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Module Makes Mobile Slide Displays a Snap

March 22, 2001|MARK A. KELLNER |

Few things--not even an IRS audit--are as daunting as speaking in public. At the same time, more and more of us are being called upon to make presentations and give speeches. That usually means toting a laptop computer to display the inevitable slides that accompany public talks nowadays.

Presenter-to-Go, weighing just 6 ounces with the power pack attached, is a $299 device that could . . . just maybe . . . put my chiropractor out of business.

Snap this module onto a Handspring Visor, and you can hit the road with your presentation and leave your laptop computer behind, sparing your shoulder and back from extra strain. The new product, made by MARGI Systems Inc. of Fremont, Calif., is a major enhancement for hand-held users.

Using either slides imported directly from Microsoft's PowerPoint or files created on any other Windows application, the Presenter-to-Go module stores as many as 100 slides in its 2 megabytes of RAM. The software that converts and imports slides is designed for Windows computers. The maker says it can run under SoftWindows 98 on a Macintosh, but I did not test this.

This product is a wonder. It plays off the synchronization capabilities of the Handspring Visor to download files, as well as the infrared port on the Visor's side, and lets you change slides using a credit-card-size remote controller that can move forward, backward, change to a specific slide or loop the presentation for continuous showing.

In turn, the module connects to a 12-inch cable with a Video Graphics Array connector at the end. This can be linked to a projector or monitor to display the slides. A "gender changer" plug is included so that "male" and "female" cables and connectors can be accommodated. The power pack connects via this cable as well. For now, the Presenter-to-Go unit must have external power because its display requires more power than a Visor's batteries can provide. An external battery pack is in the works, I'm told.

Presenter-to-Go works like a charm. Slip it into the Springboard slot, plug in the power pack and hook up an external display. In three steps, you're ready to present, and the remote control is a delight.

To have a file on your Visor, or the module, you need to first convert it directly from PowerPoint--the supplied software adds a button to the PowerPoint menu bar for just that purpose--or use a special printer driver to output any other Windows file into the Presenter-to-Go format.

You then select which Visor user gets which file, and the files are transferred at the next HotSync operation. On the Visor, users can move files from the main device to the module's memory to keep Visor memory free.

I moved a file from PowerPoint to the Visor quickly. What was a 115-kilobyte file on the PC became 335 K on the module, but the slides themselves were reproduced faithfully.

What you present, however, might be substantially different from what you are used to seeing with PowerPoint and a notebook PC. Presenter-to-Go won't play any sounds, video clips or animations from a converted PowerPoint file--or from anything else. Such effects get lost in the translation, and there seems to be no immediate way to recover them on the module.

Special effects in PowerPoint are increasingly popular with many presenters, so this system might not work for some people. But for those who want to offer their points and graphics quickly and easily, Presenter-to-Go delivers an excellent system and takes a load off of one's shoulders.


Mark A. Kellner is editor at large for Government Computer News.

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