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PDAs, PowerPoint and Projectors

See Also: PowerPoint Templates for ORM

Author: Geetesh Bajaj

Date Created: February 10th 2004
Last Updated: June 14th 2012

Note: Most of the products mentioned in this article have been discontinued.This article was first authored in 2004, and while I did update it a few times, the list of discontinued products seems to be growing. Fortunately, newer products have been launched including Impatica's ShowMate that lets you project PowerPoint presentations in wireless mode from your PDA to projector. Also, I won't be updating this page too often -- it you have any thoughts, do contact me through the feedback form...

See Also: Impatica ShowMate Review

Many people I know would love to travel without laptops--even if they have to make presentations. Imagine leaving that brick of a laptop behind--wouldn't that be bliss?

PDAs provide compelling reasons - in fact, weight in itself is no longer the only factor that tilts the scales in their favour. They are simple to use, connect easily and the newest generation of PDAs have amazing capabilities. A whole new array of software and hardware product take advantage of the PDA's presentation aptitudes--in fact, most hardware solutions include a basic bundled software application. More advanced software applications are also available--first, we'll take a look at the required presentation hardware and then move on to the software. And yes, we'll look at both PocketPC (Windows Mobile) and Palm based solutions.

PDAs don't include any output options that would allow you to attach them directly to a projector--to overcome this handicap, you can use specialized products that in effect act as cabling devices between your PDA and projector.

Margi Systems (http://www.margi.com) creates the Presenter-to-Go (US$199) series of cabling devices that connect your Palm or a PocketPC based PDA to a projector. Margi's product, which is a recipient of Presentations magazine's Standing Ovation Award includes a complete line for both the Palm and the PocketPC--these usually attach to PDAs using the CompactFlash, SD Card or Memory Stick slots on the PDA themselves. The other end of Margi's cabling devices feature a VGA out port that plug straight into a projector. Margi's offerings include an IR remote that controls the presentation along with a PowerPoint compatible software that needs to be installed on both your Windows based system and the PDA. Margi also includes a Margi printer-driver that converts output from any Windows application to a Margi compatible file--much like the Adobe PDF printer driver.

Note: As of now (May 2006), Margi has discontinued the Presenter-to-Go line.

Colorgraphic (http://www.colorgraphic.net) with its Voyager VGA CompactFlash card (US$175) based cabling device is another major player in the market. Unlike Margi, the Voyager offering works only with CompactFlash cards on your PDA--so if your PDA lacks a Compact Flash card slot, you won't be able to use this product. On the other hand, Voyager's product allows you to connect your PDA to a computer monitor and television as well apart from a projector. Voyager includes the ClearVue Suite from Westtek, a bundle of PDA applications that can show unaltered files from PowerPoint, Word and Excel (http://www.westtek.com).

I-O Data (http://www.iodata.com) creates CFXGA that is a CompactFlash type display-out interface card (US$175). This is again bundled with Westtek's ClearVue Suite and can interface to projectors, televisions and monitors. Beyond the Palm and PocketPC platforms, I-O Data's offering is unique in that it supports Sharp's Linux based Zaurus PDAs as well.

Although most of the hardware needed to interface PDAs with projectors does come with a PowerPoint viewing or converting application, there are more choices available. Microsoft abandoned PowerPoint on the handheld platform after its initial foray with Pocket PowerPoint on the Windows CE OS--Pocket PC 2002 and Mobile Windows 2003 include no updated version of Pocket PowerPoint. Unpredictably, this has left the field open for third-party developers: at last count, there were at least 10 PowerPoint viewing clones available for the PocketPC. There are several PowerPoint viewers available for the Palm as well. Most of these applications function as a converter on Windows and include an icon within the PowerPoint interface that creates PDA compatible presentations with one-click. The other part of the software resides on the PDA and controls the viewing options.

Note: Microsoft has revived PowerPoint in its Mobile Windows platform.

Most HP iPaqs include a lite version of IA Presenter--the full version (US$19.95) adds more bells and whistles including support for PowerPoint animations, transitions and sounds. The product has now been discontinued--but I mention it here because several PDAs come with the product preinstalled and that might continue for a while.

Pocket Slides from Conduit (http://www.conduits.com) allows you to drag a PowerPoint presentation to the PocketSlides icon on your desktop to effect an immediate conversion to a PDA compatible format. Once transferred to the PDA, Pocket Slides enables you to reorder the slides, add shapes and edit text. What's more--a reverse conversion process facilitates a faithful conversion back to the native PowerPoint format on your Windows based desktop. Pocket Slides costs US$39.95

If you use a Palm PDA, your best option is Quickpoint from Cutting Edge Software (http://www.cesinc.com). Quickpoint allows you zoom on a particular part of a slide and reorder the sequence. You can also print directly to an IR equipped printer but beyond that, Quickpoint is quite basic in that it does not retains any transitions, animations or sound. Quickpoint costs US$39.95

Most of these applications can be bought and immediately downloaded online--purchases can be done through a credit card.

However, even before you look at the hardware and software solutions take stock of your PDA itself to check if any presentation software is part of the software bundle. Even where hardware is concerned, Toshiba and HP create their own line of proprietary solutions that function as cabling devices.

Finally, don't leave that laptop behind just now! Do try giving a few presentations from the PDA to make sure that it works for you. Also, PDAs still cannot store sound, narrations or video clips within presentations. And you certainly cannot have a billion animation styles for your text that floats or flies into your slide from every direction with a swoosh sound--but maybe that is something I would call a blessing in disguise! 

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