Modifying a LaTeX (Beamer) Presentation

Most graduate students in disciplines that use a lot of math learn to use a text formatting tool called LaTeX ("la teck") because it is much easier to do math formulas and bibliographic entries when compared to Microsoft Word. You aren’t really a member of the the “club” unless you know LaTeX. I continue to use LaTeX for presentations because it offers a great running table of contents bar that I like, as shown in Figure 1. I’ve asked a number of Microsoft-certified people how to do that in PowerPoint, but no one seams to not a straight-forward way to do it, so I stick to LaTeX. Once you know how to use it, creating a presentation in LaTeX/Beamer is as fast or faster than doing the same thing in PowerPoint.

There are several Toastmasters Leadership Institute presentations that people have requested; this article is aimed at giving this group a way to edit and use the source to these presentations.

Figure 1. The running Table of Contents in LaTeX/Beamer presentations is a feature that is hard to do in PowerPoint.
LaTeX and Beamer provide a running table on contents in presentations

Install MikTex, TexMaker and Adobe Acrobat Reader

The first step in the process is to install several pieces of software:

  • MikTeX, which is the most convenient Microsoft Windows distribution of LaTeX. For OS X, there are similar packages available.
    • After you install MikTeX, make sure to install the Beamer package.
  • TexMaker is an editor that is designed to make LaTeX easier to use. It has syntax highlighting, spell checking, and a lot of other tools built in to it. Because LaTeX works with plain ASCII files, you can use any editor, but I use TexMaker because it is available on Ubuntu, Windows and OS X, so I don’t have to learn multiple software tools.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader is the software that you will use to display your presentation on a projector once you have completed it.
  • If you expect to work with PostScript images, you should also install Ghostscript and GhostView.

Modify the Presenter and Date

Once you have the software installed, open up the presentation_name.tex file in TexMaker. It will look like the screen capture in Figure 2–a little intimidating if you aren’t a programmer, but it is actually pretty easy to work. LaTeX has to “compile” your .tex file; press F1, and the compiled PDF will show up on the panel on the right. This is probably too small to really read it easily, so go to the directory where your .tex file is located and open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat.

Figure 2. TexMaker can be intimidating, but the syntax highlighting makes it easy to know what to modify.
The syntax highlighting in the TeXMaker interface make modifications easier

To modify the presentation, search on “Bruce Moore” and change all of the occurrences to your name; press F1 to recompile, and look at the presentation. If the date is incorrect, search on the date that is listed in the presentation and change it to the date that you need for your TLI.

Add a Slide

To add a slide for a bullet-ed list, add the following to the file:

\begin{frame}[fragile]{This is the Title on the Slide} \begin{itemize} \item This is an item in a bullet-ed list \pause % Press the slide clicker to display the next bullet \item This is the next item \end{itemize} \end{frame}

To add a slide with a graphic, add the following to the file and press F1 to compile:

\begin{frame}[fragile]{This is the Title on the Slide} \includegraphics[scale=0.35]{graphic_file.png} \end{frame}

If your graphic runs off the side of the page, adjust the scale parameter to make it smaller (or larger).

Compile Versions for 4x3 Projectors, 16x9 Projectors and Handouts

One downside for LaTeX/Beamer is that the PDF output is fixed dimension and won’t automatically adjust to the display resolution of your projector. You will need to compile versions of your presentation for both 4x3 projectors (generally 1024x768 resolution) and 16x9 projectors (generally HD or 1920x1080). To do this comment (% sign at beginning of the line) or uncomment (remove % at beginning of the line) the appropriate line at the very top of the file:

%\documentclass[xcolor=dvipsnames,aspectratio=169]{beamer} % Print version for presentation %\documentclass[xcolor=dvipsnames,aspectratio=43]{beamer} % Print version for presentation \documentclass[xcolor=dvipsnames,handout]{beamer} % Print version for handout printing

Use F1 to compile the source and then rename the output PDF file to something like presentation_4x3.pdf, presentation_16x9.pdf or presentation_handout.pdf as appropriate.

If the Presentation Will Not Compile

If the presentation won’t compile, first check for missing \end{frame} or \end{itemize} tags in your source. If that does not work, try adding [fragile] to the \begin{frame}{title} tag if it is missing. If that fails, Google the specific compile error codes and if you still can’t figure it out and you have a few days before the TLI, send me an email and attach your modified presentation file.

Websites with Useful Information

There are a number of web sites with tutorials on LaTeX and Beamer: