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Annotating Your Slides in Presentation Mode

By: Mich Donovan

When we first started creating content for online courses, annotated slides (like this one) were the most common type of video we produced. The free pen tool Omnidazzle wasn’t perfect, but it was flexible enough for what we needed to do.  That software, however, is no longer supported and we’ve been looking for something that matches its flexibility and ease of use. We’ve found three so far that come close: Powerpoint, Ink2Go, and Deskscribble. These software were all tested on Macbook Pro running Sierra using a Wacom Cintiq 13HD as the presentation/annotation screen.

For our purposes, Powerpoint is the easiest one to recommend. By far, it is the easiest to use. Simply place your slideshow in presentation mode, hit Command + P and you’re good to go. When you advance to the next slide, your annotations are cleared and you’ll need to reactivate the pen again to do any annotations. It is built-in to the newest version of Powerpoint so it is essentially free if you’re already using that software, though this of course means you can’t use the tool to annotate over Keynote or anything else. Another downside is changing the pen color requires clicking into a pop-up menu and manually selecting one of nine default colors. The pen thickness is also not customizable.

Ink2Go is a $20 software that adds some more functionality but is not quite as seamless. For one, when your slides are in presentation mode, the software’s shortcuts are overridden by Powerpoint/Keynote’s. One of the benefits of using the Cintiq is that we can stack shortcuts on a single hotkey, like “erase annotations” and “advance slide.” Due to the way these software interact, however, the only way to erase slides in presentation mode is by manually clicking the erase button on Ink2Go’s overlay menu. So if you want to annotate every single slide differently, you’ll need to get in the habit of first clicking erase and then advancing the slide. This essentially requires the Ink2Go menu to always be on the screen (which I find slightly less professional). However, if your slides are in the 4×3 aspect ratio (as we recommend if you feature webcam video) the menu can be placed overtop of the letterboxed black bars on either side of your slides. Additionally, Ink2Go offers a few more colors, 4 thickness settings, and pressure-sensitive drawing. Ink2Go does include a screen recording function but you’re better off using Camtasia for anything serious.

One small glitch with Ink2Go: the presentation needs to be mirrored on the computer and the Cintiq or else there’s an odd glitch when attempting to annotate with the pen. I’ve reached out to the developers about this issue and will update here if it is resolved.

Deskscribble is a $10 software that works similarly to Ink2Go and features many of the same drawbacks. Again, shortcuts are overridden by the presentation software so you’ll have to manually erase slides before advancing them by using an overlay menu (which tucks in to the upper lefthand corner, inside the black bar of a 4×3 slide). It doesn’t pack in as many features as Ink2Go (most of which I found irrelevant for this particular use case) but it is half the price which is nice. To use this software, you will need to be on OSX 10.11 or higher (Ink2Go works on OSX 10.7+).

With Omnidazzle gone, we still haven’t found a perfect replacement: an app that works with both Powerpoint and Keynote in presentation mode, with no required overlay menu, whose configuration allows for erasing the canvas at the same time as advancing a slide. If you know of anything that might fit that bill, please comment below!

Categories: Lecture Capture

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