Archive for the ‘Design’ Category
I got a lot of good feedback on The First Thing to Do to Your New PowerPoint 2013, thanks and wow – happy to help.
So OK, here’s the second thing you should do after you install Office 2013. It’s a bitter post, full of my opinion, and I’m perfectly willing to accept that others may disagree. However, in my opinion this trick corrects one of the most ridiculous mistakes made in Office 2013. You may consider it more of a taste issue. But I think that if you have taste you’ll want your Office interface to not look like somebody’s grandpa sending e-mail with the CAPS LOCK key on.
HEY, YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!
Yeah, that’s right. For some reason the designers at Office decided that years of calming down the interface, using readability methods developed and proven literally over centuries, should be abandoned so they could inject some “style” into the product. Beware of designers attempting to make their mark.
Application design should fall back against the content, should not stand there screaming HEY LOOK AT ME, or HEY, GET OFF MY LAWN, or HERE’S A JOKE THAT ALL MY SENIOR FRIENDS THOUGHT WAS FUNNY SO I’M ADDING YOU IN MY REPLY-ALL… just for example. UI should be clear, it should be available, but not garish and hard to interpret.
So one of the first things you’ll notice looking at Office 2013 is the ribbon. The ribbon that so many hate, and the rest just find somewhat annoying. Sure it makes it easier for novices to find things, but it’s proven that the ribbon limits experts from levels of productivity they had with the prior menu UI. But we’re kind of stuck with it, and I digress. You see how easy that is.
What we’re looking at most is the tabs. The little label tabs at the top of each ribbon. And they’re all screaming like grandpa.
Well, maybe you’re not bothered by it, and hey, good for you. But there’s so much basic knowledge about how typography works, how the eye interprets words and breaks, how recognition is speeded by properly applying basic typographic conventions… all ignored here. It’s tragic really when you consider the scope of Office, how many people deal with this UI on a daily if not hourly (if not constant!) basis. There were lots of people bringing up how ugly and broken this was in the open Beta for Office 2013, but Office designers decided they knew better.
Anyway, you can fix this, calm it down. I can show you how. It’s a little tricky, so follow closely.
We’re going to go into the customize ribbon command. Right-click somewhere on the ribbon where there isn’t a button or control, and you’ll see the hidden commands. Choose Customize the ribbon and you’ll see the ribbon customization mess… er… UI.
Now, if you’re pretty perceptive you’ll notice something kinda weird.
We’re looking in the right column, a list of the ribbon titles and the controls each ribbon contains. Funny thing is, all the labels are already in initial cap case. They are not in all-capitals. The UI let’s you change the name of any of these labels, see the Rename button beneath the list, but if you want to continue using the right names you’re kind of stuck.
The developers have special-cased these label titles for each of the individual ribbons so they display in all caps if they match the intended default label. Why did they spend their time doing this instead of fixing bugs or getting good features into the product? Who can tell. We can imagine the passionate arguments the designers put forward about not allowing users to destroy the delicate balance of their screaming grandpa design, but that’s just me recalling similar conversations. Probably nothing like that. But again, digressing.
A little experimenting will show you that the labels
Home displays HOME
HoME displays HoMe
HOME displays HOME
but it’s kind of hard to get it to just display “Home.” But not impossible. Just give it some space.
Or one space to be exact
Select one of the tab labels in the list and click the Rename button. Adding a single space character, either before or after the letters “Home”, apparently is enough of a Jedi Mind Trick that the developer’s force to upper-case code is told “these are not the glyphs you’re looking for” and they pass along to be displayed unharmed. Do this to each label, and you get a nice initial cap label and a much calmer interface.
Yeah, Grandpa is still yelling FILE. If you can figure out a way to get him to calm down there, let me know.
A couple of things
You may want to do all the labels ahead of time. There are more than what are initially shown. Just open the list at the top of the right column and choose All Tabs.
Notice a bunch of items got added to the bottom of the list. These are the “contextual tabs”, tabs that show up when you select certain things, like shapes and tables, to give you control over their options.
It does take a few minutes to change all of these labels, but you’ll find the pattern is pretty easy to get used to. Might take you 15 minutes to add spaces to the end of each label. I think that’s the easier technique to use.
And don’t worry about making a mistake. If you do, you can nuke all your changes and reset the UI to the defaults again. That’s what the Reset button at the bottom is for. You can reset all, or just the selected tab.
