Mac-style presentation effects on Windows

I wanted to create a video of a technical architecture presentation. It was created in Visio, but I really wanted to capture Mac-style mouse motions and spotlight effects as I narrated.

After a number of blind allies around mouse display software, I happened upon Impressive, an open source program that runs against PDF files.

Upon reading the Technology paragraph, which mentioned Python, GhostScript and OpenGL, I assumed that I would pay a brief visit to the downloads page, read some phrase about compiling from the C source code, and then move on. How wrong was I? You download the Windows package, unzip it, and you’re good!

Impressive runs from PDF files, so you need to convert your Visio or PowerPoint slide into PDF before you can launch it. Then, you either launch it from from the command line, or create yourself a Windows Shortcut to impressive.exe, and place it in the C:\Documents and Settings\[USERNAME]\SendTo folder. Then you can right mouse click on the PDF file and choose ‘Send To > Impressive’ to start the show.

(I won’t go into the features too much here, but suffice it to say I got the spotlight and highlighting effects I wanted, and my video turned out a treat.)

There are a host of features you can turn on and off if you want to use the command line to achieve finer-grain control over Impressive’s features. In my own case, I knew I wanted to produce a HDV 1080i frame size, and I was able to achieve this with the following command line:

C:\Apps\Impressive\impressive.exe -g 1440x1080 -f "MySlides.pdf"

And the best thing? Impressive is (effectively) a portable application, so you can use it in a locked down environment.

5 things they don’t tell you about upgrading your Mac

It’s always roses, roses, roses with my Mac-loving friends. But for some reason I don’t have the knack, and would like to remind myself of the following facts when I am next planning an upgrade.

1. Upgrading the OS or hard drive on your Mac *will* take you all weekend
2. You *will* try three different back-up methods before finding one that works
3. You *will* have to reformat one of your NTFS USB drives to Mac format so that your Mac can write to it
4. You *will* find that although the OS upgrade media is beautifully packaged, and designed by Apple in California, it will not actually work, and will require baroque instructions to save to disk followed by boot from new partition
5. Your jaw *will* drop when your Mac-loving friends blithely accept that they need to buy a new laptop / memory system / hard drive just to get a point release in OS

Reckon I’m happy to get back to my decade-old XP OS, that I can still install any software I’ve purchase in the last decade on.