Creating Slide Presentations Using InDesign and Acrobat

One thing that always surprises me when I sit in an Adobe conference room or attend a conference session led by an Adobe employee is watching a Powerpoint presentation on an LCD. I know that creating presentations is handy in PowerPoint, but after preparing presentations in layout programs and converting to PDF for more that 15 years, I find that I can whiz through the creation stage about as fast using InDesign and Acrobat as I can using PowerPoint.

I enjoy much more creative freedom using Adobe InDesign than I have using PowerPoint. With features in InDesign such as Table and Object Styles, my creation steps are reduced to a fraction of the time I once spent assembling a presentation. Furthermore, with a little refinement of some tips offered by Dallas based designer Bryan Tamayo in his article Thinking Outside the Page and reported here on Acrobat Users, I can add a little more design freedom to my slide presentations.

Take Figure 1 as an example. I find that adding icons and page numbers off the document page provide me a little more real estate for adding bullet points on the document pages.

Figure 1

Let’s take a look at the circle on the lower right side of Figure 1. To create a similar design, I start on a Master Page in Adobe InDesign. The circle is off the page and the page number is reported inside the circle. When you place objects off the page, you need to have the center-point of the object within the page boundary. To get the circle to appear off the page, we need to finesse it a little.

Draw an object in InDesign or import an object from Adobe Illustrator on to a Master Page in Adobe InDesign. For the circle in Figure 1 I add a little stroke (just a 0-point stroke with about a 1-point length) offset to the left. All you need is a dot offset from the object. When I select the objects you something similar to the selection shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

With both objects selected I choose Object > Group. When the objects are grouped the bounding box changes to what you see in Figure 3. You can see that the center-point has now changed for the circle object and when I place the graphic off the page, I can keep the center-point within the page boundary (this is essential) while the circle is completely moved off the page.

Figure 3

My next step is to add a page number to the center of the circle. I draw a text box and right align (Command/Ctrl + Shift + R) my text. I can choose my font colors and styles from the Type menu to format the font. After formatting the font, I choose Type > Insert Special Character > Markers > Current Page Number or press Option/Alt + Shift + Command/Ctrl+N to set the text to an auto page number.

Next, move the page number to the position you want to appear on the object. Select both objects as you see in Figure 4.

Figure 4

With the objects selected, again visit the Object menu and choose Group. The bounding box and page position are shown in Figure 5. Notice that the center-point falls well within the page boundary.

Figure 5

The last step to finish off this graphic is to convert the object (now grouped as a single object) to a button and set the button action. With the object selected, choose Object > Interactive > Convert to Button.

The Button Options dialog box opens. Click the Behaviors tab and choose a Behavior from the drop down menu. For my button I want to use the button action to open the next page in my slide presentation. Therefore I choose Go To Next Page.

As a last step, click the Add button so the behavior appears in the left pane as you see in Figure 6. Then click OK.

Figure 6

If you want to change the button action to an action type that doesn’t appear in InDesign, you can do so by double clicking the button with the Select Object tool in Acrobat and click the Actions tab when the Button Properties dialog box opens. In the Actions tab you can assign any action Acrobat provides you by making selections from the Select Action drop down menu.

When you convert to PDF from InDesign, make sure you check the box for Interactive Elements in the Options area of the Export Adobe PDF dialog box (shown in Figure 7) you get when you choose File > Export.

Figure 7

Some other advantages you have in using InDesign as your original authoring program for slide presentations include converting to Adobe PDF Layers, using Table and Object styles to facilitate your design creations, and using the marvelous style sheets that only InDesign provides. Once in Acrobat you can import video and sound, add page transitions, link to other PDFs and external application documents, and of course all the other functions and features Acrobat provides you.

In regard to Adobe PDF Layers, if you happen to create multi-lingual documents you can add all graphics to a background layer in InDesign and add layers for different language versions. When you convert to PDF with the Create Acrobat Layers checkbox enabled in the Export Adobe PDF dialog box, your InDesign layers are viewed as separate layers in Acrobat/Reader. When making presentations in a different language you can toggle the layer view to the language you’re addressing.

An argument many PowerPoint users may advocate is that it’s easier to modify a presentation in PowerPoint than InDesign and recreating a PDF. I don’t see using InDesign as a problem for modifying my presentations. At times I’ve had to revise an entire presentation after adding all my links in the Acrobat PDF. Assuming the links remain the same, all I had to do is convert a second document to PDF and use the Document > Replace Pages command to replace the background pages while retaining my button links in the new PDF.

What about handouts and speaker notes? Admittedly, creating handouts and speaker notes is much easier in PowerPoint than InDesign. However, you can create these items in InDesign such as you see in Figure 8.

Just create a frame and design elements on a master page and place your PDF slide presentation using the Show Import Options item in the Place dialog box when placing your slide show on the document pages. Unfortunately, you need to place each page individually making it a much more timely task than using PowerPoint —but placing PDF pages in InDesign is a matter of just loading the cursor and scrolling pages to place the PDF pages on new InDesign pages. I find the trade-off for taking a little more time with an InDesign authored presentation not to be a hassle when I need speaker notes or handouts.

Figure 8

If I’m speaking on Adobe Acrobat and PDF, then my PDF presentations provide me much more credibility with my audience.


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