Using Inkscape for presentations

For ages now I have been seeking a better way to do certain presentations. I tend to spend a lot of time in Inkscape mapping out ideas but I don’t really want to put slides on different layers.

I bought a copy of dan roam’s the back of a napkin a while ago and I’ve been influenced by the idea of using white boards, mood boards, etc to explain ideas. The problem is that once you put the effort in to putting down the idea on to the canvas, you then have to re-adapt it to a presentation with Open Office. Its why I kind of like the idea of the unlimited canvas.

Prezi was talked about and overused to death a while ago, now you hardly see it. I blogged about it a while ago and decided that there must be a better more open way to do the same.

I have been thinking maybe some enterprising group of people could take the SVG specification and build a tool which generates these exact same presentations. So first up you can use scripts on every element including the viewpoint attribute. There seems to be a load of things you can do with the Canvas coordinate system. SVG 1.1 has the ability to embed certain multimedia but SVG Foreign Object could be used to place a browser or a complete video within a SVG.

You could imagine a specially made tool which worked like Prezi but wouldn’t need to be propitery and locked in. They could even create and sell a player and editor backed with its online space, so the business model isn’t totally shattered. Even if a rival tried to create the same, OpenPrezi as I’m coining it would be first to the market and have a wealth of knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Even a track record might go down well. So in my mind, there’s no way I will be using Prezi till its a lot more open. I’m sure even I could with a bit of time construct something using the SVG methods I mentioned. I’m not questioning the method or even the concept, it actually reminds me of mood boards. Its the implementation which winds me up.

Well my questions have been answered by some enterprising group of people.

Jessyink is the answer…

JessyInk, an open-source extension to the open-source SVG editor InkScape.

Perfect, so once I’ve created my master piece, its hopefully going to take a few more moments to turn it into something presentable. I’m not the only person to realise the power of this setup. Prezi vs JessyInk

The first time I heard about Prezi, I started looking for a possible equivalent in SVG, and I discovered that JessyInk was a pretty good candidate: it combines a Javascript library that deals with enabling simple navigation through a SVG document according to some conventions, with an extension to the fantastic InkScape SVG editor to make it possible to integrate effects, transitions and views from the editor itself.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got confirmation that JessyInk now provides the tools needed to build Prezi-like effects, and so, when I was invited to talk on “W3C and the Social Web” at the 10th anniversary of the W3C Italian office I decided to give it a try to build my presentation.

The resulting “slides” were OK, but they clearly remain much more “slide-based” than what I would have done with Prezi.

A big reason for that is that JessyInk still uses slide as the basic unit for its operations – slides are based on Inkscape layers across which you can have transitions. This doesn’t encourage working on a completely 2D-based presentation, even though it allows fairly easily to zoom in and out in a particular slide.

So it looks like JessyInk might have a bright future in front of it. The presentations are not quite as free flowing as Prezi, but to be fair its a good compromise. Open source comes up with the goods, and what a true test of the power of Open source! Fantastic, where do I start!

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.