art with code

2013-09-15

Message weekly - Blog, Feedback forums, HTML Export, Complexity warnings

Welcome to the second weekly update on Message - the super-fast presentation app. This week brings news of yet more successful presentations done using Message and a whole lot of new features. Let's get started with discussing the new Message blog.

Blog


Message now has it's own blog up at https://message.fhtr.net/blog. The Message blog will be introducing new features, giving you presentation tips, and acting as a playground for Message's publishing features. No worries though, I'll keep doing these wrap-up posts to keep you updated.

The Message blog is built on top of Message, so it's strictly speaking a presentation. I like it as a demonstration of the power of Message's theming system. In addition, blog-style publishing requires a few extra features that will make publishing presentations nicer as well. For example, to do a blog well you need to track page views, have draft-publish workflow, load data dynamically, have nice post URLs, have a TOC, have comments and likes — most of which would improve the presentations as well. So hey, clear and motivated goals.

Fullscreen mode


If you look at the blog screenshot closely, you may notice a "Fullscreen"-button in the bottom right corner of the screen. Yes, you can now go fullscreen with your presentations.

The fullscreen mode hides the "Edit"-button as well so that you have a screen full of presentation and can run your presos straight from the editor preview. To exit the fullscreen mode, hit ESC and you'll be back to the editor in no time.

Feedback forums


I set up an UserVoice forum for Message to have a place to collect feature requests and other issues from y'all. Currently 6 issues posted, 5.5 resolved. And the remaining half issue would be PDF export of some sort. Speaking of which, @BlurSpline wrote this little snippet to create PDFs from Message presos.

If you have any ideas or find bugs on the Message site, feel free to head over to the feedback forum and create a new issue. Or ping me on Twitter: @ilmarihei.

HTML export


You can now export your presentations as HTML bundles. The bundle is a single HTML file with your stylesheets, custom scripts and images inlined into the document. So even if you don't have Internet available, you should be able to do your presentation from the bundle file.

The Export as HTML feature is still experimental, so let me know if you run into any problems. I'll keep tinkering on it (and the whole offline story) this week.

Private share links and shorter share links


As you can see in the screenshot above, the share pane now has a private share link. If you don't want to publish a preso for all the world to see, you can send the private share link instead.

In other news, I changed the public Message share links from "viewmessage.fhtr.net?page=view&id=$ID" to "v.fhtr.net/$ID". Now they look a bit nicer. And 23 characters shorter.

Complexity warnings


Ever seen a wall of text? Yes, that slide with sixteen bullet points and a five-line quote from a technical textbook. They are real, sad to say. Worst of all, they destroy presentations.

A wall of text does active battle with whatever you're saying. People can only deal with one linguistic task at a time. You can't listen to speech while you're reading and vice versa. Heck, even listening to music makes you worse at reading.

Your presentation slides should have very few words on them. Your slides are the headlines and illustrations. What you say is the article body.

Easier said than done. When you want to explain your thinking, it's so easy to add a few extra words on the slide. And perhaps a few bullet points. Maybe an inspiring quote or two.

It's too easy to make slides that make your audience stop listening to you. So, we took a swing at solving the problem.

Message now has slide complexity warnings. When your slide is getting a bit too verbose, you get a yellow "Complex Slide"-warning. It's a sign that you should pause for a few seconds when you show that slide. Maybe take a sip of water. Because your audience is going to be too busy reading the slide to listen to you.

If you keep on writing, the warning will turn into a red "Overcomplex Slide"-warning. This is the kind of slide that will likely make your presentation worse. Your audience is going to stop listening to you for the duration of this slide. Try to break overcomplex slides into three slides.

Slide complexity warnings are turned on on all new Message presentations. They need a snippet of code in the slide parser, so old presos don't have them by default. You can add the warnings to an old preso by loading a new preso as a template for the old one.

New version history names


The version history dropdown has somewhat cryptic names now. Gone are the undescriptive names like "Version 203", replaced with something like "→ 203 | T-3m 9/15/2013 15:03:20 PM | -2+39". Let me unravel that for you. The arrow points to the version at page load time. The T-3m means "this change was done 3 minutes ago" and the timestamp gives you a more exact time. The last part tells you how many characters were deleted and how many added, so that you have an idea of the size of the change.

Suppose you wanted to go to the version from yesterday, before you decided to rewrite a large part of your presentation. You'd open the dropdown and scroll it up to yesterday's edits, find one with a large number of deleted character and pick the version before that. Zing!

Paywalls


Last but not least, I'm slowly trying to move this project to the "paying my bills"-phase. And this will require asking you, dear reader, to pay for the value you're getting out of Message. I was thinking of going with a one-off payment instead of monthly subscriptions (but don't hold me to that, plans change.) Chew on the image on the right for a minute. Does it make you want to whip out your credit card or no?

I also have a mock up ad below there. Who knows if that price point is too low (for consumers) or too high (for corporates). I guess we'll find out.

That's all this week, you can see all these amazing features in action on Message. It's still in beta, so sign-up is free!

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Built art installations, web sites, graphics libraries, web browsers, mobile apps, desktop apps, media player themes, many nutty prototypes, much bad code, much bad art.

Have freelanced for Verizon, Google, Mozilla, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Valve Software, TDK Electronics.

Ex-Chrome Developer Relations.