Use hyperlinks in self-running presentations

This article was excerpted from Kathy Jacobs on PowerPoint, by Kathy Jacobs, Microsoft MVP and webmistress of It assumes an in-depth understanding of some PowerPoint features and will be most helpful to people who have created several presentations or worked with advanced features.

Applies to
Microsoft Office PowerPoint® 2003
Microsoft PowerPoint 2000 and 2002

This article offers guidelines and instructions for how to get and keep your links working correctly across multiple slides and multiple presentations.

Scenario: When to link multiple presentations

Sam handles employee benefits for her company. When her company went to a cafeteria plan for employee benefits, she had to create a series of presentations to quickly bring the entire company up to speed.

She soon realized that she needed to know more about linking within PowerPoint presentations and linking to material outside presentations:

“I have to create a series of kiosk-style presentations that pull information from a number of sources and link seamlessly between the sources,” says Sam.

“I know what has to go in each presentation and I know how the employees are going to move around within and between the presentations. I don't know how to make sure all of the navigation elements are on each slide so that every user understands how to move around. I don't know how to connect the information sources and presentations: When I test my presentations, I am having problems with links not working, documents and forms not linking correctly, and general confusion by the participants about the presentations.”

Sam designed her presentations well. Each presentation worked alone. When it came time to put the pieces together, however, she didn’t know how to set up her links so everything was viewable. Here are some things she needed to know:

ShowSet up links within presentations

Before Sam starts working on linking the different presentations together, she needs to be sure it is easy for people using the presentations to understand how to navigate within each presentation.

ShowMake navigation predictable

There are a number of navigation icons every self-running presentations should have. Each slide in a self-running presentation, no matter what the presentation’s intended use, should have five buttons on it:

  • Home    Returns the presentation to its beginning. If the presentation is a series of menus, this button should return the user to the original menu slide.
  • End    Ends the presentation gracefully.
  • Next Slide   Moves forward to the next slide in the presentation. On the last slide, this button should wrap to the beginning of the presentation.
  • Previous Slide    Returns to the previous slide in the presentation. On the first slide this button should be disabled.
  • Help    Brings up a slide that explains how the kiosk works. Even if you think everything is self-explanatory, add help. Someone will use it. What’s more, writing help materials usually uncovers something you forgot to put in the presentation.

In addition, always have a Contact or E-mail button. This button opens a new e-mail message so users can send feedback or questions to you or some other contact point, which allows you to find out where people are having problems within the presentation, find out when things break and maybe even find out how much they like what you did.

Some people find the Return button useful as well. This is the one that looks like a u-turn arrow. This button is pre-programmed to return to the last slide viewed. It doesn’t take you to the previous slide in the presentation, but to the last slide you looked at.

I don’t like to put this button on the master slide, but I do use this on individual FAQ slides, and so on, to allow users to quickly return to where they came from.

Add navigation buttons

  1. On the View menu, click Master to display the slide and title masters.
  2. Locate the Drawing toolbar in the lower left corner of the screen. Point to AutoShapes and then click Action Buttons.

Action Buttons toolbar

Action Buttons toolbar

Most of these buttons should look fairly familiar. What’s more, several of them are pre-programmed in PowerPoint to perform the action expected based on the picture.

  • The first one is a blank button. Its face and action are not pre-defined.
  • The house, or Home, button is pre-defined to take you to the first slide of the current presentation.
  • The question mark and circled i buttons are not programmed to any action, but are intended to be linked to the help or information page.
  • The right and left arrow buttons are the previous slide and next slide buttons respectively.

Next are two buttons you might or might not want to use as defined. The left arrow pointing to a line returns to the first slide, the right arrow pointing to a line goes to the last slide. I re-program the right-hand one to end my presentation. I don’t use the left hand one, unless I’m asked to use it instead of the home button.

ShowAdd a button

  1. Select the button from the list and click the slide, or click the button and then drag it onto the slide.
  2. The Action Settings dialog box opens. To accept the pre-programmed option, just click OK.
  3. To point the button somewhere else or do something else, select that action and then click OK. For instance, to reprogram the button with the right arrow pointing to a line, click the drop-down box in Hyperlink: options and change Last Slide to End Show.

