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.
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…