And One Last Thing
Which leads us to the last tip here. It’s Extra Credit, so feel free to skip it.
If you’re a writer or instructor or someone who needs, occasionally, to make your UI look like it’s fresh out of the box, you can use the Import/Export UI changes command. It’s just beneath the Reset button.
This lets you save a file with all the customizations you’ve made as a file that you can reload later, even share between machines. So if you need to undo your changes and go back to the just out of the shrink-wrap smell, save your customizations, then Reset everything.
Later when you want to stop grandpa from screaming, just Import the saved settings again and you’re back to a calm, mature looking UI.
Let me know how this works for you.
This somewhat silly article is dedicated to my dear departed father, a grandfather and computer user himself, who eventually learned to just use all lower-case in writing his e-mail.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the first few versions of the Apple computer did not have the ability to display lower-case letters? The keyboards had a shift key, but it was used almost exclusively for shifting number keys to access punctuation characters. The Atari and Commodore Computers were among the first personal computers to introduce lower-case letters as a standard personal computer feature!
I’m a big fan of books. Not just the stories, but the book construction as well. From bindings, paper choice, typeset, typography, layout, it’s all interesting to me.
Mark Z. Danielewski is most famous for House of Leaves, an inventive experimental work of layered stories and typographic morphing of most everything we think of as the printed page.
In this video I do a short review of House of Leaves for those who are not familiar with the work (and to allow those familiar with it to berate and chastise me for “getting it wrong” I suspect) and then do an unboxing of his latest work The Fifty Year Sword, which comes in a unique box and exhibits some of the same traits found in House of Leaves.
I hope you enjoy, and I hope those trying to make a purchase decision on this book are aided in their decision making.
This is not a political post, although a quick reading without comprehension will surely give some that impression. Trust me, and read on.
I was reading this evening about how you can actually see people “unliking” Mitt Romney’s Facebook page in real time graphics on a web site called Disappearing Romney. It sounded pretty wild, and the graphics on the page were conceptually stunning, but the whole thing was kind of sophomoric. It looked like it might have been a prank. So I decided to check his Facebook page to see if their math checked out.
It did check out, was really easy to confirm with a couple of page refreshes. But that’s not what caught my eye.
You see, around 100 years ago I took both high school and college journalism. A lot of it stuck, writing of course, but also a lot in the area of page layout. There’s one guideline that borders on being magic in making a page and subjects on the page look appealing and interesting.
If you have a photo, or graphic, where a subject is looking in a left or right direction, place that element such that it is looking into the page, away from the edge they’re nearest. If you have to, you can consider “flipping” the element such that it can do this regardless of what side of the page it’s on.
(Pause here to note how well I’m avoiding unnecessary political metaphors. Thanks for noticing.)
Check out the original, and see what happens when you flip both the photos. It really is like a magic trick!
You always try to have faces looking into the page, it makes them look better, the page look better, and the reader feel better. In this case, we have original Mitt back-to-back, looking very disconnected, even defensive. Look at how flipping both photos around makes him look, well, happy to see himself.
Arguably the wider cover page might work in either direction, and if it were left right-facing the light sourcing for each of these photos would match up, but that’s not a big deal. I personally liked them facing each other, but your mileage may vary.
And yes, this is eminently applicable to your presentations! Ah! You knew I’d get there eventually! It’s one of the simplest things you can do to make your slides look more intriguing, trustworthy, or even happy.
Anyway, it’s not like it cost him the election or anything, but I found it really amazing that nobody on his staff, or even Facebook friends suggested fixing this classic journalistic page layout gaff.
Yes, I am available for consultations.
Warning, I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to a garish design that I have to look at for hours at a time. I find it personally offending and I’m not going to mince words here.
Luckily there’s a quick fix for PowerPoint 2013, and I’m happy to share it with you before you suffer permanent vision loss…
Oh dear. Another drab blog entry about presenting. Well, maybe not.
If you hear the title Presentation Summit, you might picture an international cabal, those folks from around the world whose job it is to keep presentations bland, sleep-inducing and dreaded. The Illuminati of bullet points, of text too small to read, creators of impenetrable charts, and irrelevant clip art. Lord, I can picture them too!
But no, that’s not it at all. In fact, its almost exactly the opposite.
