Posted on April 15, 2007
Filed Under (Tools) by jennifer

Though everyone complains of being PowerPointed to death, small company or large, Microsoft’s presentation tool is part of our daily business lives. Since its inclusion in Microsoft’s office suite in the early nineties, its use (and overuse) has steadily climbed.

Like it or not, if you do any kind of presentation work, from classroom instruction to sales presentations to financial results, chances are you are using it. And if you are a regular PowerPoint user, chances are that at some point or other you’ve run into a problem trying to email a presentation to a customer or colleague and have had it rejected by your own email server or your recipient’s, because of size limitations.

Crafty PowerPoint designers understand how quickly file size can bloat when using photos or complex graphics, and use all kind of techniques to keep file size in check. For example, saving graphics in the .PNG format and importing them can significantly reduce file size. However, the average unknowing user is more likely to just use the Windows or Mac clipboard to cut and paste graphics into their presentations.

Incorporate anything other than simple line art and after a few slides you will see the size of the presentation quickly start to grow. For example, I recently saw a 17-slide sales presentation that I created grow to over 12 MB. That would not so terrible if I could share it over a corporate network, but had I tried to email this, our internal system would have blocked it (even from sending to an internal user). That’s because our system imposes a 10 MB limit on attachments and many of our customers have even smaller limits — with 5 MB limits not unusual.

It used to be that using a compression program like WinZip could help you get around these limitations; however, at some point (I think in Office 97), this stopped having significant impact. In this case, zipping would have led to a paltry 6% size reduction, not enough to squeak under the email attachment limit. Obviously, one could use a service like YouSendIt to email a link to the file, but that would require sitting through a fairly lengthy upload time for this big file, and take away the relative ease of just emailing it.

Then yesterday, while looking for the most recent version of 7-Zip, a free open source compression utility for zipping and unzipping files (WinZip is great, but I’ve stopped wanting to look at the nag screen regarding paying for it), I ran across a sponsored link to a program called PPTminimizer. I quickly downloaded the trial version (good for compressing 12 presentations) and found that my presentation could be shrunk an incredible 96% with only minimal loss in quality. My 12 MB file is now a tidy 394 KB, or 1/32 the size.

Reducing file size is very easy. PPTminimizer installs itself as a context item in the Windows Explorer shell or as a menu item in PowerPoint. There’s even an Outlook plug-in. Just point to your file. Click on “Optimize Presentations,” and the program does the rest. Usability wise, the developers have done an excellent job.

PPTminimizer costs $29.95, so if you only need to do this kind of thing once in a while, you may be able to live under the 12 presentation limit for a while. However, if you are cranking out big PowerPoint files regularly and need to email them, this tool will quickly pay for itself.

[Posted by Kenny Schiff]

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