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The Ellen Finkelstein Interview

In this interview, Ellen talks about PowerPoint 2007, and her new book.

Ellen Finkelstein is the author of How to Do Everything with Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 and the upcoming PowerPoint for Teachers: Dynamic Presentations and Interactive Classroom Projects.

Ellen maintains a web site that offers PowerPoint tips and a selection of free backgrounds. There, you can sign up for her monthly PowerPoint Tips Newsletter to get free tips, tutorials, and techniques.

Geetesh: Tell us a little about your other books.

Ellen: My current book is the 3rd edition of the same book, How to Do Everything with Microsoft Office PowerPoint . The 1st was on PowerPoint 2002 and the 2nd was on PowerPoint 2003. I also have a previous book, PowerPoint 2000 Professional Results." The other topic I write about is AutoCAD, a computerized drafting program. AutoCAD 2008 and AutoCAD LT 2008 Bible is in its 8th edition. I'm also co-author of Flash CS3 For Dummies and its previous editions.

Geetesh: Your new book is on PowerPoint 2007—tell us about the book and your thoughts on PowerPoint 2007.

Ellen: How to Do Everything with PowerPoint 2007 is a combination book. It covers all the features of PowerPoint 2007 thoroughly for both beginners and experienced users. It also  explains how, why, and when to use these features, so it provides a great deal of advice for creating an effective presentation. Regarding PowerPoint 2007 itself, a great fuss has been made about the new ribbon interface, but I'm more interested in features that actually help you create better presentations, and there are several:

  1. Background styles are very simple backgrounds that make any presentation look good.
  2. You can now create custom layouts, which is a great help for non-designers because once you create a good layout, you can use it again and again.
  3. SmartArt graphics are the new diagrams, but they're much improved. The best feature is the ability to quickly convert bulleted text to a diagram. This helps you to portray information more visually.
  4. Shapes (previously called AutoShapes) have pre-configured styles and many of them look great. They enable you to get a professional look without much effort.
  5. New effects, such as reflection, glow, and soft edges help you get a "Photoshop" look within PowerPoint—well almost.
  6. Gradients are much improved. You can include up to 10 colors in one gradient and control the spacing between the colors.

Geetesh: What's your favorite PowerPoint 2007 feature—and what do you miss the most in this version.

Ellen: I think the ability to convert bulleted text to a diagram is my favorite feature, because I think that people should use visuals to convey their point, rather than bullets. I miss the former Speaker Notes feature. I liked to be able to include ideas from a meeting or audience inside the presentation, while I delivered it.

Geetesh: What's the single, most important thing that presenters and presentation designers could do that will improve their presentations?

Ellen: As I mentioned before, presenters and designers should think visually, rather than textually. Images and diagrams help people both understand and remember more.

Geetesh: Can you share any trivia about an unconventional use of PowerPoint, or just anything you would like to share with Indezine readers?

Ellen: That question gives me the opportunity to mention my upcoming book, co-authored with Dr. Pavel Samsonov, PowerPoint for Teachers: Dynamic Presentations and Interactive Classroom Projects. In that book, we explain how to use PowerPoint for quizzes, games, menu-based presentations, and more. Many people are not familiar with this use of PowerPoint. I recently gave a Web seminar on how to create quizzes in PowerPoint for business users and got a great response. So the book will be useful for both the business and the educational fields. It will be out in September, 2007.