- distributing or uploading your presentation slides as Powerpoint PPT files instead of Adobe Acrobat PDF files, and
- pointing recipients of the slides to this blog post, if they don't already know about the far greater flexibility that they have with PPT files to set the layout and contrast as they wish (whereas with PDF they're stuck with what they're given).
First, people can open Powerpoint PPT slides using the open source office suite OpenOffice, which is available free for Mac and Linux as well as Windows, even if they don't have Microsoft Office. So using PPT doesn't exclude anyone.
Powerpoint has 2 big advantages over PDF for attendees or students who need to print out presentation slides:
- If the slides happen to have a dark background e.g. for aesthetic reasons, printing them as is just wastes a ton of ink; but it's possible (when the slides are in PPT format, but not when they're in PDF) to change the print settings so that they print out "Black and white", with the dark background miraculously transformed into a white background.
- Microsoft Powerpoint - how to print PPT slides in black and white (without too dark background or too light text)
- OpenOffice Impress - how to in print PPT slides in black and white (without too dark background or too light text)
- Powerpoint allows recipients to arrange the slides as they wish, in the size they wish (which is an accessibility issue too), when printing - i.e. they can print the file as slides, handouts (with whatever number of slides per page the user sets), notes or in outline form. It should be up to the attendee to decide how many slides per page and how much space for writing they want, and to be able to print out slides that suit their needs.
- OpenOffice Impress - menu File > Print, it's the Content dropdown list to pick Slides, Handouts, Notes or Outline, then if it's Handouts select the Slides per page and their order on the page (left to right or up to down)
- Powerpoint 2003 (Powerpoint 2007 is similar) - menu File > Print, it's the "Print what" dropdown, and again for Handouts select number of Slides per page and order.
Often I'm given PDF files with 3 slides a page and "space for notes" on the right (that's the - to me - dreaded "Handouts, 3 slides per page" setting), where text or diagrams on the slides are just too small for me to see properly because they've put in too many bullet points, whereas I'd much rather have bigger slides I can read without any "space for writing" on the right which I may well not use.
Conversely, at other times I've been stuck with 1 slide (maybe with just a couple of bullet points on it) per page in PDF format, when I'd rather save paper and print 3 or 4 slides per page.
And yes, I've also been given PDF slides with dark backgrounds too! (In that case I usually copy and paste all the text into a Word document and print that, to save printer ink. Unless they've turned off the ability to copy from the PDF, of course.)
With Powerpoint, I have a choice. With PDF, I don't.
So my plea to all speakers and presenters is this: please ditch PDF, let the user decide for themselves how many slides per page and how much writing space they need, and let users print without ink-wasting dark backgrounds, by providing them with slides in PPT format. And you'll boost your ecologically sound and environmentally friendly cred to boot!