Powerpoint problems

Powerpoint_1 Here it is 9:30 at night and like half of America, I am slogging away trying to finish a Powerpoint presentation. 

Funny thing, though.  Every hour or so, it loses 5 or 6 slides.  Just dumps them.  It’s never the same slides.  And I have tried to duplicate the loss but I can’t.

The good news is that I don’t have to give this presentation till Thursday.  (See you in Las Vegas at the Urban Land Institute meetings.)  The bad news is that this problem is going to haunt me until the presentation is finished.  And I already have quite enough pressure, thank you. 

As I said to the sympathetic guy sitting beside me on the train yesterday, "If it was 60 minutes to game time, I’d be desperate." 

Now, I guess it’s just me.  I have searched the internet.  No one else appears to be reporting this problem. 

But what if it isn’t me?  What if many people are having this problem, and they all think "it’s just me." 

That would be three things, at a minimum:

1) this is the software scandal of the century.  The "go to" software has a hole in it, through which our labor, our slides and our best creative efforts just disappear. 

2) Microsoft would have to know about this problem and not have said anything.

3) and this would be the brand scandle of the century, and might be the final blow to a teetering proposition.  After all, Google has taken away the Outlook and the browser.  There are now good alternatives to the Office Suite.  If consumers discovered that they were working with flawed software, who knows what they’d do?

After all, losing slides when you are working under pressure is unpleasant.  You are obliged to construct from memory when you are flayed by stress.  And everyone writes Powerpoint presentations under pressure.  (You have to.  It’s a law of the digital world, or something.  Clay Shirky has a lecture on it somewhere, I’m sure of it. ) I’m pretty sure they would want to punish Microsoft with an act of complete brand repudiation.  (Could it happen to a nicer company?)

I’m hoping that if other people who have suffered mysterious disappearances from their Powerpoint decks, they will share their experiences with me.  After all, maybe there are lots of us.  In which case, we need to band together.  Because you don’t actually need the Office suite to launch a class action suit. 

14 thoughts on “Powerpoint problems

  1. Jared

    Grant, it’s fairly well known that Word breaks down on sufficiently large documents (like a book or thesis), Excel’s statistical formulae are wrong, Access hemmorages data, and SourceSafe is suspicious; and yet all these Microsoft products are still in heavy use. Like security, users just don’t rank data integrity as high as whatever-it-is-that-keeps-them-with-Microsoft (branding? you tell me).

    That being said, you have a point (NPI) that PowerPoint’s common usage scenarios are often more desperate and immediate by people who are higher paid than those other products, so its betrayal might seem a greater slight.

  2. russell

    It’s not a bug it’s a feature.

    Every time ppt breaks my presentation gets better. I find a way of saying the same thing with less slides, fewer words, a simpler picture. And the bits of the presentation you can’t remember after the whole thing’s crashed are the ones you should have dumped anyway.

  3. Peter

    Powerpoint is like the QWERTY keyboard, Grant: Still in use, a century later, despite its evident imperfection.

    In about 1985, I used a Korean PC with a word-processor in which the text scrolled upwards rather than downwards (ie, as you typed, your current active line remained in the same central position, vertically, with text lines moving upwards as each new one was added). Much easier to type with, as your eyes were fixed on the center of the screen, not the bottom. Despite its easier interface, it hasn’t been adopted by Microsoft.

  4. allen claxton

    I am curious as to what you’ll be talking about at conference on developing master-planned communities. Is it a sort of a standard thing that you were invited to give, or do you have insights particular to that endeavor that you’ll be sharing?

  5. Jackie Huba

    Try this with a PC and PowerPoint…

    Last Friday, I videocaptured a YouTube video right before I walked out the door. While in the car going to the speaking gig (I wasn’t driving), I edited the video with iMovie to make it shorter. Imported it into Keynote, hit Save and was ready to go with minutes to spare. Elapsed time: 15 minutes.

    Keynote, fo’sho, Grant : )

  6. Matt

    I wouldn’t worry too much. The continued existence of Microsoft is proof positive that most consumers of computer software are pretty stupid. Or at least amazingly gullible. I mean, they’ve been working with flawed software since the 1980s and they haven’t picked up on it yet…I really don’t see them suddenly noticing it tomorrow.

  7. Grant

    Grant, thank you, everyone, for great suggestions. It looks like Keynote is the way to go. It looks, though, that it’s not available for Windows. I am moving briskly from Microsoft software but operating systems and PC machines. Not yet. And probably not ever. Thanks! Grant

  8. Ennis

    I use powerpoint pretty regularly and have never had a problem like that. My advice is (if you have the original CD) to deinstall and reinstall PP. If there is some sort of bizarre glitch, that should clean it up. I’d also suggest backing up regularly – I’ve got an itchy finger around Control-S – that guarantees that you have an earlier version to rollback to.

    You could try the open office clone called Impress (http://www.openoffice.org/product/impress.html). I tried it around 2 years ago (no powerpoint on my home computer) and it was serviceable then – hopefully it’s better now but I doubt it’s as good as Powerpoint.

    You might also want to try the newest version of PowerPoint, which is avail as a beta in free download:

    But really really – this shouldn’t be happening. MS Office products have slight problems, but I don’t know of something at that scale, so it’s probably fixable with a clean install.

    — “E”

    p.s. how long in chicago? I might be able to get there on Saturday …

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