Sunday, July 22, 2012

How to make better LaTeX/Beamer slides. Part 2.

In part 1, I talked about how using no Beamer themes and creating atomic slides are  better ways to create better visuals. Now I would like to talk about a particular case of transition between slides that look the same but  make a comparison. Take a look at this three slides:

I have also applied a certain continuity to show a comparison. The problem here is that the continuity

weakens the comparison's contrast.  Up to a certain degree amplifying the contrast makes the comparison clearer, hyperbole is also unwanted and unprofessional. In this case clear signalization of  the different experiment and the change of parameters (plus getting rid of the noise) would be enough.

It is also worth think about if all the same data has to be compared or if only a selected subset makes the point. Remember that too much information has a toll on the working memory. If too much information is presented your audience most likely be overwhelmed processing it. Leave the full comparison for a later article or thesis, where the reading can consult the detail as much as it is necessary.

To present the right amount of data and content is to show professionalism. This professionalism has to be hold up the last slide: start strong, finish stronger. So avoid being cute and being funny. 

 When I see this, I feel embarrassed myself.  The thank is fine, just don't put it at the end of your talk, but at the beginning. Salute your audience, thank them for coming to see you. This is my alternative to the closing slide.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to make better LaTeX/Beamer slides. Part 1.

I still hate Beamer. But that won't stop people from using it to give the worse-than-powerpoint scientific talks. Instead, I give a concrete example on how to improve an existing stack.
Two weeks ago a good friend gave a presentation on the status of this research in applied math, and obviously he used LaTeX's s Beamer package. His use of Beamer is rather decent but I think it can be pushed  a nudge further. Here is how.

The fundamental problem of Beamer is that it forces the user to use templates.

The problem with most Beamer templates is that their have so much noise, that the message is generally lost in the midst of that noise. Here is the list of irrelevant things  in this slide:
  • A "progress bar" on the top right. 
  • The affiliation's logo on the bottom left.
  • A date, the name of of speaker, the name of the presentation and the slide name on the bottom.
Neither does your audience need that nor does it care about it! So get rid of it.

The message of this slide is clear. This is my favorite slide. My friend says I'm a minimalist, but in fact it  I'm not. I like atomic slides: One slide, one idea. This slide is an example of an atomic slide.  If you take all that slide-junk away, you are left with this.

As much as I think Beamer is a really bad tool, I understand that people use it to display their math in a high quality way. The problem is the way people use it. And one of those problems is that poeple create none atom slides. Here is what I mean.

This slide shows research results, but what is the most relevant one? Where should the audience focus? There are a lot of things happening here, 3 to be exact.  No atom slide, sniff.

The first one is the experiment's parameters, which comes on the top because logically, because without naming the parameters the results make no sense. However the top is strongest part of the page. Parameters are important, but not the focus, some they can (and should ) be put on the bottom. However this doesn't make the slide atomic. I would do it like this.

Why black? Because I want the audience's attention, and by dramatic contrast I get it.

The second and third are the results. Judging for the placement of the table and the graph, they seem to be the focus. Only this part has a lot of noise. First, all the graph needs is an axis, not a box. This is chat-junk. Second, the text on the chat isn't readable for the audience. Make it readable, otherwise drop them.

I praise the author for the slick table. That's minimalism! There is however one thing that can be improve. Your audience doesn't need all of those significant digit. In this case, one will do it. My version. I removed all but one additional line in the chat. This serves as a reference point of the residuum.

You know what's coming.

Beautiful. Quiet. I love the fact that just by removing the unwanted and breaking slides to the atomic level, the message becomes clearer. All of this using Beamer…

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Quick tutorial: Getting more typograhical options in Keynote

Before I wrote the last post about Keyboard shortcuts, I dig into the  ⌘+T that opens the font window:
If you click on the tools (gear) drop-down on the bottom left, you will find the Typography dialog, which opens a whole new set of typographical options. The specific options depend on the typeface. Some like Roboto have just a few, and some like Adobe Hypatia have many.

Here is a concrete use of this dialog. Last week I was doing some slides using Roboto and  noticed how ugly the fi ligature was. I was thinking about write the f and the i separately and join them by hand, which is a dangerous and time consuming job. But after I discovered the Typography dialog, it was just click-easy:

Here is another possibility, this time using the Ubuntu font.  Using this font the spaces between numbers can either we set to constant or proportional. So, if you are constraint by horizontal space, this might be something you want to try:
One last thing, the differences of options between typefaces suggests that the results are not the product of algorithms, instead they seem to have be created by a graphic designer. This guarantees unity in results.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

20+ useful Keynote keyboard shortcuts

Finally, last night out of frustration I googled Keynote's keyboard shortcuts. Wow, why did I do this before?  Knowing these shortcuts will help me be more efficient, and it also might help you. Note that I skipped the obvious and not included paste, smaller and out. If copy is c, paste is v. If bigger is +, smaller is −. If in is >, out is <.

This is a small subset of all the Keynote's shortcuts, and it is mainly for slide editing. One piece of advice, learn two or three shortcuts, practice them, and when you have automated them, then learn one or two more, practice them, and…