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.