Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tech talk: 3 Applications to help you boost your slides

Slideware doesn't always offer the right features to visualize presentations. In this post I present  Gimp, Inkscape, and Blender, 3 free multi-platform applications to take your visuals to the next level.  

Slideware offers limited features to create that diagram that you want, or to manipulate that image in the way you want.  But you don't have to settle for that ugly looking diagram or unwanted photo effect, let the multi-platform Open Source Software help you. Maybe you have heard about The GIMP, which is a similar application to Adobe Photoshop. If you haven't, take a look here.  Gimp is free and runs in Windows, Linux, and Mac ... and it is powerful. It is so powerful that it can be intimidating. From all of the free resource to learn how to use it, or to bring it to the next level I recommend these two sites:
  • Meet the GIMP is an excellent blog on GIMP with tutorials and articles.
If you know what a vector graphic is you can skip to the next section. If you don't,  take a look  a the image below.
Comparison between bitmap and vector-based images. Image from Wikipedia.

The image on the left has been pixelated. It has happened to all of us trying to make an image bigger or trying to zoom-in. This is characteristic of  bitmap images like photograph in jpeg format. A tip to avoid using pixelated images in your presentation is to use images as large or larger than your presentation canvas. The image on the right is a scalable vector graphic (svg), and as it exemplifies , these images scale - increase their size - with no distortion; zooming-in isn't a problem either. When creating a diagram you need a program that handles vector graphics. Luckily there as fine free application for doing this.

Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor. Click here to see what Inkscape can do. To get started with it download it and follow the tutorials. If you want to learn more this site:
Finally, if the stakes of your presentation are indeed high you might consider going for some 3-D rendering. A friend did this is college to illustrate the process of fabricating a semiconductor. It was neat, though simple: just some cubes with basic colors and straight forward animation. If you are going for 3D  be aware its craft and technology can have a very steep learning curve. Blender is a free open source 3D content creation suite with a very large community eager to help the rookie.
So there you you have it: 3 multi-platform open source application to bring your creativity to your presentation's visuals.

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