I just tried out a cute little add-in utility for PowerPoint called MagPointer. It gives presenters some convenient ways to interactively highlight information on PowerPoint slides during a slideshow presentation. If your web conferencing software relies on screen sharing to display slides to attendees, it might be worth a look.
In a nutshell, MagPointer adds point-and-click icons on the right margin of your presentation when you put PowerPoint into slideshow mode. You can click the icons while a slide is displayed to highlight various pieces of content by framing them with a border line, dimming the rest of the slide around them, or magnifying them.
The best way to visualize how it works is by watching the short video demo that MagPointer has on its website at http://www.magpointer.com/features.html
Nobody is going to claim that this is groundbreaking functionality. Drawing boxes on the screen is a common feature in web conferencing software and magnifier utilities have been around for a long time. I will say that I really liked the ability to dim the slide except for the designated area. That is new to me and it is more effective than drawing a highlighter color over your content.
It's also nice that MagPointer attempts to interpret the individual content pieces on your slide. If you have lines of text or bullet points, you can highlight them in a single click-select action, rather than having to draw your own freehand region around them. You can click a graphic item and automatically magnify it. And if you work with tables, you will like the easy ability to highlight a row, column, or cell with a single click.
On my wide-screen monitor, I found that running a slideshow in 4:3 aspect ratio left nice black borders on the sides of my slides, and the MagPointer controls fit nicely in the right black border. But with my slides set to widescreen aspect ratio so they filled the screen, the MagPointer controls are necessarily overlaid on the slide itself. This will be annoying if you fill your slide with content all the way to the right margin.
There are a few quirks (or at least a learning curve) to smooth operation of MagPointer. Although a user guide is provided, we all know that nobody ever reads those. So here are a few tips:
- There are hidden configuration parameters that can be accessed through the taskbar control icon or with a right-click on a slide. These let you adjust the amount of slide dimming, shape of borders, etc.
- Frame and highlight icons have a toggle setting that lets you choose between allowing multiple highlights on a slide or having each highlight replace the previous one. I don't like their user interface design… The picture on the icon does not show you which mode you are in, but shows you what mode you would change it to if you clicked on it.
- The default operation for graphic elements on a slide is to magnify them. If you want to highlight them instead, you have to be careful to freehand draw an area larger than the borders of your graphic. Otherwise you'll find yourself accidentally magnifying your image.
- No surprise, but if you place low resolution images on your slide, they get very fuzzy when magnified! So if you plan to use this feature, make sure to start with high resolution graphics and scale them down to fit.
- MagPointer includes icons for Next Slide and Previous Slide, which seem redundant to the right-click and keyboard commands already available in PowerPoint. I would rather eliminate these from the control panel to simplify the display and make choice selection easier.
- Since you are screen sharing, the audience sees the controls and they see you moving your mouse on and off the slide. This could be distracting if you overuse it throughout your entire presentation. As with any highlighting aid, use the functionality sparingly as an accent, not as a crutch for presenting every word and picture. [UPDATE: Yossi Pinkas at MagPointer points out that you can activate many of the functions with direct mouse clicks on the slide objects, which avoids the back and forth to the right margin. But you can't get rid of the icons display.]
If you want to play with MagPointer yourself, the website gives you a fully-functional 30-day trial. A full perpetual use license is USD $19.95 for a single person, single computer.