If there is a preset action for the button face, clicking Cancel leaves the original button action for the button face. Most of the buttons should be clear to you and to those using the presentation. Almost everyone knows a picture of a house means Home and an envelope means E-mail.

For the other buttons, add text to each button to identify it.

To add text to a button: Right-click the button and click Add Text.

Put the buttons in the right place

After you’ve created all the buttons, drag them into position on the slide. Remember, placing navigation buttons on the slide and title masters helps ensure consistency throughout the presentation. I put buttons across the bottom of my slides, because that is where people usually look for them.

Other common placements are across the top or down the left side of the slide. With left-side placement, make sure it doesn’t interfere with any menus in the presentation. You can create Contact Us or E-mail Us buttons by dropping in a picture of a mailbox and giving it an e-mail hyperlink. We step through this process later in the article.

After adding her main buttons, Sam’s template looks like this:

Preliminary template with navigation

Preliminary template with navigation

ShowGive users the information they need

If you’re creating a kiosk presentation, you need to include at least one help slide. This slide should contain the icons for the common buttons and an explanation of where each button takes the user.

In addition, tell the user information how to get around in the presentations. Sam’s help included a linkage map for the presentations. When I create a single file presentation, I hide the help slide so it doesn’t come up unexpectedly.

When I create a series of linked presentations, I create the help slide as its own presentation and link to it as well. The help slide or file might not be finished when you start adding the buttons to the presentation.

In this case, you have two choices: Don’t link the button to anything, but be sure to add a comment to yourself to link it later. Or, create an empty placeholder presentation and link to it.

Understand how your audience will navigate

Sam developed a message table at the very beginning of her project. Each presentation has defined messages, and the messages are applicable to the audiences for the presentations.

The next step is to figure out the order in which the audience members will navigate the slides and create the links based on the information. Step back and look at the information from the audience’s perspective.

While you might expect the audience to go through the slides in a specific order, they might not. My favorite way to figure out the possibilities is to draw an information diagram representing the information and the flow between sections and within sections.

Create an information diagram

I draw a box for each message, then draw lines and arrows that indicate how the messages are linked. For example, Sam’s introductory materials include definitions of the term cafeteria plan, of each employee’s individualized plan budget, and an overview of each of the benefits the company is offering.

For each benefit, there are separate presentations detailing the exact plan information, as well as links to the Internet to get additional information. Sam lays out an information diagram like this one:

Preliminary navigation information diagram

Preliminary navigation information diagram

After testing, she discovered employees wanted to jump from benefit to benefit instead of from the pre-defined order she had planned. So the actual path diagram was more like this:

Final navigation information diagram

Final navigation information diagram

The solution for Sam’s presentation is to create a series of menus that allow the employees to jump from section to section on their own. Instead of introducing all the materials in a linear manner, the menus allow audience members to decide what they want to read.

Include a menu of links

First, Sam needs to change her template to have a menu area on each slide. This menu area should have links to:

  • The main introduction slide
  • The monetary limits slide
  • A slide listing all of the available benefits
  • The navigation elements we just talked about.

After she updates the template, Sam needs to create an introductory slide that contains links to the detail slide for each benefit. This slide allows employees to get from one benefit to another with only two clicks. (One click to get to the list of benefits and a second click to get to the next benefit.)

Create a template like Sam’s and a number of empty presentations you can use as link destinations. You can use these files to work along with Sam as she creates her menu.

Now that we have the navigation buttons on the master slide, we must decide what external links to create.

ShowUnderstand absolute vs. relative links

Before we do that, though, we must cover one of the biggest areas of confusion in PowerPoint: Absolute links and relative links, and when to use which type.

Absolute Links    On a computer, each file is located in a specific place on a storage device. This location is referenced by using a path. For example, if you’re storing a sound file called KeySound.wma in the My Documents folder, the full path to the file might be C:\Documents and Settings\MyLogIn\MyDocuments\KeySound.wma.

