Category Archives: Visual Thinking

Creating PowerPoint Presentations from Excel Outlines

I have long used Excel to outline my presentations. I love the program’s ability to color code, hide, apply hierarchy, move things around and maybe most importantly, get an accurate sense of timing.

My outlines tend not to be as granular as one row per slide, and I don’t actually write slide content in Excel, but if you did want to do that (and I see no reason why not to use Excel for this), Indezine has put together a nice tutorial on the workflow for going from Excel straight to slides.

It has long been a little-known workflow to outline in Word using paragraph-styled headers and bullet point and then with a few clicks, converting the Word document into actual slides. Apparently, you can do pretty much the same thing with Excel.

It’s a two-parter from Indezine:

Setting up an Excel outline

Importing into PowerPoint

Categories: Visual Thinking.

Apple: What a Difference 16 Years Make

One of my favorite “Bumper Stickers” for a presentation was Apple’s “1,000 Songs in Your Pocket” for the original iPod introduction in 2001. It basically told you everything you needed to know about the iPod and encapsulated the entire talk.

This year that made a nice allusion and callback with “40 Million Songs on Your Wrist.” Give it another decade and a half and maybe we’ll have…?

Categories: Visual Thinking.

Not Your Father’s Presentation Remote: Logitech Spotlight

Earlier this year Logitech released Spotlight, a new remote for presenters, and let’s just say it’s not your father’s remote.

I’ve had the chance recently to use it in real world settings, and while it does have some drawbacks, it is simply overflowing with features and functionality.

I have long been a fan of their R400 Presenter which I’m happy to report Logitech plans to keep in their product lineup. I have used the R400 for years and love the simplicity and ergonomic design. To quote Apple, “it just works.” But enter Spotlight that not just overhauls the basic design, but adds over a dozen features and solutions to common presentation problems. It’s the swiss army knife of remotes, and there’s not another remote on the market that even comes close to what this offers.

No More Laser Pointer

The main thing about Spotlight that you will notice is a slick modern design of the unit itself with only 3 buttons, the built-in rechargeable battery (via included USB-C cable) and the missing laser pointer. In place of the laser pointer, Logitech has created 3 toggle-able modes for screen highlighting beginning with “Spotlight” which darkens the entire screen except for a circular highlight which you can move around the screen by waving the remote. Click the Spotlight button again and you get a circle that magnifies a point on the screen and then click again for a simple circle with a cursor in the middle with which you can click on your slide (think of starting a video or activating a trigger animation or navigating a website without being tied to your laptop.)

The Spotlight App

All of the above modes are customizable (for example the size of the spotlight circle and the degree of screen darkening) via an installed app on the target computer. Available for both Mac and PC on Logitech’s site, the small app also allows you to set buzzing timers (e.g. 5 minutes left in your talk) and to customize the 3 buttons if you so desire, including double-taps of those buttons. Essentially you have 6 customizable buttons that you can set to options like black screen or even key strokes. I’ve set my bottom button to exit slideshow mode on two taps (“Escape” key) and to return to slideshow mode from the current selected slide (“Shift-F5”). This is going to make demos much smoother.

Raise the Roof (on Sound)

Have you ever started a video in a presentation and realized the volume was either set to zero or blasting the room? Program one of the buttons for sound and then hold the remote horizontally and literally raise your hand to increase your computer’s volume or lower it to decrease. Now that’s pretty damn cool.

Connecting and Recharging

The remote will connect either via bluetooth or via the detachable USB dongle, so you don’t have to take up a valuable USB port if you don’t want. The battery is technically replaceable, but it is rechargeable and meant to be charged up through an included USB-C cord. It holds a charge for a long time (and the level is indicated on the app), but if you are worried it will die at the wrong time, Logitech swears that it will charge to 4-hours of capacity in just 60 seconds.

What’s Not to Like?

There are a few things I’m not thrilled about. Even though I did receive a remote for purposes of review (full disclosure), it’s pricey at $130 ($100 on Amazon). The biggest drawback is that while the physical design is slick, it is not ergonomic the way the R400 is. It is longer, and unless you have gigantic mitts, it will never disappear into your hand like the R400. The other big negative is that you do need to install the software in order to use most of the features. If you just use the USB dongle without the software installed, it will advance slides, but that’s about all. I’m glad they did that, but keep in mind that you may get to a conference or a client and not be allowed to install software or even have internet access to get to the software download page.

Perhaps a future version will run the software directly from the dongle and have the dongle double as a flash drive where you can transport your presentation. That would be a really nice all-in-one package.


  • Bluetooth and dongle connection
  • Spotlight feature and 3 toggle able modes including magnify and mouse
  • Slick design
  • Quick rechargeable
  • Simple software interface
  • Cross-platform
  • Works for webinars & multiple screens
  • Volume control (via gesture)
  • Programmable buttons including keyboard commands


  • Not ergonomic
  • Need to install software to use spotlight feature
  • Pricey
Categories: Visual Thinking.

Logos Drawn From Memory asked people to draw famous logos from memory. I love everything about this including the X-Y axis visualization of the results. Check them all out here.


Categories: Design, Visual Thinking.

Wall Street Journal False Advertising: Data Viz Edition

Ugh. The deceptive proportional shape rears its head again, this time courtesy of a Wall Street Journal ad I saw this weekend in the print edition. And to be clear, this is an add FOR The Wall Street Journal.


Any average reader looking at the above ad would know instantly that The Wall Street Journal dwarfs its competitors when it comes to reaching senior executives. But any data visualization professional (or mathematician), would know instantly that the Journal is being incredibly dishonest with their graphic. Why? Because the Journal is using the diameter of the circles as comparison rather than the area. And when you use the diameter, you’re exaggerating and essentially telling a visual lie because of how readers process a chart like this.

If you read the detail lower in the ad, the claim is made that WSJ has twice the reach of The New York Times. But when readers see sized circles, they assume the area of the circles is the indicator of the amounts being compared. We can do a quick test to see that that assumption would be completely wrong.:

Overlaying The New York Times circle on top of the WSJ, we see that nearly four of the Times’s audiences would fit into that of the WSJ.


But wait, the WSJ only has twice the audience reach, right? Why is their circle so massive? Because…the WSJ wants to make their audience reach look much larger than it actually is. They want to use data visualization to fool readers into thinking they are even better than the Times in this metric than they actually are. And they do this by using the diameter of the circles.



Yes, the diameter of the WSJ is 200% that of the Times. But that’s not how these things work.

A proper use of proportional shapes for this data would look something like this:



To make matters worse, Microsoft doesn’t do the world any favors by tacitly allowing this kind of data deception. I can’t speak for other data visualization software, but PowerPoint and Excel allow the user to choose either area or width when creating bubble charts–a type of proportional shape visualization.

If you’re a user of Excel and PowerPoint, you can use bubble graphs to create proportional shapes for you and break apart the charts into shapes using some hacks, but a far easier way to create properly sized proportional shapes is to use my Proportional Shape Calculator tool–a simple Excel calculator you can download from the goodies page on this site. To gain access to that page, subscribe to PresentYourStory here and you’ll be sent a link with your confirmation email.

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