Embedding Powerpoint within an IDE for tidier presentations

! Warning: this post hasn't been updated in over three years and so may contain out of date information.

PowerPoint – and its OSX and OpenOffice equivalents – are a fact of life when it comes to presentations, as slides are very useful to both the presenter and audience. However if like me, you like to attend programming language-orientated presentations, PowerPoint can be a complete nuisance. In order to demonstrate code in an IDE, and present using a set of slides, the presenter must switch their screen back and forth between the IDE and PowerPoint. This is rarely a pleasant experience. However there is a rather neat alternative, which I have recently used, that avoids this.

The technique is actually quite simple: convert the PowerPoint slide deck into a PDF and then use the IDE’s internal browser to display that PDF. I’ll detail how to do this for PowerPoint 2007 and Eclipse here, but the technique should be pretty similar for any presentation software that can export to PDF and any IDE that has a built-in browser.

To start with, create your PowerPoint presentation as normal and save it in the standard format (as an .pptx file in the case of PowerPoint 2007). Next export it as a PDF. With PowerPoint, click on the office icon in the top left of the window and select Save As -> PDF or XPS option as shown below.

Save as PDF

Next, modify the way Eclipse handles PDF files. Select Windows -> Preferences and then drill down to General -> Editors -> File Associations in the preferences dialogue. Add “.pdf” as a file type and set the default action as “Internal Web Browser” as shown below.

Setting PDFs to appear in the internal browser for Eclipse

Having done this, you can display the PDF of your slide deck in a file tab of Eclipse. But, better than that, double clicking on the tab expands it to fill most of the screen. So whilst you might have the navigator and output panels on display normally:

When displaying the slides, you can then “maximise” the display without switching away from the IDE:

So it becomes possible to switch between a set of slides and code views in an elegant fashion.

If you find this idea useful and use it in your own presentations, I’d love to know about it. So please leave a comment here and let me know how it went.