Finally moving from Apple’s Keynote to LibreOffice Impress

Apple’s Keynote has been my preferred presentation tool for about a decade. For a long time it felt like the ideal tool, easy to use, powerful and flexible. But at some point, probably around the time when the iOS version of Keynote came along, the Mac version of Keynote started loosing features and became more limited than it had used to be. Since then, I have experienced all sorts of problems, including non-compatibility of new and old presentation file versions, problems with linked video files, crashes, etc.

Even with its increasing amount of shortcomings, Keynote has been one of the few programs that I have been missing after my move to Ubuntu as my main OS three years ago. Keynote has also been one of the few reasons I have often decided to bring along my old MacBook rather than my current Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro workhorse.

Over the years, I have been trying other presentation software. I was an early user of Prezi, and still like the looks and non-linear approach that it affords. However, the lack of a native Prezi client for Linux has been a turn-off, particularly since I never trust the network connections when I am out traveling. I am also somewhat skeptic about not being able to use local media in Prezi presentations, particularly since I often use a lot of video material.

I have also been excited about trying out some markdown-based presentation solutions, including reveal.js and Remark. This has been refreshing, and I like such an approach when working mainly with text-based presentations. I do realize, however, that many of my presentations rely heavily on images, sounds and videos, which make the markdown-based approaches less ideal.

I have been trying Impress, the presentation part of OpenOffice/LibreOffice, on and off for several years, and have, to say it mildly, never been impressed. The design of the software has been ok, not even close to as intuitive as Keynote, but not so far away from MS PowerPoint. The biggest drawback, however, has been its performance, both when it comes to editing presentations, but also when presenting. After all, a presentation software has to be efficient to work with and needs to perform flawlessly in presentation mode.

Luckily, I decided to give Impress yet another try before giving a presentation in Hamburg this week. I exported a Keynote presentation to a .pptx file, and opened it up in LibreOffice Impress on my Ubuntu laptop. To my big surprise it worked very well! Not only did the graphical elements look good, but also the embedded videos worked well. There must have been some major update to the software recently, because suddenly the speed of editing also worked quite fine. There are still some issues when scrolling through a large presentation with lots of multimedia content, but not more than I can live with.

The conclusion: today I held my first multimedia-rich conference presentation using my Ubuntu laptop. Not only did the projector connection work flawlessly (which has not always been the case with Linux systems…), but also the presentation ran without any performance issues whatsoever. A new era has begun in my presentation life! LibreOffice Impress is still not as smooth and solid as Keynote was a few years back, but it is now at a point where it is stable and easy enough that I actually want to use it professionally.

Asus eee tricks

When I got my Asus eee a few months ago I tested the built-in OS for about an hour and then decided to install Ubuntu eee (later renamed to Easypeasy) instead. I felt the Xandros OS was too limiting and wanted to test out something more powerful. One of the reasons for buying the eee in the first place was to test whether it would be useful for laptop performance, and then I needed an OS where it was possible to install Chuck, PD and SC3 without any problems. Then Ubuntu was an easy choice over Xandros.

In terms of functionality I have been very happy with Ubuntu eee, but it felt a bit slow in use. Talking to some other people that were happy with the original OS I decided to reinstall Xandros and give it another try.

Reinstalling Xandros took only 5 minutes (!), so getting it to work was a breeze. Xandros certainly feels more limiting than Ubuntu, and there is much less support for audio software. However, since we decided to go for Lenovo laptops in OLO, I will mainly be using the eee for web things, and then Xandros should be fine.

Here are a few hints and tweaks I have done to make it work a little better:

  • Get the terminal: type ctrl-alt-T
  • Change language from the built-in Norwegian to English:
  • Upgrade the software from terminal: “sudo bash”, then “apt-get update” and then “apt-get upgrade”
  • Install applications from eee-download: save the CNR file, right click and choose to open with /opt/xandros/bin/AddSoftwareWizard

Gumstix and PDa

Another post from the Mobile Music Workshop in Vienna. Yesterday I saw a demo on the Audioscape project by Mike Wozniewski (McGill). He was using the Gumstix, a really small system running a Linux version called OpenEmbedded. He was running PDa (a Pure Data clone) and was able to process sensor data and run audio off of the small device.