PowerPoint & Internet Explorer: A Shift In Thought?
By: Geetesh Bajaj
Last Updated: March 2nd 2009
You've created that fantastic presentation in PowerPoint 2002? Now, you just have to share it with all your folks (business or home, I'll let you decide). So, how do they view it. They either have older PowerPoint versions or that dog-eared PowerPoint 97 Viewer. The transitions don't show - the animations don't work - even your rotated pictures become straight! You rush to Microsoft's support lines. Their answer is predictable - they advise you to use Internet Explorer to distribute that presentation. Internet Explorer! That browser? And the answer comes loud, maybe a little hesitant: Err, yes - of course.
What's with PowerPoint and Internet Explorer - is it a marriage made in heaven - or a disgrace in hell. That's something we'll never know - other than the fact that this one is forever. That's quite a statement - yet it's true. Whatever happened to good old PowerPoint Viewer 97! Well, it was murdered. Murdered? Yes, this is beginning to sound like a potboiling tale of fiction. Only that it isn't so - it's as true and clear as the mineral water you just drank.
Changing times call for changing thoughts - and human beings are very adaptable. Sometimes, we just don't want to let go of convention - other times, we start doing new things so easily - almost as if we were born that way! Which of these situations is it now? Well, keep reading.....and you'll discover where you stand!
You know this PowerPoint newsgroup - sure enough it's on Microsoft's own news servers, yet they won't see what's happening under their very nose. For those of you who don't know about this hallowed group, please read my page on it:
Now, where were we! Yes, the newsgroup. You see, the PowerPoint Viewer 97, as its very name suggests was created to view presentations made with PowerPoint 97. Sometime during the year 1999, Microsoft released the new PowerPoint 2000. It was not a very major upgrade, but it did add niceties like support for animated GIFs, picture bullets, better tables, etc. Predictably, there was no PowerPoint Viewer 2000. Many of us managed with the PowerPoint 97 Viewer, since the differences between the two versions were trivial enough - and the binary format of a PowerPoint presentation remained the same. The newsgroup played an important part: many discussions were dedicated to creating PowerPoint 97 compatible PowerPoint 2000 presentations. Phew! This may sound a little confusing to newbies - I'll try to make this sound simpler.
And now we enter the controversial part. Controversy, thy middle name is .... - well, let it be for now! Somewhere in 2001, Microsoft released PowerPoint 2002. And you know something, they did a fantastic job with it. You'll find a full overview elsewhere on this site:
Just that, Microsoft being Microsoft - they forgot to add proper distribution features. Not to blame them entirely though - PowerPoint, being the standard which it is today, is installed on many machines worldwide. So, why provide a viewer. And for those less fortunate poor little things who do not have PowerPoint 2002 on their systems, Microsoft decided to dole out a bonanza - it's called Internet Explorer. Never heard about it? Maybe, you lived in Mars all you life!
So what has Internet Explorer got to do with distributing PowerPoint presentations? Here's the best part: PowerPoint 2002 directly outputs into HTML, the language standard for web pages - and the entire code is 'roundtrip' compatible. In essence, this means you can open a PowerPoint HTML presentation directly into PowerPoint, edit it and save it back into that format or the native PPT format with no loss in formatting whatsoever.
The 'Cold War' - sounds like a familiar term - just cannot remember where I heard it before. Actually, the term 'cold war' suggests a lack of communication between two sides. In this case, one side was Microsoft; the other comprised of PowerPoint users.
This was a 'Catch-22' situation: great presentations, no distribution beyond though. And in this war, either side refused to thaw. Everyone did try out the browser-as-a-viewer though - and many received acceptable results. Yet, much was lost - for instance - fidelity.
And the situation prevailed - it was like the answer to an age old question - which came first? the egg or the chicken?
When does convention end? Or does it endure? This is beginning to sound ominious, theatrical and liberating at the same time. The way you feel will decide the options you choose.
In the end, I presume it is safe and sound to state that options do exist. These options are directly related to situations: as we may deem fit to view them - from our perspective or through the eyes of someone else.
Although we may deny this, a shift in thought is unavoidable. Change happens everyday - we may spurn it once, but later we do embrace it as well.
Maybe, that change is sweeping the corridors of PowerPoint users - with this in mind, I posted a message on the PowerPoint newsgroup. If you've read this far, I'm sure you would like to hear our debates. However, that's another day, another story...
Follow the action here:
Contrary to Walt Disney, it is not a "very small, small world". It is a very large world with a diverse user base who have different skill levels and very different hardware and software installations. I'm sure this is hard to believe, but I actually know people who are still running Windows 3.1! Well, they don't get a CD from me, but they seem perfectly happy despite that. <g>
I do however deal with so many users who are not Web savvy and certainly don't understand XML or HTML. They don't even understand their PC, frankly. They adopted PowerPoint because it was supposed to be easy to use and didn't require code. Now they want to distribute their presentation to other users like themselves -even to - GASP!! - people who don't use the Internet except for e-mail.
My users and correspondents include designers, home users, and elementary school teacher's who are trying to build, e.g., student records for a permanent file with a copy to the parents. (Broad unknown audience of varied skills and system capability.) Also, many people intend to make an autorun CD a permanent archive that will always work. On the Web I could not promise this. Five years from now the Viewer on the CD will be unchanged. Yes, I know that the system will have changed too, but I think there's a better chance that the CD will still work. However, the browser on the system may have changed dramatically. Just some thoughts.
