Author: Steve Johnson
Publisher:Prentice Hall, 2010
Aimed at: Those who want to work efficiently with PowerPoint
Pros: Good clear descriptions of how to do things in PowerPoint
Cons: No useful coverage of macros and VBA
Reviewed by: Kay Ewbank
A full color step-by-step guide to PowerPoint. Is this book a useful addition to your bookshelf?
PowerPoint may on initial inspection look like one of the easiest applications to guess your way around, but if there’s something you can’t work out from first principles there’s no getting away from the fact that Microsoft’s help can seem anything but helpful, and in many cases you’re simply directed to articles on external sites where the advice varies in accuracy. Add in the fact that Office 2007 and 2010 are so different in layout and what different aspects are called from earlier versions, and there’s a steep learning curve for business users who are expected to move to the new versions, usually with minimal training on what’s changed.
Brilliant PowerPoint 2010 does a pretty good job as a single source of instructions on how to perform tasks in PowerPoint. It’s laid out as two page sets of instructions with screenshots down the right-hand column and numbered instructions down the left-hand column. The layout works well and is clear to read. There’s a very extensive index running to 25 pages, so you stand a good chance of finding the topic you’re looking for. The contents at the start of the book list all the tasks, and elements that are new in PowerPoint 2010 are highlighted so you can pick them out. One drawback of this is that PowerPoint 2007 was very different itself from earlier versions, so it would actually have been useful to have ‘new from 2007’ as well.
The book is published in color, which I initially muttered about, but having worked my way through some of the tasks, it’s actually useful and makes things clearer. The screenshots are annotated in red with the numbers of the instructions in the left-hand column, so when you get to step 3 you can see where the heck you’re meant to find that particular button or icon or whatever on the screen.
In terms of content, there are 14 chapters. The book kicks off with an introduction to PowerPoint followed by five chapters that cover the nuts and bolts of the basics - developing content for presentations (editing text, setting tabs, and creating columns); designing a look (about using slide masters and color themes); drawing and modifying shapes (lines, freeform, fills, 3-D effects, connecting shapes); inserting pictures and multimedia; and inserting charts.
From here onwards the book looks more at achieving overall results. There’s a chapter on creating a web presentation with coverage of action buttons, hyperlinks, and how to save a presentation as web graphics. The chapter on finalizing a presentation and its supplements looks at handouts, speaker notes, translating text to other languages, and printing your presentation. The chapter on preparing a slide show goes through slide transitions, animations, and self-running presentations. There are also chapters on presenting a slide show and reviewing and securing a presentation.
The final group of chapters starts with customizing the way you work, which only goes as far as setting PowerPoint options, accessing commands not in the ribbon, and managing pictures and clips. There’s a short (22 pages) chapter on add-ins, macros, and ActiveX controls. You couldn’t learn how to write a macro from this, and the tasks on VBA might as well not have been included. There’s a general discussion on writing VBA code and the Visual Basic Editor, but nothing more. In some ways I admire this, but I don’t really see why the author has introduced the topic at all.
The main part of the book closes with a chapter on working together on Office documents, which essentially covers Office Web apps, Windows Live, and Groove. This final chapter is followed by a set of workshops titled ‘putting it all together’ that take you through optimizing presentations, creating self-running presentations, and adding a VBA form to a presentation, which shows you how to add buttons and controls to the form, and adds VBA code using the ‘type the code from the following illustration’ technique.
Overall, I thought the book did well where it stuck to its core competence - teaching the heart of PowerPoint. It would be no use for trying to learn how to automate PowerPoint with VBA or even macros, but that’s not really what it sets out to do.