pptXTREME Import/Export and Edit
Reviewed: Geetesh Bajaj
Last Updated: February 26th 2009
pptXTREME Import-Export has 4 main functions although the actual toolbar it places within the PowerPoint interface contains six icons - the two extra icons are related to program registration and help. The help interface is excellent - every detail is provided using a book metaphor - all functions have dedicated pages containing images, animation and text content.
The first icon on the Import-Export toolbar is called Set Background to Picture. Conventionally, if you want to use a picture as a background in a PowerPoint slide or master, you'll have to take a long drawn route that traverses through several menus and dialog boxes. Even after that, you'll find that PowerPoint does not remember the folder where your last background image was - leading to a torturous navigation journey through Windows' navigation boxes again and again. PowerTools makes this function easier - you just click a button - to be presented instantly with your last used folder - just choose your picture - and you're done. Not only that - the add-in remembers your last folder even after you restart PowerPoint - on a presentation basis - this means that the 'last used path' is saved with the presentation, so your default 'load from folder' changes with each presentation. There are more tricks - you can right click the background within PowerPoint to be presented two extra options in the flyout menu - 'BKG Picture' and 'Update Background'. While choosing BKG Picture takes you immediately to the same folder from where the background originated, the Update Background option automatically updates the slide background in case the original image file was changed. As Keith says, it is like "essentially giving you embedded pictures with the convenience of linking them!" All put together, the Set Background Picture function alone provides you more options than entire add-in programs - this is a simple function that is very well implemented.
Import Pictures allows you to insert multiple pictures at one go. Normally, PowerPoint allows you to only insert one picture at a time - the 'Import Pictures' tool on the other hand allows you to insert several pictures contained within a single folder at one go. Usual Windows procedures including Shift and Control clicking to select multiple items is supported with this tool - as with the 'Set Background..' tool, Import Pictures remembers the last folder used.
Import Pictures to Multiple Slides is a real time saver - you can import any number of pictures into existing or new slides. For instance, you can create a 100++ slide show in a matter of seconds - a large dialog box allows you to import your pictures - thereafter, you can move them up and down the slide order. You can also choose to import them as backgrounds or inserted pictures - as also choose stretched or proportional sizing. You can import eight graphic formats including JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, PCD, PCX, TIF and PCT.
Export slides does just the opposite - exporting entire presentations or selected slides to a range of six graphic formats including JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, WMF and TIF. You can export to standard Windows sizes like 640 x 480, 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768, choose PowerPoint's own default export size of 720 x 512 - or even choose your own custom size.
pptXTREME Edit installs itself into the PowerPoint with its own toolbar comprising thirteen icons - the last two icons represent registration and help - the remaining eleven comprise actual functions.
When you select anything - clipart, an autoshape, text box, placeholder or an image and click on the first button on the toolbar (called Fullscreen), the selection is enlarged to fullscreen size. This can be very useful for many of us who like to resize so many elements in our presentations - what is not as apparent is the fact that you can select an oversized image you've inserted - and then click on the FullScreen icon to size the image to more manageable proportions.
The next icon is called Black And White Mode Editor- you can select any or all of your slides and click on this icon - the resultant dialog box allows you to convert several elements including background, text box, autoshapes, charts, picture, freeform, group, line, text effect, media and table to black and white mode. That's not all - you are given a choice of no less than 11 black and white mode settings like automatic, grayscale (regular, light and inverse), black (with white or grayscale fills), high-contrast, pure black or white and more.
The next 4 icons basically extend the element of styles to PowerPoint - comprising an exhaustive Size, Position and Format Painter interface. The icons work in sets of two - while the first 2 icons pick up and apply just size and position of elements, the other 2 icons pick up the format attributes as well. The entire series of functions is very easy to implement in practice - and you might find yourself using this part of the add-in very frequently - that's why I really wish there had been a way to save styles to use across presentations - or even port saved styles to another system altogether.
Keith adds: "If you are faced with cleaning up the work of others (non PowerPoint professionals) you will find this tool invaluable. Automatically set the size and format of headers, sub headers, etc... No more trial and error to get elements to match from slide-to-slide."
The next three icons comprise Animation Click Savers. If you find yourself opening the Custom Animation boxes often to add or delete animations, these set of functions could be indispensable. For instance, if you want to animate an element automatically after the previous event, you'll click on the first of these icons - the second icon bestows the same properties on any element to a mouse-click trigger rather than automatic trigger. The last of these icons deletes any animation properties of a selected element. If only we could actually save our entire animation settings and re-apply them as required - fortunately, that's precisely what the next two icons do.
The Animation painter comprises these last two icons - they work in the same way as Size and Position painter - but they apply animation styles rather than size and position. Keith adds: " Imagine you never have to recreate the animations for grouped objects again. Just pick-up the animation, then ungroup and edit as needed - regroup and apply the animation settings back onto the object! Every PowerPoint user goes through that horrid sequence many times a day."
Now that you've taken a look at Keith's add-ins and how they can help you avoid repetitive tasks in PowerPoint, here's a small interview with him.
Geetesh: Tell us how you got into the add-in bandwagon - what prompted or inspired you?
Keith: I produce meetings and presentations for my primary living. I started writing macros for myself, and within a year I realized I had to take some time to package and sell all these tools that I have created for myself. It took me a while, but I finally got to it.
Geetesh: I personally love the interface of your add-ins - what made you imagine that a great interface is as important as a great product?
Keith: I appreciate that comment very much. I guess years of frustration with poor interfaces from other companies. I don't want to think that people are saying "what a moron" to themselves as I have done many times in the past. I also like to think that the fact that I am a user helps design interface 'for the user.'
Both the Import-Export and Edit add-ins are priced individually at US$ 49.95 - ordering is through a third-party secure server. When your transaction is through, you'll be sent a registration code that will convert your unregistered installation into a full registered one. A wide variety of credit cards and currencies are accepted - you can also choose to place your order through fax.
I communicated with Keith about support options - here's his answer:
Keith: As far as pptXTREME support (is concerned), I will e-mail responses to questions a quickly as I can. I like to think I have solved every problem that a user has asked.
Now's the time for a verdict - it's not easy to judge both Import-Export and Edit, partly because they are both so well executed. There are so many hidden features and capabilities - and uses can be varied and extensive. Take the instance of the 'Import Pictures to Multiple Slides' option - part of the Import-Export add-in - the first time I used this module - I was surprised that so much depth was available in its execution - I myself have seen at least three complete add-ins in the past that are based on this concept alone.
On the other hand, pptXTREME add-ins are priced around one-and-a-half to two times the cost of conventional PowerPoint add-ins.
So, if you can actually use all the features - for which there is no reason not to - there's no doubt that both these pptXTREME add-ins are excellent value for money. Having said that, they have the best interfaces of any add-ins I have seen.