Presenter-to-Go: Forget that projector

Presenters, prepare to lighten your load. If your primary purpose for business travel is to show presentations to audiences, you can now leave your notebook at home. And if your destination has a projector, you can leave your own at home too.

Presenter-to-Go from Margi Systems Inc. gives your Pocket PC the power to present by compressing files from your PC and loading them onto the handheld. Its functionality is not limited to Microsoft PowerPoint files, either — you can use it with any Windows application with printer support, such as Word, Excel or Paint, as well as with any Web browser.

The product consists of desktop and Pocket PC software plus a PC Card, which means that your handheld will need a PC Card reader.

The impressive 1024x768 output can be displayed on any projector or monitor with a VGA connector and support for that resolution.

The basic process is simple: Create your PowerPoint presentation or document on your PC as usual, compress it with Margi's desktop software, send it to your Pocket PC via ActiveSync (the synchronization software for Pocket PCs), then connect the handheld to a projector and you're ready to go.

We barely had to read the manual to get up and running in just a short time. When the desktop software is installed it adds a Margi icon to the PowerPoint toolbar. When you're ready to send the presentation to the Pocket PC, simply click this icon.

The software is quite simple to use. It contains options for renaming the presentation, changing the resolution and making other minor adjustments. If you want to append your current document to an existing one, this is easily accomplished with a click of the Append button and selection of the file name from a list. You can even append the current file to one that was previously transferred to the handheld.

We especially liked the "Master Slide" feature. If your presentation is large but the slides all follow the same basic format, you can use one master slide design for all of the slides in the presentation. This significantly shrinks the file size.

When you transfer the file to the handheld you can send it to the system memory or a storage card.

The handheld software is also simple to use. When you choose a presentation from the drop-down list, the window fills with a listing of each slide.

Using checkboxes next to each slide, you can select slides to show or skip during your presentation. An icon next to each slide lets you view the notes associated with it. (Notes and slides cannot be modified from the handheld, although this feature may be included in a future release.)

Cleverly, the software allows you to view a slide's notes on the handheld while the slide itself is projecting on the display. Even better, you can skip ahead on the handheld to notes for any slide in the presentation while a different slide is projecting to the audience.

To advance slides when presenting, you can use either the handheld's navigation button or the included remote control. The remote control is a little larger than a credit card and in our tests it worked up to about five feet away from the Pocket PC. Since infrared ports on most handhelds are located on the top of the device, note that the handheld will be upside down to the person operating the remote.

The usual presentation functions are also available, such as slide show, which can even be looped continuously. You can also beam your presentations to another handheld using the infrared port.

When not presenting, you can view thumbnails of each slide — useful for last-minute preparation on the airplane.

Presentations consisting mainly of charts and graphs will compress by 65 percent or more. The software is optimized for those types of objects, so if your presentation contains photographs — especially JPG images that cover more than 60 percent of the slide area — the converted handheld file may actually end up larger than the original PowerPoint file, so use caution. This happens because the conversion process was developed to function within the limitations of the handheld's processor.

Not all PowerPoint features are supported by Presenter-to-Go. Unsupported features include transitions, motion, and audio and video features, although some animation is supported.

The Margi package also comes with a second software application called Margi Mirror that allows you to display the handheld's contents on a projector or monitor. Our handheld display showed up bright and clear, and two zoom sizes are available.

Anyone who travels to make presentations will love this product. It's simple to install and use, and you can travel with only a handheld unless you need unsupported presentation features. The high display resolution results in gorgeously clear slides.

REPORT CARD

Main story: PDA software grab bag

***

Presenter-to-Go

Grade: A

Margi Systems Inc.

(510) 657-4435

www.margi.com

Available on the General Services Administration schedule for $179. For volume discount pricing, write to gsa@margi.com.

An extremely convenient, easy-to-use package for presenting from a personal digital assistant without the need for a notebook.

Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC; Dell Computer Corp. 3200MP projector; desktop PC running Windows 98.

It is compatible with any handheld or PCs running Windows 98 or 98SE, Me, 2000, XP and NT 4.0.

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