This type of path is known as the absolute path (address). When you insert this sound file into a presentation, PowerPoint creates a link to it. As long as the presentation is only run on the same machine, there are no problems. PowerPoint uses this path and can always play the sound.

Trouble starts when you send the presentation and sound file to another computer. PowerPoint looks for the sound file on the hard drive at C:\Documents and Settings\MyLogIn\MyDocuments\KeySound.wma. But the login on the other machine isn’t MyLogIn. Instead, it might be YourLogIn.

Poof! The path changed and PowerPoint can’t find the file, so the sound doesn’t play.

Relative Links    The relative path is another way to reference files. It is the path you would need to move through to get from one file to another.

Relative links can be quite useful because they let PowerPoint find linked files. But PowerPoint can work with only one kind of relative link: When both files are in the same folder before the link is created, PowerPoint creates and understands a relative link between the files.

In other words, if the link doesn’t contain any folder or drive references, PowerPoint can use the link to find the file, no matter what computer the files move to. If the link contains any folder or drive references, PowerPoint can find the file on the original computer, but not on any other computer.

If the sound file is in a sub-directory of the folder containing the PowerPoint presentation, the relative link would be …\KeySound.wma. This means go up one level in the folder or directory structure and find the file there.

By the same token, if the sound file were in the same folder as the presentation, the relative link would be just the file name.

The moral: put all your files in one folder

When linking files in PowerPoint, whether they are the sound files used up to now, or the PowerPoint and other files we are about to use, make sure all the files are in the same folder as the presentation before linking them to the presentation.

If you're going to move a presentation, use relative links and put all the files in the same folder before you start the linking process. Then, when you move the files to another computer, take the entire folder and there’s no need to worry about bad links.

What if my links break anyway? If links break anyway, wander over to PowerPoint MVP Steve Rindsberg’s site and pick up his FixLinks tool. It repairs links and ensures the presentation can still find all its files.

ShowSet up links out of your presentation: hyperlinks and action settings

There are two ways to link to other content. Create a hyperlink (just like the hyperlinks on the Internet) or create an action setting. You can use the right-click menu to open both the Hyperlink dialog box and the Action Settings dialog box. If you prefer to use the menus, you can use the Insert menu to add hyperlinks or the Slide Show menu to add action settings.

Understanding and using hyperlinks

Hyperlinks link to other slides in the presentation, custom shows, other PowerPoint presentations; open other application files (the required application must reside on the computer on which the presentation is run); or access web sites on the Internet. Hyperlinks can only be activated by a mouse click or when the cursor runs over an item with a link (called a mouse-over).

Hyperlink example: Create side menus

To add links to other presentations, Sam needs to put all the presentations in the same folder. She then opens the template she used to create the presentations originally and sets up a list of links down the side of the master slide.

Sam knows she will need to reapply the template to each file manually, but also knows that making the change only once lessens the chance she might forget to add the menu to one of the files. By setting up the menu and its links on the master slide, she makes it available on every slide. The links are not clickable while she creates and edits the presentation, but they will become live when she runs as a show.

Because the slide master’s elements are inherited by the title master, the title master will display the menu when it is created. To add the menu, Sam needs to make space for the menu on the master pages. She adjusts the size of the second placeholder so it is one inch narrower.

Slide modified for placement of menu

Slide modified for placement of menu.

Next, Sam adds the menu text. In the space just made, she adds a text box with the following lines of text:

  • Changes
  • Limits
  • Benefits
  • Next
  • Previous
  • Exit

After adding the menu space and text, Sam realizes some of her buttons along the bottom were also on her menu. She decides to use text for the last three menu items and removes the buttons. She feels the text would be clearer than the buttons in these cases. Her master slide now looks like this:

Slide with menu

Slide with menu

Sam is now ready to create the first link. She selects the first word (Changes), right-clicks, and clicks Hyperlink. The Insert Hyperlink dialog box appears.

Insert Hyperlink dialog box

Insert Hyperlink dialog box

Here you can create hyperlinks to locations both inside and outside the document. Let’s take a quick look at each type. Then, we will step through the link creation process to create several of the different types.

