Davidmuful's Place

Mar 24

I had to present in front of about 25 people on Thursday. It was a ten minute presentation about Feng Zikai, an influential Chinese cartoonist.

I decided that I would use Keynote, so I whipped up all the relevant slides and had it looking good. I used Futura Bold for these great looking titles.

Then when I had it all looking exactly the way I wanted I remembered that I wouldn’t be able to use Keynote on their system, so I would have to convert this document to a Powerpoint file. That was silly of me.

I figured, no big deal, I would convert it then fix all the weird stuff and that would be fine. So I output to .ppt and opened it up in Powerpoint.

Immediately it looked wrong. I had expected some weirdness, but what I hadn’t expected was that it was looking bad whilst trying to render exactly the same thing. My first assumption was that it had simply not carried over the font tweaks I had made, but on closer inspection I saw that what Keynote and Powerpoint refer to as Futura Medium look nothing alike. And it is not possible to have them looking the same, selecting Futura Medium simply has no effect. (Futura Bold looks similar across the two, but the spacing looks better on Keynote). 

As well as this, Powerpoint refuses to render the Futura apostrophe.

I do not know why. Instead it inserted a horribly mismatched apostrophe in every place that I used it. The font label was “MS” then a bunch of garbled characters. I have to assume this is some weird bug, but the best I could do was use the Gill Sans apostrophe, which still looks totally out of place, but not as much.

After this, I went to save the file on to a pen drive which I would use to transfer it to the system in the presentation room. In previous Powerpoint versions I believe there was a way to embed fonts into the file but this is not the case with Powerpoint for Mac 2011. After a frustrating hour of tweaking goddamn fonts this was extremely irritating. 

The Help Menu offered this extremely useful solution: Use Times New Roman or Arial. 

I’m having difficulty imagining that my usage scenario is an uncommon one. That is, I imagine that an extremely large number of people who are doing presentations will have to save it to some small storage medium and transfer it to a foreign computer network that is hooked up to all the projectors and sound system. Why, then, is visual continuity not a priority? Does everyone just have to put up with Arial when they are making important sales pitches or trying to scoop a new job? It is possible to save as a PDF or as images, but these do not allow for easy presentation on the other side.

Speaking of the other side, when I did eventually load up the file in the presentation room I was presented with an entirely different set of problems, after I had choked back the tears at seeing the sea of Arial on the screen in front of me, of course. The UI of whatever the hell version of Powerpoint that loaded up was completely different, and I had no idea how to run the damn slideshow. After I asked someone, and got through my un-punchy visuals with bland title slides, I took a seat so that I could be subjected to everyone else in the group giving their presentations. The next person up loaded their presentation, and lo and behold, Powerpoint now presented another equally different UI. But that’s not all. Over the course of 25 presentations, three different UIs were served on a single computer. Each had a different, obscure, placement of the play button. I noted that every presentation used Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri.

After all of this crap, we were all chatting and guess what? It turns out that apart from about five people, every single person there was a Mac user. We are all forced to buy and use a product that barely even works properly, even though there are better alternatives, because Windows and Office are the entrenched systems that the IT guys use.

It is often noted that whilst Mac sales are increasingly getting stronger, Windows still massively dominates worldwide. I wonder what the numbers are like if you just look at people under thirty. My guess is that the people who are going to make up the majority of computer sales over the next 30 years, people currently under thirty and people not yet born, are going to dramatically drive the overall traditional computer experience towards the Mac or Mac-like experiences.

Current wisdom is that traditional computer sales will fall, and devices like the iPad will become more common as most people’s main computers. Whilst I entirely agree with this, I do still think that most people will own a traditional computer of sorts for the near future. The scenario I imagine is one where a person buys a Mac or Windows machine less and less frequently, and uses it less and less as well, whilst buying a highly mobile device more frequently. People might buy an iPad every, say, two or three years and a laptop or desktop over dramatically longer periods, something like five to seven years perhaps. The traditional machine fills in the gaps of the tablet’s functionality, which are fewer and fewer with each iteration. 

After this near future passes, either something new comes along or we’re entirely using these new devices, of which the iPad will be the dominant force. An experience like the aforementioned will be much rarer because clunky old crap will just not sell.


  1. davidmuful posted this