Yep, a lot of "us" know how to put something on the web or to a local disk-based Web. Some of us even know how to move that to a CD. However, that CD (which doesn't contain the viewing software) will be created and tested based on the available browsers today and installed on the target system. What happens when changes to the browser take place in the future? Also, a website is not a good archival location. We're talking about weddings, births, religious ceremonies, vacations, drawings from an 8 year-old, writings of kids of all ages, all things of value that must be saved. The list is endless. Terribly valuable to the families and participants. These need to be permanently archived and accessible.
Believe me, I am not resistant to change. I'm just trying to think of the very large and over-looked user-base and audience out there. Microsoft addresses the needs of their top corporate users who sign large lucrative contracts with them and develop business presentations for one-time-only use. I think they are really blind of the value to their millions of private individual users.
Oh, and for whoever mentioned it, there will probably be no "moles" here. Moles live under-ground and only enjoy disturbing the soil and the roots, but never show their face and certainly do nothing to enhance growth. On the other hand, we probably all realize that until the Microsoft Corp. makes a formal announcement, no employee can discuss the subject. However, I do believe that they watch and listen.
- Sonia Coleman
Sonia, you took a long time to write that - and whatever points you've raised are very important and humane.
After reading your thoughts, I believe the PowerPoint world is in 2 streams: those using PowerPoint 97 (and half of PowerPoint 2000 users) will continue convention. Facilities for them have long existed and have been fine tuned with the deliberations on this very newsgroup.
The other stream is the upcoming user generation of PowerPoint 2002 (and the other half of PowerPoint 2000 users) - what with the ability to roundtrip PowerPoint presentations between PPT and HTML formats.
And yes, you can very easily create an autorun CD with a PowerPoint HTML presentation. I've created a small solution - I'll be posting it on Indezine today. I'm sure you can fine tune it for ACDPC version 3.
- Geetesh Bajaj
Interludes In Between
I'm sure that Shyam is relishing this entire thread. <VBG> I've given up on Redmond and am looking to Bombay for an announcement. <EG>
- Sonia Coleman
Well, if Shyam's creating a new viewer - then that's great news - no wonder he's not participating on this thread. Anyway, Bombay became Mumbai years ago!
- Geetesh Bajaj
I didn't say that he was doing that, did I? I believe that he is very capable of the task, however.
Shyam still claims to live in Bombay and that's what my Atlas (unfortunately ten years old) shows and what the Net says "half" the time. I have relied upon him to tell me where he lives. <VBG> I do see that Mumbai is now the favored name, but perhaps not by Shyam or his family. I certainly don't know. I try to recognize the terms and city names that my friends prefer. <VBG>
- Sonia Coleman
I know changed names can be such a problem - in the last decade, three of our four largest cities have been renamed. Bombay became Mumbai, Madras is now Chennai and Calcutta is called Kolkata.
- Geetesh Bajaj
Having been gone all morning, I have just had the unique experience of reading this entire batch of postings and finding myself agreeing with almost all of them. I would love it if Someone wrote it up as a group article, I can think of several places on-line that would post it (Not the least of which is each of our sites). Having said that, I want to add my two cents...
I come to the PowerPoint world as a trainer, both of PowerPoint and of other subjects using PowerPoint presentations. When I am going to a training site, I can not dictate which browser is installed. However, I can ask "Do you have PowerPoint on the machine or do I need to bring a copy of the viewer?" and get a reasonable answer.
Once I am at the client site, using PowerPoint I can make changes based on client need quickly and generically using PowerPoint, test it in the same tool, and resave the presentation in an instant. If I have to depend on running the presentation on a browser I need to save as HTML and test it with another application. In addition, I need to regenerate the HTML for even the slightest change, as the HTML generated by Microsoft's tools is graphics based and not always able to handle the tricks used by the average trainer. This adds extra work that my clients (quite bluntly) don't want to pay for.
Being a Netscape user and an IE user, I can attest that the HTMl from the same base presentation being run in the two browsers can look totally different. At most corporations, the browser choice is dicated from above and not able to be changed. While I can load a copy of the viewer from the CD to memory without installing it, I can not do that with any browser I know of. This means getting IT involved in a training session, delaying the students learning.
One other point: Running a presentation during a class using PowerPoint or the viewer is an intuitive action. The trainer or presenter does not need to think about which buttons, etc., to push, because the presentation is being run in the tool used to create the presentation. Changing this to a browser based presentation requires that the trainer or presenter to become intimately familiar with not just a second tool, but also a full markup language for troubleshooting. Being as my computer skills put me definitely in the minority among trainers (even to this day), I can tell you that most non-technical trainers and professors don't want to learn more about the computer than they absolutely have to. There are enough pieces of the world to keep up with - they get touchy when you push more technology at them.
I would love to start encouraging trainers to use browsers as a mechanism for presenting their PowerPoint created materials - It would give me plenty of business for my train the trainer sessions. However, I don't think any browser is to that point as yet.
- Kathryn Jacobs
Interludes In Between
Kathy, thank you for sharing your observations.
I think we've achieved so much on this thread - we've set the minds of so many of us in a quantum shift. That's already against convention!
- Geetesh Bajaj
Geetesh, which thread were you talking about archiving in your earlier post? If it wasn't this one, can I suggest that you do this one also?
- Steve Rindsberg
I think it was Kathy and TAJ who suggested the archiving first - I just popped in!
Actually, it's already done - I've just posted a while ago for any objections to use everybody's thoughts. If no one objects, hope to see it soon at Indezine - and I'll be glad to allow the compilation to be mirrored if anyone's interested?
- Geetesh Bajaj