For almost a decade Rick Altman has been bringing expert professional presenters together at events around the country to show attendees that there is no inevitability to Death by PowerPoint. Originally titled “PowerPoint Live” this Presentation Summit is something I personally look forward to each year whether I’m presenting or not.
What you will learn
To be a great presenter you need a number of things.
- Respect for your audience – to know them, to know their needs, and to know how to move them
- A message – what you are delivering, where you want to move your audience
- Skills – crafting your message, making it meet your needs and engaging your audience
- …and a certain je ne sais quoi. That certain something in your presence that makes the audience want to follow you to the end
And I’m not exaggerating when I say that you can grow your presenting skill set in all four areas at the Presentation Summit.
How’s it work?
The conference is three tracks of presentations, over three days. There’s a bonus fourth day you can sign up for even more intense training. The three tracks are
Design It, where you learn how to better construct slides to more clearly communicate with compelling graphics and just the right amount of message per slide.
Build It, the track that concentrates on learning the tools, presentation, photographic, and graphic construction, that help you craft the right presentation to support your conversation with the audience.
Present It, the art of standing in front of a room full of strangers and helping them see the benefit of your message. One of the most difficult things to do well, and certainly one of the most valuable skills to build.
Over the course of the summit, there’s more than enough to keep you busy and build your ability to present. But there are also larger group sessions, mixers and networking opportunities, vendor fairs, group excursions… it’s hard to imagine how it all gets crammed into a few days.
Who is there?
OK, I’m one of the people presenting, and I’ll talk more about me later. But I’m only a small part of a big talented crew. Professionals from all over the world, from England to Australia, from India to Silicon Valley, it’s a talented team.
But I want to spotlight a couple of folks who attend who are closer to being the Presentation Illuminati, and certainly a lot nicer. The PowerPoint MVPs.
If you don’t know what a Microsoft MVP is, you should read about it here. In short, they’re experts in a Microsoft application, chosen by Microsoft to have direct contact with the development team to provide feedback and help other users of the program. The PowerPoint MVPs are the best of the best. No brag, just fact. Google any of the names above if you need evidence of this.
So if you’re interested in finding out more, Rick Altman the father of the feast says it best on the Presentation Summit web site. There’s more information on session specifics, the presenters, and how to justify going to your boss. No kidding, it’s like he’s doing all the work for you!
A little fun
OK, a little fun now. You may have noticed that the Sessions page for the summit has little videos from most of the presenters. Mine should be up there, but I was late getting them to Rick and he’s off on some island now resting up for the run-up to the October event. So they’ll be up there eventually, but in the meantime I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at what I’m presenting at this year’s summit.
Pecha Kucha Lessons for Business at Presentation Summit 2012
I’m presenting on how business presenters can learn from Pecha Kucha presentations at this year’s Presentation Summit. This video is a short introduction for that session, which will appear on the Presentation Summit schedule page. I’ve given it a little twist of humor, which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Yes, some of the punchlines blink on a little too fast to see the first time. That’s intentional. I’m weird. Thanks for your concern.
Presenting on the iPad at Presentation Summit 2012
I’m presenting a how-to and how-not-to session on using the iPad as your primary presenting tool at this year’s Presentation Summit. This video is a short introduction for that session, which will appear on the Presentation Summit schedule page. I’ve given it a little twist of humor, which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Hint: Pay attention to the background.
This has to be quick. Sorry for any typos or errors, but I’m packing, medicating, and generally running about today and this could not wait.
I got a very nice letter from Bob Gaskins yesterday. If you don’t recognize the name, here’s a clue: He’s the guy who “invented PowerPoint”. Quotes are there because 1) there were a couple of other guys involved in the birthing process and 2) I think the product gets reinvented with every new release. However it was Bob who built the vision for the product and made it happen.
Bob’s written a new book, called Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint. He wrote it specifically to celebrate the 25th anniversary of PowerPoint. And I’m reading it right now (along with preparing for two separate conventions and five panels I’m on this weekend, I did mention running about crazily, right?). So I’ll do more of a review later, but wanted to get this out to you, dear reader, because you’re special to me.
I’m really excited about this. Bob left just before I joined the team, and notes that fact on page 14, saying
Ric Bretschneider (Wizard #77) joined just after I left, stayed with the group for 17
years (twice as long as I stayed)…
What else does it say? What’s all that Wizard 77 stuff? Well, you’ve got a chance to find out for yourself because it’s available on Amazon right now, right here: Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint
I can’t wait to see how it ends…
There are some things that are such a pleasure to do, to pass along, to endorse… it kind of feels like cheating, like “duh” this doesn’t even have to be said.
