Presentations on an iPad

In a recent project we were tasked with developing a Keynote presentation for an iPad, and the same presentation for PowerPoint. The assumption is that you can create your PowerPoint presentation and just pop it on the iPad. Not so. We first looked at optimising the presentations to the device, as the iPad was likely to be considerably less processor capable than a standard computer, but we found some interesting points in the making. Our starting point was a 700 mb, 1080 resolution, Keynote presentation running on a Mac along with over 20 text and animation slides.

The iPad is, in all intents and purposes, a Mac. iOS is a subset of the great and wonderful MacOS X, so it runs H264 video beautifully. Watching the supplied Keynote on a Macbook Pro was smooth and impressive. Transferring the same presentation straight over to the iPad ran really well, but the video sequences were clearly having issues and stuttered a few times on the way through. It’s easy to conclude that the iPad could not buffer the frames quickly enough, and the best solution was to optimise the footage to the screen size and resolution. After a little experimentation, finding the right video format and codec did the trick, which reduced the file size and sped up the transfer to the iPad. Now the delegates could walk around with confidence.

I have read many reviews of video in PowerPoint over the years, and our experience is that there are very few routes to take, few video formats that work well and even fewer solutions if it has to work on a Mac as well. PowerPoint 2010 automatically embeds the video in the XML format files, which is a lot easier than the methods to do the same in PowerPoint 2003. A number of settings in the menus allow you to loop, start automatically or fade in or out, but there are few options for actually managing the footage from there. All of the preparation has to be done before it goes on the slide. That said, the choice for smooth running video in PowerPoint on a PC is limited, compared to anything else we get involved in. PowerPoint on an iPad is very difficult at this time.

PowerPoint on iPad
Microsoft recently released the first version of PowerPoint for iPad and it’s had a few updates since. The surprise for us is there is no support for video in its initial offering. The animation works incredibly well and, so long as you have an Office365 subscription, you can edit too. There are a few third party apps that can be used to run a PowerPoint presentation on the iPad. SlideShark is probably the most successful, but this actually converts the slides to a different format. Animation is largely successful, but video is limited to one specific format and codec at the time of writing.

So, the conclusion; If you want to present anything more than flat slides of text and a little animation, use Keynote. PowerPoint is way too late to the market for iPad or any tablet, for that matter, and has a lot of catching up to do.

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