Existing File or Web Page     Creates links to things that already exist. Use this option to create the links from the menu to the presentations containing the information. Use this option to create links to web pages, PDFs and Word documents.

Place in This Document     Creates links to other slides or custom shows within the current file. Use this option when we create the links to the individual benefits.

Create New Document     This hyperlink is one way to create a brand new PowerPoint document. However, we will not be using this option. Instead, we use action settings to create the external PowerPoint file. Why? They are much more flexible and give us more control.

E-mail Address    Quickly creates a hyperlink opening the user’s default e-mail program with an e-mail pre-addressed to the e-mail address defined in the hyperlink settings. Sam uses this option to create a feedback mechanism for the employees.

Create a link to an existing file

Sam needs to create a link from the word Changes to the Changes presentation. Since she already has the Insert Hyperlink dialog box open, it would seem all she needs to do is select the correct presentation and click OK. However, she needs to set up some user assistance first:

  1. Click the ScreenTip button. This is where the text that appears when the mouse hovers over the hyperlink is set up.
  2. Enter the text you want to use. In Sam’s case, she wants the screen tip to read See the changes to our benefits program.
  3. Select the presentation in the Insert Hyperlink dialog box and click OK. After the screen tip is set up, Sam selects the Changes presentation and clicks OK. The word Changes has changed colors and has an underline. This indicates it is a hyperlink.

After setting up the menu links to the other presentations, the template looks like this:

Slide with linked menu

Slide with linked menu

Create a link within this file

Now that we have set up the external links, we will use the same basic process to create links within the file from the words Next and Previous. Select the word Next, and bring up the hyperlink window. Click the Place in This Document button. Notice the center section of the window now lists places within the document you can link to. Using this list, set up the Next link by setting the hyperlink to Next Slide, remembering to set up a screen tip for it as well. When finished, set up the Previous link by setting the hyperlink to Previous Slide and setting up its screentip.

Create an e-mail link

We will set up the Exit link as an action setting in just a moment. But, before moving off the hyperlinks, one more special-case hyperlink needs to be created. The employees need a way to get feedback and questions to Sam from within the presentations.

To set up an e-mail link for the envelope button:

  1. Right-click the picture and then click Hyperlink.
  2. Click the E-mail Address button.

Notice the center of the window now allows an address to be entered along with a subject for the email. If you have used this option before, you will also see the previous address in the bottom box.

  1. Type the destination address in the E-mail address box.

Notice as soon as you start to type, PowerPoint adds “mailto:” to the front of the destination address. This sets up the hyperlink as a mail item.

  1. Add I have a benefits question to the subject area. Set up the screen tip and click OK.

Insert Hyperlink dialog box for E-mail Addresses

Insert Hyperlink dialog box for E-mail Addresses

Notice that unlike the text, the shape didn’t change to show it is a link. When you run the presentation, the cursor will change to show it is a live link.

Understanding and using action settings

Like hyperlinks, action settings allow you to move to other locations in a presentation or on the web; they also allow you to jump to other slides, custom shows, programs, or files. In addition, action settings allow you to run programs and execute macros. They’re kind of like hyperlinks on steroids. An action can be set to occur on either a mouse click or a mouse-over.

Action button example: Exit button

Now that you understand how the basic hyperlinks work, it is time to take them one step further. We use an action setting to activate the Exit menu item, because the Hyperlink dialog box doesn’t offer this option.

Add an action setting

Select the word Exit from the list of actions added to the master, then right-click and click Action Settings.

Action Settings dialog box

Action Settings dialog box

The Action Settings dialog box opens to the Mouse Click tab. Select Hyperlink to and then select End Show from the drop-down list. The second tab, Mouse Over, has the same list of actions.

However, instead of requiring the audience member to click on the link to activate it, they only have to move the cursor across the area. This can be good in some situations, but annoying in others; be careful how you use mouse-over settings.

The End Show option tells PowerPoint that when the text is clicked, the show will end. Fairly obvious, right?

