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I always go a little overboard when making slides for my presentations. I think it’s a form of procrastination. But I’m not a designer and have only limited Photoshop skills, so I have to rely on some tricks.

For my TOC Ignite presentation on Ibis Reader, I used many now-obligatory photos found by searching Creative-Commons-licensed content on the Flickr advanced search page. This is an invaluable resource and I wish more people would consider broadly licensing their images.

Then I shot some photos specifically for the talk. It’s hard to graphically represent an “ebook” so I struggled with this until I remembered this journal I’d bought in college. I had to make sure the picture didn’t reveal any of the post-adolescent angst inside:

Digital book

I also wanted one to illustrate my idea of a digital book not having a back cover, meaning its pages could spill out on to the net rather than being bound together. It took more than an hour to shoot and composite these photos together, by tearing up an old advance reading copy (sorry!) and shaking the pages out while the camera auto-fired. (This was an excellent way to procrastinate.)

Spilling papers

But my favorite trick for slide-making that’s actually pretty lazy is to use the all-powerful Firebug. Firebug is a plugin for Firefox that’s meant to aid web developers in designing and QAing websites. One of its features is that it allows you to change the HTML or CSS of any page in real time. Take this fake Twitter screenshot, which I was happy to see featured in a Jane Austen blog:

I actually went to twitter.com and used Firebug to edit and delete elements on the page until I had what I wanted. The screenshot never went into Photoshop. For example:


@siracusa would never actually say that to me, but I can make him say whatever I want now. HA ha.

The other nice thing is that you can delete elements off the page and remove distractions. So in the Twitter image above I removed all the site navigation and anything that wasn’t part of the punchline — especially important in a slide that’s only going to be on-screen for 15 seconds.

You can do the same trick in recent WebKit browsers that have the debugger enabled, though Firebug is still more powerful.

(All photos above are licensed CC Attribution.)

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