An Interview with Sonia Coleman
Interviewed By: Geetesh Bajaj
Date Created: March 15th 2004
Last Updated: March 5th 2009
Sonia Coleman is the owner of SoniaColeman.com,
an amazing site that's got tons of PowerPoint content. Sonia is among
the most active PowerPoint MVPs (Most Valuable Professional) - you
can often find her in the PowerPoint newsgroups answering questions
and resolving problems.
Sonia also creates PowerPoint add-ins that simplify the task of creating autorun CDs. In addition, she is an artist who does photography, sewing and needlearts, collage and stamping, a bit of painting, etc. She also works onfreelance projects for clients. Learn more about Sonia at her site:
Geetesh: Tell us more about how you got into developing these amazing add-ins for PowerPoint.
Sonia: Soon after retiring from a 26 year career in computer application development, I made a trip to Thailand in late 1999. I returned with hundreds of wonderful photographs of the country and the people. I wanted to share them with family and friends, so I created a PowerPoint presentation. However, then I needed a means of distributing the presentation to a wide range of people. It had to run on all versions of Windows. It couldnt depend on the user having PowerPoint on their system, and basically it just had to be totally automated, only requiring that the user put it in their CD drive. I stumbled into the PowerPoint newsgroup and asked for help. The great people there were very patient and taught me how to create an autorun CD.
Having been successful, I realized that others might want to do the same, so I wrote a tutorial to teach the process and put it on my website. Steve Hetrick, a talented coder, saw it and contacted me with the idea of automating it. Working together we released our first version of Autorun CD Project Creator (ACDPC) a couple of month later. However, user support became pretty taxing and there were improvements that were needed, so we invested a lot of time in enhancing the software and the documentation and released version 2.0 with a modest purchase price. We released a Pro version soon after that, and last year we replaced ACDPC with PowerLink Plus which is our version of the packaging function that is new in PowerPoint 2003. If you use PowerPoint 2003 you dont need PowerLink Plus.
Geetesh: Your site is such a vast resource of PowerPoint information - tell us more about how the site evolved.
Sonia: My website began simply as a place where I could document and share what I had learned about digital art. However, after becoming involved with PowerPoint, the focus shifted. As time passed I started writing tutorials to share what I had learned. I tend to add to the site as a pattern of new user questions develops. When I began, people were just beginning to migrate from PowerPoint 97 to PowerPoint 2000. Since then PowerPoint 2002 was released and now users are beginning to move to PowerPoint 2003. However, my site still features a large gallery of some of the artwork created by my nephew and me.
Geetesh: How has Microsoft's MVP program helped you.
Sonia: Ive met a lot of great people in the program and at Microsoft, of course. Its great to be part of a network of extremely knowledgeable and helpful folks. I tend to learn from others and having access to such a wealth of talent means that I am constantly learning.
Geetesh: How good is the interaction you have with Microsoft? How does it make a difference to you and the PowerPoint team?
Sonia: Our interaction is now excellent. It wasnt always that way, but Microsoft has really demonstrated how much they value the MVPs and what we have to say. In the case of PowerPoint they listen to us and they share with us on a regularly scheduled basis, and they are always available whenever issues or problems crop up.
Geetesh: How do you typically use PowerPoint?
Sonia: I primarily use it for testing and for some private contracting that I do. I always seem to be testing our own products or new products being developed by Microsoft and others.
Geetesh: You do a lot of freelance PowerPoint projects - what type of work is involved?
Sonia: Right now I only have one client for whom I do private contracting. I design market analysis slides for the client, a very large technology company. The slide designs, which primarily contain charts and tables, are then handed off to coders who incorporate them into an application that pulls data from their vast database and churns out PowerPoint presentations. Corporate users can then pick and choose from a vast menu of options offered by their online system, and within seconds a presentation file is delivered to them via email anywhere in the world. My job is to ensure that every slide produced by the system adheres to corporate branding and to the strict slide layout specifications we have developed. A single slide design can be used by the system to produce a thousand slides in a year and depending on the options selected, the data can be different on each of them. Its a very efficient use of PowerPoint.
Geetesh: What do you think about the current controversy that blames PowerPoint for everything from space shuttle disasters to failed meetings?
Sonia: Hogwash! Its a bit like a farmer blaming the plow for a bad crop. PowerPoint is a tool for presenting content. If the content is inaccurate or incomplete, or its presented badly, you certainly cant blame the tool. The time and energy used to blame PowerPoint should be used to teach and promote good presentation techniques.