Don’t get caught by the one small caveat in this option. This action setting closes the active presentation only. If there are other presentations open, End Show does not close these, nor does it close PowerPoint.

The exception is if the user is viewing the only open presentation. Then the End Show option closes the presentation. If the user is watching the presentation using the Viewer, ending the last open presentation also closes the Viewer. If a file was opened as a show, ending the last open presentation closes PowerPoint and returns to the desktop.

This brings up one of the biggest potential problems with using hyperlinking and action settings to navigate through presentations. It opens each presentation as you jump to them. If you don’t close the presentations as you leave them, you could end up with many presentations open, using up valuable resources.

Other action settings

The process for setting up the other action settings is the same. Here are a few more tips:

Run program     This option assumes the program you want to run is always in the same spot. Now, if you’re creating presentations where you control the machine, this will work. However, if, like Sam, you are creating presentations for others, be very careful using this option. For transportability, it is always better to set action settings to point to an existing document instead of to an application. Then, you can place the document in the same folder as the presentation and eliminate broken link problems.

Run macro     Macros only run automatically if PowerPoint’s security level is set to low. If the security level is higher than that, a message appears letting the user know the macro may not run. If you’re using PowerPoint 2003, the warning appears regardless of the security level setting.

Mouse over    Use this sparingly. Unless the users know moving the mouse around is going to cause something to occur, mouse over can have unexpected results. If you use these options as surprise options, know the users will be surprised once or maybe twice. After that, the action becomes an annoyance.

After completing the slide master, Sam created her title master. Because the title master inherits information from the slide master, the menu options and buttons will appear on the title master just as they do on the slide master. If the title master is created already without the navigation elements, copy the elements from the slide master to the title master.

No matter when the title master is created, the size of the placeholders on the title master will need adjusting, just as on the content master. After that, close the master slides, insert a new slide and notice that the slide has the new menu.

New slide with menu

New slide with menu

When this presentation is run, the links become live. If you move the mouse over any of them, it turns from a pointer to a hand.

ShowEmbed presentations within the primary presentation

There is another way to set up linked presentations: Instead of setting up text or shape hyperlinks, embed the other presentations into the main presentation. By doing this, you eliminate any potential broken links breakage, because all the files are together. You also ensure that the presentations appear more secure than sending individual presentations.

After all, in order to edit the presentations, those receiving them have to know they are included in the file.

There are two drawbacks to using embedded presentations. First, the file might be very large because all of the presentations are in one file. Second, you can’t play the presentations using the PowerPoint 2003 Viewer. At the time of this writing, PowerPoint 2003 Viewer doesn’t support embedded object execution.

To embed a presentation:

  1. Display the slide where you want to embed the presentation.
  2. On the Insert menu, point to Object, and then click Create from file.
  3. Navigate to the presentation you want and then click OK.
  4. The first slide of the embedded presentation appears on the current slide.
  5. To activate the embedded presentations when the presentation is run, click the slide picture.

You can also set up the embedded presentation to start automatically by using custom animation. If you’re planning to have users activate the embedded presentations, make sure it’s clear that they need to click the pictures to start the presentation. When the presentation finishes, the show returns to this slide.

Example: Benefit List Slide

As a quick example, let’s create Sam’s benefits list slide using embedded presentations. (You might also see this called chaining presentations). Create a copy of the presentation you were just working with. Add a single slide entitled “Benefits Available.” Using the hyperlink method, the slide would look like this:

Sample hyperlinked menu slide

Sample hyperlinked menu slide

To make this slide really eye-catching, replace the bullet points with actual embedded presentations:

  1. On the Insert menu, point to Object, and then click Create from file.
  2. Navigate to the presentation to embed, and choose whether to display the file as an icon or a thumbnail. Linking is useful only if you will always be sending the external file along. Display as icon is useful if you don’t want to give away what the first slide of the presentation looks like.
  3. Click OK. The first slide of the embedded presentation (or its icon) appears on the current slide.
  4. To adjust the size and location of the picture so all items fit on the slide, drag the white-handled boxes.

