For Trembling Hands (Office 12 Coolness, Part 2)

Last week
I started a new series of some of my favorite new features in Office 12. 
If you’re curious what criteria I’m using to select them,
read Part 1.

Today’s episode: You’re standing up on stage in front of a thousand people who
have come to watch you talk.  The house dims, and the bright glare of stage
lighting burns down on you.  Nervous, with sweaty palms and shaking hands,
you prepare to start your presentation.  What will the audience think of
you?  Will they like what you have to say?  Have you prepared enough? 
Did you expect a larger audience?  Smaller?  Oh geez, I hope the demos

Many of us have been there… up on stage, getting ready to present a PowerPoint
deck.  Or maybe in an important meeting with clients or potential
of your big idea.  You’re probably presenting on a laptop with a TrackPoint
or a TrackPad.  These mouse substitutes are hard enough to use with great
precision in general; when nervous, they can be almost impossible to use.

All of these thoughts are going through your head, your hands are shaking, it’s
tough enough to use a TrackPad anyway… and PowerPoint makes you click a tiny
12×12 button in the lower-left hand corner of the screen to start the

This is one of the only buttons in Office people regularly use under high
stress, and it’s arguably the smallest, hardest to click button on the screen.

The Start Slide Show icon is so small that it can be tricky to click…

How many times have I watched nervous people fumble to hit the Start Slide Show
button?  I know I’ve done it myself many times.  When I’m on the spot
and people are waiting on me, I want the software to make me look good–not add
to my stress by starting me out on the wrong foot.

So, the simple Office 12 feature is this: the Ribbon in PowerPoint contains
large, easy to click buttons that make it easy to start your slide show from the
beginning or from a slide in the middle of the deck.  Each of the buttons
is thousands of pixels in size, easy to hit even with imprecise pointers, such as a TrackPoint or a
Tablet PC stylus.

An easy-to-click way to start your presentation (Click to view full picture)

This might seem like a small detail, and compared to many hundreds of other
improvements in Office 12, it is.  And it is true that, if you know about
them, there are other ways to start a slide show in Office 2003: press F5, or drop down the
Slide Show menu.  But small things do make a difference, and if we help
people have a higher level of confidence when starting a slide show, that’s well
worth the effort.

I think this is a good illustration of how the freedom of layout and size
options provided by the Ribbon help us communicate what’s important in a
program.  The right features can be made large and prominent, and others
can be made smaller to take up less space.

I know I’ll appreciate this the next time I’m up on stage, hot lights bearing
down on my composure…

Comments (21)

  1. ChrisC says:

    I was *so* happy to see the "show presentation on" dropdown when I followed you link above.

    I’ve never prepared and done 1 power point… in 1997; but because many people know I’m a programmer I’ve been dragged up to the front to try to fix (while everyone is watching me) other people’s slide shows many times.

    Not being able to get it to show on the LCD projector is the #1 thing I’m asked to fix.

  2. Sherrod Segraves says:

    What is that icon, anyway?

    Is it supposed to be a portable screen on a stand? For the longest time, I stared at it and all I could see was a toilet tank.

  3. Paul Morriss says:

    I know about F5, but the trouble is it starts at the beginning, which isn’t always what you want. Great feature.

  4. Joe says:

    Excellent – The bigger screenshot also shows such goodness as presentation resolution and record narration. Cool.

    Probably about 1/2 the people I’ve observed using PPT don’t even know what those little icons do – they always use the Slideshow menu.

    I have another Office question though that i’m going to sneak in here (about Excel). Has the Conditional Formatting feature been revamped in Excel 12? It is an awesome feature, but is currently crippled by a useless restriction of 3 limits, a very strange way to delete conditions (a popup with 3 checkboxes? what the hell?), and a confusing, or at the least very non-intuitive, way to enter formula conditions.

  5. Jordan says:


    Check out the Excel 12 Blog

    It has a bunch of posts about the changes to Conditinal Formatting. Look in the "Post Categories" on the right hand side.

  6. Kim Siever says:

    Not to mention those whose hands tremple all the time.

  7. Paul,

    SHIFT + f5 starts a slideshow at the current slide.


  8. Abigail says:

    Andy: Really?! That’s awesome! I use PowerPoint more than you’d believe for an Access dev and consider it a failure if I have to use the mouse to run or move through a presentation, but I didn’t know about that handy feature. Just goes to show that you can always learn somethng new.

  9. Dan McCarty says:

    I’ve always used F5 or View…Slidesho&w anyway. There’s no sense in trying to hit a 16×16 icon, especially on a laptop’s trackpad or thumb pointer. As another poster mentioned, though, doing it that way always starts the slideshow from the beginning.

    FYI: Shift + F5 isn’t a valid keyboard shortcut for Office 2000 and earlier users…

  10. PatriotB says:

    Of course, you *do* have to be on the Slide Show ribbon in order to see those buttons… so it’s 2 clicks or 12×12, pick your poision 🙂

  11. Derek Becker says:

    Sherrod: "What is that icon, anyway?"

    Classic! I too have pondered that that same question for ages 🙂

  12. GB says:

    In slideshow mode, press ‘?’ and see other cool keyboard tricks to do while running the slideshow. My favorite is being able to jump anywhere in the slidedeck by slide #. Just type the number and hit <enter>.

  13. Guess Who says:

    I too use the F5 and other shortcuts, and it always amazes me at how many people don’t even know about F5. I am in eighth grade, and I have been promoted to soundboard runner in my sunday school class, just because I know all the shortcuts (Just a little sad).

  14. Calum says:

    Serves you right if you’ve waited until everyone’s seated and glaring at you before you fire up your presentation! First slide with title should be up and running before people even start arriving, so they know they’ve come to the right place…

  15. Jeff Fisher says:

    A great post! Reminds me of the time 10 years ago when I had to use an obsolete chartware peice of junk from another company to present to 2300 people. The POJ had a file bug that was common; fortunately we knew how to use a binary editor to chop off the last slide and make the pitch work. I’m glad the days of that thing are gone 🙂

    Nevertheless, I like big audiences and getting the message across (and I still test the pitch on whatever PC I’m going to show it on before I do it – just to make sure)!

    Truly a great series! Keep up the great work Jensen!