slides as PDFs unless they’re in Apple’s Keynote format. Moving files to and from iPad can be done through iTunes or any cloud service. PPTs especially are supported by Keynote as well and the conversion success is pretty good too.

    Unlike Non-linear, most presentation apps running over the VGA adapter do not show the slide on the iPad and the screen, so this is a pretty good improvement over the status-quo.

    Another non-linear presentation system is Prezi(.com) – if you haven’t played with it and you like to make powerful and compelling presentations that may follow scripted or non-scripted pathways, it’s a must see. One problem though – Prezi doesn’t run on iPad, but it’s ideal for making good presentation movies and then playing them on iPad.

    — bf (a Borland Barbarian from the dBase days)

  4. the problem with all these tools is that they force you to present all the points on the slide at the same time. human nature the user will read the entire slide while the presenter is working to make a single point. presenting on the ipad still has a long way.to go. it is a media consumption device first and a tool second.

  5. Tom,

    Your comment is untrue. Both Prezi (now available for iPad) and PictureLink allow you to separate your points and drill into each idea separately. Even Keynote, which I use slot, is able to instrument specific layers that allow presenters to separate ideas and thoughts without revealing the entire slide.

    One thing I’ve done in my own presentations is a general shift away from the idea that a slide is a container for multiple points. Taking a page from Aople’s own presentation style, I now think of a slide as one idea; one point that I want to make. Often, my slides have one word on them or perhaps one image. This has proven to be a significant game-changer for my communications and I receive very good complements from my audiences. It seems the more white space a slide contains, thie higher the audience scores rise.

    In my view, presenting on the iPad may improve over time, but it doesn’t have a long way to go. With the new HDMI integration and mirroring feature of iOS 5, your assertion that iPad struggles in the presentation segment is also a baseless argument. iPad and the various apps that support presentation-building, is already far and away the best presentation model for digital media. If used wisely and blended with a good digital presentation strategy, nothing touches this product.