The benefits menu looks like this after you add the other presentations:

Sample slide with embedded presentations

Sample slide with embedded presentations

For clarity of the image, I did not include the menu or buttons on the embedded presentations. If you base embedded presentations on the master slides we just created, the menus will appear on the embedded presentations as well.

Linking to the Web

You create a link to the web just like you create any other link. The only difference is the address is not a path to a file on the hard drive, but a URL to a page on the web. Link to web pages using hyperlinks or action settings. Clicking a link to a web page opens the page with the default browser, as long as the Internet connection and the web page are both available. To insert web pages and have them surfable from within PowerPoint, try out PowerPoint MVP Shyam Pillai’s LiveWeb add-in. Information and download links are available on his site.

ShowKeep users where you want them in the show

In some self-running presentations, you need to closely control how people move through the presentation. For example, if you’re distributing a test as a presentation, you want to be sure the user can’t skip the test and go straight to the answers. In these cases, it’s important to make sure there is some way to leave the current page. This mechanism is not included in the basic icons listed above.

For example, if you create a series of questions the user must answer to navigate through the presentation, you must make sure the clicked answers take the user either to the next question (if they got the answer right), or to a Wrong Answer page followed by a return to the question (if they got the answer wrong).

If you want to give the users more than one shot at an individual question, you need to develop a macro to handle the looping.

Hide basic navigation buttons

Because the basic navigation buttons are on the master slide, you need to hide those buttons on the test slides.

The process for this differs depending on the version of PowerPoint you are using. In PowerPoint 2000 or earlier, turn off the master elements and paste in the graphics you need to retain from the master slide to the individual slide:

  1. Right-click the slide and click Background.
  2. Check the Omit background graphics from master box.
  3. Turn on the header and footer information if it should be showing.
  4. On the View menu, click Master to go to the master slide, and then hold down Ctrl+A to select everything.
  5. Deselect the two placeholders (Ctrl+click each).
  6. Deselect the navigation elements (Ctrl+click each)
  7. Copy (Ctrl+C).
  8. On the View menu, click Normal, and then paste the elements you copied from the master (Ctrl+V).
  9. With the pasted elements still selected, right-click, point to Order, and then click Send to Back.

In PowerPoint 2002 and later, this process is much easier. Since you can have multiple masters, create a master slide that doesn’t have the navigation elements and use it instead.

  1. On the View menu, point to Master, and then click Slide Master.
  2. On the Insert menu, click Duplicate Master.
  3. Remove the navigation elements from the new title and slide masters.
  4. When you are ready to create the test slides, right-click the first question slide and click Slide Design.
  5. In the Slide Design task pane on the right, click the drop-down arrow for the master without the navigation elements and select Apply to selected slides.
  6. Choose options for advancing through the show.

Because you are running kiosks, the keyboard is disabled, with the exception of the Escape key. What you may not know is that Kiosk mode also disables the right-click menu for the audience. So, unless you add navigation elements, users can’t move through the slides, right? Wrong.

Control when slides advance

When you set up the show (by clicking Set Up Show on the Slide Show menu), you can set it to advance manually or to use timings. These timings come in two types: transition timings and narration timings.

If you really want to control how the presentation is seen, set it up so each slide has a transition time on it. Then, for those slides where users have a choice of where to go next, remove the transition timings and add navigation buttons. This forces the user to choose one of the options to continue the show. You can set up slides to advance after whichever comes first, the passage of the right amount of time or the click of a mouse.

If the show is set up this way, be sure to leave enough time for users to read and understand all of the slide content before moving on. With both options set up, they can always advance more quickly than you want them to, but moving slower takes backtracking.

 Note    When a presentation is set up as a kiosk, PowerPoint adds a feature you may or may not know about. It automatically re-starts the presentation after five minutes of inactivity. This is good for unattended presentations, not so good for attended ones where there is a lot to read on a single slide.

