Using S5, a PowerPoint Alternative

23:09 Thu 25 Jan 2007
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I’m not a fan of proprietary software, and I’m trying to make sure I don’t start using any more of it. In addition, I don’t like most Microsoft products, and PowerPoint is really low on my list. On the other hand, I need something with which to make presentations for work. Enter S5, Eric Meyer’s XHTML/CSS/JavaScript presentation tool.

I’d investigated it before, and spent the time to build a theme that would work for Nimblefish, but didn’t have a chance to use it until today.

The HTML is quite easy to edit, even if you don’t know much about HTML. A typical slide looks like this:

<div class="slide">
    <h1>What Is S5?</h1>
        <li>One XHTML document provides all of the slide show’s content</li>
        <li>CSS handles the layout and look of the slides</li>
        <li>JavaScript handles the dynamic aspects of the show</li>
        <li>That’s all there is to it!</li>

Changing the content is rather easy. And creating a new slide simply requires copying the above, pasting it in after the previous slide, and editing the new slide’s content.

Because it’s all CSS and XHTML, and because it’s designed to easily support themes, it was fairly easy for me to make the adjustments required for a Nimblefish style. After that, it took me about twenty minutes to turn text notes into a nine-slide presentation—time that includes quite a lot of writing and rewriting of content. The only obvious glitch was when I put too many bullet points on one slide, and they simply went off the edge without any way to scroll to them. That’s really not a terribly big problem, however.

It’s instructive that the first thing anyone asked when I started the presentation was “where did you get that PowerPoint theme?”—in other words, it looks similar enough to a typical PowerPoint presentation that most people won’t notice that it isn’t one.

Definitely worth a look if you need to create presentation slides and prefer a standards-based, text-based open format that’s easy to tinker with.

What would really be amazing, though, is a cross between S5 and TiddlyWiki, so that slides could be edited in-place… I’m tempted to look into how hard that would be to accomplish.

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