Yeah, this is one of those.
I love the Duarte group. Their talent, their staff, their ethic, their genuine passion, all so refreshing and inspiring. And when they produce something you, Joe and Jane Everyone, can hold in your hand for a couple of bucks, well that’s really cool.
And I’m going to stop right there. No further loving hyperbole. No more glowing endorsement. Just one instruction that will cost you absolutely nothing.
If you have an iPad, click here to get to the iTunes page. There it’s easy to download the free sample of a section of Resonate. Watch that. Read it. You’ll be captivated from the first match strike, from the inspired visualization of how an idea travels between people, the power of a speaker and audience connecting, and then you’ll start to learn to do it yourself.
Yeah, that was really easy.
Sunbeam Oster. It wasn’t even three years old. I know, I know, they don’t make things like they used to. But it’s just a toaster, it’s supposed to be pretty fundamentally simple. Remember the toaster in Red Dwarf? The joke was they had put all the crazy AI and voice tech in the toaster such that it drove the user crazy suggesting that “now was a great time for a piece of toast.” Well, this one just has a bunch of buttons for various preset bread types, and a dial for darkness. Nothing terribly cutting edge. (Wait a minute… bread type settings?)
Reading up on this brand I see comments about failures and people opening it up to find “scorch marks on the circuit board” and how they really didn’t think they had the components to fix the board themselves. Which lends to three questions:
1. There are people who consider trying to fix the circuit board in a $40 toaster?
2. How did we get along for decades with toasters before we had integrated circuits?
3. And why doesn’t this thing connect to our WiFi so it could have downloaded an update that might have prevented the scorching, or at least a security patch?
Feeling a little weird about disposing of the toaster too. I guess it goes on the pile of outdated or broken tech junk waiting for a tech recycling day at the local middle school. Given it has circuits it’s likely there are components that shouldn’t go into landfill. And it’s still so shiny and pretty, it feels wrong to dispose of it just yet. Maybe we can rip the guts out and make it into a planter. Isn’t that the solution for so many of these problems?
Really, I’m not doing much here. Just trying to draw your attention to someone else’s work on how Facebook’s recent bout of ill-conceived changes continue to mess with your privacy, your communications, and your ability to actually use the system without getting screwed-up.
It’s essentially the same problem. The code monkeys at Facebook have decided that they know better than you how you want to get your information, or more importantly, they’re deciding what information is important. They’re trying to prove how smart they are by writing algorithms that watch what you do, analyze words in messages, and essentially hide a shit-ton of stuff you probably would prioritize higher than they do. Any time you have someone who has doubtable social skills managing your social interaction, you are doomed.
And Facebook is no better at predicting what you want to see than any other company. Do you recall that old chestnut “My Tivo Thinks I’m Gay“? Well here we are a decade later and Facebook thinks you don’t want information from someone you just met, haven’t actually met but who really needs to get in touch with you, or haven’t spoken with for a while because they only recently decided to forgive you… the list goes on with the potential ways Facebook will or may have already f#@ked you up.
This time, it’s messages. Did you know there’s a whole bunch that Facebook pushes off into a separate area without EVER giving you a surface level indication that they’ve arrived? Yup, we can thank Slate Magazine’s Elizabeth Weingarten for sharing her experiences today in Furious at Facebook Again!
Seriously, when are these guys going to be sued for abusing their customer’s information? This is an area where we set serious and definitive precedence.
Last Friday I installed a new thermostat in the house, the first one since we moved in.
Now the prior thermostat was programmable, hourly and daily you could configure it to heat and cool as you like. It made a lot of sense at the time, but so did parachute pants. Yeah, it’s been a while. Unfortunately programmable thermostats don’t take into account when you’re gone, you have to remember to override the programming (time-consuming and bothersome) or turn the thing off (and come back to a frozen cat.) But it was better than the manual option of course.
Now a company called Nest has come out with a Learning Thermostat. One that tracks your use, and presence, and uses that information to anticipate the best settings for you at any given time. It’s also a green device, and will help you try to use less energy while staying comfortable.
I’m not going to rewrite their web page (which you can view here) but wanted to show you a little walk-through video I made to answer all my geeky friends questions. Click here to enjoy the video on YouTube.