Having said that, I also need to say that in PowerPoint 2002, this feature doesn’t work. PowerPoint MVP Chirag Dalal created a free add-in, Kiosk Assistant, to fix the timer in 2002. The feature was fixed in both PowerPoint 2003 and the 2003 Viewer, the add-in is only required with PowerPoint 2002.

ShowTest your navigation model and links

Now that Sam has the presentations set up, it is time to find out if the presentation meets the needs of the intended audience. Just as you must practice a presenter-led presentation in front of a test audience, you need to find some guinea pigs to test the kiosk presentation. Just because it makes sense to you, doesn’t mean it will make sense to them.

In Sam’s case, two sets of testers are needed. First, we need a set of typical employees to test the presentation. Next, we need to have representative from Benefits test the presentation.

What should they test for?

The employees need to test to make sure they can navigate easily in the presentations, they understand how to use the presentation without someone standing there to help them and the information includes what they want to know.

This group will do creative testing. They will be just playing around with the presentation to find out everything they can about the new benefits package and to ensure they can do what they need without getting lost. This group should also be surveyed to make sure the messages the kiosk presentations convey is what the Benefits department wanted to give.

The Benefits representative will do more formalized testing. He should help ensure the content and links for the departments part of the presentation work correctly. He needs to make sure what the employees see is what they should see and the takeaway messages are appropriate.

The testers are Sam’s second set of eyes. She is ultimately responsible for ensuring everything is right, but may be too close to the project to see problems. Between the two groups, Sam should also make sure every link is tested. By having someone else test the links, no preconceived notions about what is supposed to happen on a specific slide gets in the way of seeing what really happens. The final test is a verification of the help file. The test groups should be asked if the help is clear, complete and understandable.

How should testing be conducted?

To do the testing, Sam should copy the entire set of presentations from her development computer to another one. By doing the testing away from Sam’s computer, a number of things can be caught that wouldn’t be otherwise:

  • If something doesn’t get moved to the testing computer, it will show when testing occurs.
  • If the testing is done on Sam’s machine, missing content won’t necessarily show.
  • If a link is broken, it is better to find it during testing than after the kiosks have been made public.
  • If Sam didn’t set up her links properly, running the presentations on the test computer will show it right away.

Testing at Sam’s machine would never reveal these errors. Sam won’t be there. If the testing is done on Sam’s computer, Sam will be right there, tempted to explain things.

By moving the testing to a different system, the testers will get information only from the presentation. The testers should note their problems for Sam to correct. Because the presentations were developed on Sam’s computer, as the links are followed they will change color just like they do on web pages. On the test computer, the only links will show as having been followed are the ones clicked during testing.

When should testing be done?

I believe informal testing should be done early and often. From the first point where pieces of the presentation are available, it is a good idea to have an independent set of eyes looking at things regularly to catch anything Sam misses. Formal testing should begin when Sam believes the presentation is ready for public use. It will probably take two or three rounds of testing to get everything the way everyone wants it. The general order of the testing should be:

  • Sam puts the presentation and all associated files on the test computer and does a quick sanity check.
  • The Benefits representative does his testing and reports results to Sam.
  • If there were a lot of comments and changes, Sam makes the changes, puts a clean copy of the presentation and all associated files on the test computer. Then the interested parties test again.
  • When the Benefits representative is satisfied with the presentation, Sam re-loads the presentation on the computer for the employee group to test.
  • The employee group tests the presentation and reports back to Sam.

Repeat these steps as needed until the presentation is ready for public use.

If anyone other than Sam is going to do the installation or distribution of the presentation files, the installation/distribution process needs to be documented and tested as well. When everyone is in agreement the presentation is ready for the public, all files should be placed on each computer. Double-check all final files have been included.

Then, Sam can throw a party – the project is done!

About the author: Kathy Jacobs' latest book, Kathy Jacobs on PowerPoint, is available through most major booksellers. When she's not writing about PowerPoint, Kathy puts the rest of her time into e-mail, Girl Scouts, and outdoor cooking (especially using Dutch ovens). Her husband is also a computer nerd and outdoor cook. They live in Phoenix, Arizona, and love the weather.

Applies to:
PowerPoint 2003