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2 pieces of hardware that make my (presentation) life easier

August 16, 2010

There are two pieces of hardware that I use every day that have made creating presentations – and using my computer in general – a much easier activity. Those 2 special items are my 24-inch external monitor and my Logitech mouse.

There they are in all their beauty 🙂

Unfortunately there are always those unavoidable times when I am forced to use my 15 inch laptop to create presentations, and I must say that the experience of using a small screen and a laptop trackpad is not a nice one, and certainly not one that lends itself to the creation of beautiful slides.

I find that the main issue with using a small screen is that once you take all of Powerpoint’s borders and the annoying “ribbon” into account you are left with a tiny version of the slide in question, so small in fact that you can be totally unaware of how it will look when projected full size. Also when using such a small screen it is hard to get things pixel-perfect, as even the smallest of moves with the clumsy trackpad can move a text box or shape quite a distance.

The small things matter in your slides, the attention to detail, the precision placement of items, it all contributes to the overall look and feel of your visuals. Using a trackpad and an active screen the size of a large post-it note are therefore not a recipe for visual-aide success.

What’s more I find using a large screen and responsive mouse allows me to work much faster, there is something about having a larger canvas and a more agile navigational tool which just allows me to work more efficiently. It seems the WSJ did some research on this a while back and came to the conclusion that “People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones.”

Now it is of course possible to make beautiful slides using a small screen and a trackpad, and I am sure it is done every single day, I am not arguing it is impossible, it is just a great deal harder to get things just right… and why make life harder than it needs to be?

(What’s more a Dell 24 inch monitor can set you back as little as €230 which is a small investment for the time it will save you and the quality it will afford you)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2010 5:59 pm

    Interesting about productivity and screen size Ed. Like you, I’m using a 24″ screen. The really important “must have” was 1920 x 1200 dpi supported with a minimum 512mb video card, a gaming spec so to speak which was mainly driven by video conferencing. This allows for a perfect display and high end graphics rendering. Perhaps not required for applications like PPT. Having said that extra capacity is always handy. CPU is a dual quad core 3mzh x 4 cpu. so again perhaps more of a gaming spec.

  2. August 17, 2010 7:25 pm

    As an interesting though experiment I asked myself: Is there any reason why having a smaller display could actually be more beneficial? To my amazement I managed to come up with an answer!

    Being constrained to a smaller screen means that you have to design each element much more simply (ie. large, non-complex) so that you can still understand the slides on a small screen. In this case, the screen size constraints could actually force you to come up with a much cleaner and clearer design. What are your thoughts?

    That being said, I prefer to use two displays: my laptop display and an external 20″ display. I love having plenty of real estate.

    • August 17, 2010 10:17 pm

      Thats an interesting thought Dan, I don’t know though, I still think having the option of the larger screen is better. My visuals are very simple and non complex, but I think for some things you want to get thing EXACTLY perfect, and sometimes this means zooming in to 400% view, if you do that on a laptop its horrific.

      For me the dealbreaker is the mouse though, I can cope with a small screen fine-ish… but trackpads… boooo!

      • August 17, 2010 11:28 pm

        Yeah, I guess I just wanted to find a silver lining for all those people that don’t have a large display. Zooming in constantly on a laptop would probably make me want to ‘accidently’ drop it off my desk.

        I agree completely with the mouse comment. Quite honestly, I flat out refuse to work on a presentation without a mouse. It’s just too aggravating.

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