Monday, August 26, 2002
Posted by Jason Dunn in "ARTICLE" @ 09:49 AM
Conduits is a veteran designer of Pocket PC software, so I knew Pocket Slides would be a powerful tool with some excellent options. There were some negatives that I wasn’t expecting, however.
This review was written on April 28th and deals with version 1.5. Conduits has since released 1.6, which offers an improved rendering engine (up to 10x faster).
Pocket Slides from Conduits is a powerful presentation tool for your Pocket PC
Pocket Slides 1.5 will work on any Pocket PC 2002 device. The application itself takes up 954 KB of storage space. It was tested on an HP Jornada 565 and video was output using a MARGI Presenter-to-Go onto a Sony G400 monitor. The desktop computer was running Windows XP and Office XP.
Pocket Slides is the most powerful PowerPoint-like presentation package on the market today for Pocket PCs.
Where to Buy
Pocket Slides can be purchased online from Handango for $39.95
Pocket Slides is one of the richest applications available today on the Pocket PC – it offers a staggering array of options and features. I’ll only cover the critical parts of the software in this review, because it would take twice as much space to really get into what Pocket Slides can do. This application is worth the price – even its closest competitor can’t match the features offered by Pocket Slides. An application like this has three components: converting, editing, and presenting.
Converting presentations from the desktop PC
Odds are, if you’re interested in a product like this, you have a PowerPoint presentation ready to go, and you want to leave the laptop behind and use a Pocket PC to make presentations. Step one in this process is to convert your presentation – Pocket Slides makes this process very easy. I moved a 4.3 megabyte PowerPoint presentation into the Pocket PC synchronized file folder, expecting to have a window pop up with conversion options. Much to my delight, it simply transferred over automatically and I was able to open it right away. All the transitions were still there, the timings, and the file size only increased to 5 megabytes.
Figure 1: The Pocket Slides Export Options
The software installs a desktop component called Pocket Slides Export Options – it allows you to select from five preset sizes and one custom size. Presentation size is a matter of quality – if you’re presenting directly from your Pocket PC, the 320 x 240 size is perfect and will result in a smaller file size than the higher quality 800 x 600 mode you’d use if you were plugging into a projector.
This feature was easy to use, however, when I tried to make a conversion I received an error message (“Slide 0: Run-time error: 16389”). I tried several times with the same result. This may be a problem specific to my computer, but I was dismayed the feature didn’t work. Thankfully, the automatic transfer mentioned above had no problems.
Editing made easy
One of the features that makes this product stand out so strongly against its competitors is that you can edit your slides on the device. Most other products on the market are glorified image exporters – your slides are fixed and cannot be changed. Pocket Slides allows you to change individual elements with ease.
Figure 2: Editing text is simple
Every object can be edited. Figure 2 had some text that I wanted to change. By tapping and holding on the text object, it opened the editing window. From there, I was able to edit the text, change the font type, size, the colour, and add bullet points. From another screen I could change the custom animation – Pocket Slides emulates the desktop version of PowerPoint almost perfectly here. If you know how to do custom animations on the desktop, you can do it here. The level of detail that Pocket Slides allows you to control is truly remarkable!
Figure 3: Adding shapes and images
Figure 4: Changing shape properties
In addition to editing text, you can add shapes and images (Figure 3). Circles, ovals, lines, squares and rectangles are at your disposal for creating flow charts. You can also edit the properties of these shapes, changing the fill colour, line colour, line weight, and even the exact pixel size and position of the object. Inserting images proved to be more problematic, however. I tried several times to insert JPEG images that were already stored on my Pocket PC. The extremely small dots to the left and right of the oval in Figure 3 are those images. I couldn’t even click on the images to resize them, and I’m mystified as to why they were imported at such a small size (being 320 x 240 in resolution). Inserting a bitmap (BMP) produces slightly better results – the image was big enough to see, but it was still very small (perhaps 40 pixels high). When I changed the properties of the image to make it larger, the image became badly pixilated – this feature clearly needs some more work.
I found out later (after talking with Jason Patterson from Conduits) that I needed to tap on the image icon, then draw a box on the slide to indicate the size of the image – since I was just tapping, it resulted in the “dot” images. Not very intuitive, but at least I know the image import function works.
I should note that the edits described above can also occur on a new slide deck created right there on your device. That’s right, you don’t need to start with a file from the desktop – if need be, you can create your entire presentation right on the Pocket PC!
Many presentation options to choose from
Figure 5: Thumbnail preview of the slide shows
Figure 6: Re-ordering slides
So now it’s time to present. Pocket Slides makes it easy to find the right presentation by showing you a thumbnail image of each presentation, along with the time it was last modified, the resolution it’s in, and the file size (Figure 5). It also offers basic slide re-ordering features (Figure 5), that will let you create custom presentations from a larger slide deck.
Figure 7: Presentation options
When it comes times to present, Pocket Slides offers a huge variety of options for setting up and configuration. The latest release fully supports the MARGI Presenter-to-Go VGA card, the Colorgraphic VGA card, and the Lifeview FlyJacket – all the major VGA cards on the market today for the Pocket PC. It also supports the following resolutions:
• 1024 x 768 at 8-bit colour, 60 Hz
• 1024 x 768 at 16-bit colour, 60 Hz
• 800 x 600 at 8-bit colour, 60 Hz
• 800 x 600 at 16-bit colour, 60 Hz
• 640 x 480 at 8-bit colour, 60 Hz
• 640 x 480 at 16-bit colour, 60 Hz
It has an interesting “test” mode where it outputs a sample image to let you test the quality. Nice touch! Pocket Slides also supports a serial or wireless mouse, consumer infrared controller, the FlyJacket infrared remote, and the MARGI infrared remote. I tested it with the MARGI infrared remote control and it worked perfectly.
Figure 8: Presentation mode
Once everything is configured, it’s time to present! The presentation mode on the device puts it into full screen mode, which displays the animations and builds on the Pocket PC, something most other presentation software can’t do. There are some issues with the presentation mode, which leads me to the next section.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Conduits software, because it’s such high-quality stuff, so I was surprised to find several issues that I deemed to be quite critical.
Figure 9: Text is blocky and pixilated-looking
• The text output quality of Pocket Slides is inferior to the MARGI Presenter-to-Go software. This is likely because the MARGI text is pre-rendered from the desktop, while the Pocket Slides text is real text, but despite experimenting with various options I was unable to get smooth-looking text output from the application. As Figure 9 shows, the text is jagged and pixilated. The image isn’t zoomed in – this is taken at 100% size. Bolded text looks even worse – there appears to be no anti-aliasing at all. Photographs look fine, but the text looked quite poor.
• Pocket Slides is slow. While you’re using it, get used to seeing the hourglass on several functions, and it’s difficult to move quickly from slide build to slide build – it takes 2-3 seconds for some of the larger transitions. While this may not sound like much, as a presenter you want the product to keep up with you. Building a slide deck on the device is also a slow process, especially if you’re importing images. [NOTE: This issue may be resolved with the 1.6 update]
Pocket Slides is an extremely powerful application with a plethora of options for mobile workers. This software is worth its weight in gold, but I’m still concerned by the poor text output and other nagging issues like speed. I contacted Conduits after writing this review and they’re aware of the issues raised in this review and promise a much-improved version 1.6 that will address these problems. Time will tell!