Create Presentation Slides with Spice-Up

Recently, I was asked out of the blue to give a short presentation. It was to a small crowd, on a topic with which I was familiar. However, I only had about five days to prepare. That included my script and a slide deck, all around The Day JobTM and my personal projects.

For the slides, I could have fired up LibreOffice Impress or shaken the rust of my skills with Reveal.js. But I just needed simple slides, created quickly. Which gave me the excuse to try out an application that's been on my radar for a while: Spice-Up.

Let's take a look at it.

Getting Spice-Up

Spice-Up is made for elementary OS. So, if you use that Linux distribution you can grab it from the AppCenter.

What if you don't use elementary OS? You can find it in software centres of other distributions. You can also install Spice-Up via Flathub. So much for being locked into elementary OS ...

Once it's installed, fire it up. You're greeted by this window:

Spice-Up when you first start it

Using Spice-Up

Create your first slide deck by clicking New Presentation. You're given the choice of seven templates that you can use:

Templates in Spice-Up

Click on one and you're ready to go.

Creating Slides

Once you select a template, it creates a desk with the title slide visible, as shown below.

Creating a new deck in Spice-Up

You can change or delete the text that's there. Using contols in the top of the application window, you can add these to a slide:

Add another slide by clicking the + icon in the bottom left of the window. Continue building your slides by adding text, images, and/or shapes until the deck is done. If you've created slides before, that's probably nothing you haven't done in another presentation tool. Just so you know, Spice-Up saves your work as you type.

Here's a completed slide deck in Spice-Up:

A completed slide deck in Spice-Up

Modifying Your Slides

Admittedly, the templates that come with Spice-Up aren't anything too fancy. They do, however get the job done. You can, though, modify your slides by:

Changing the background colour of a slide, as shown below:

Changing the colour of slides in Spice-Up

Changing a slide's background pattern, as shown below:

Changing the background pattern of slides in Spice-Up

And adding a transition, as shown below:

Adding a slide transition in Spice-Up

You should change all of those settings on the sole slide in the deck immediately after you create a new presentation. From there, you can clone the slide to reuse them. I'll be looking at how to do that in a moment.

Other Functions

While Spice-Up is a fairly basic application, it does have some useful features. The first of which is the ability to add presenter notes to a slide. Do that by clicking the Presenter Notes icon on the toolbar to open an editing box, as shown below:

Adding presenter notes to a slide in Spice-Up

If you have a slide with elements that you want to reuse, you can clone it to make an exact duplicate of the slide. This is useful, for example, if you have a list in which you want to highlight a different item in each slide, while dimming the other items in the list. To clone a slide, press CTRL+D on your keyboard.

You can also save a slide deck as a PDF file by clicking the Export to PDF button on the toolbar, as shown below:

Click this button to export slides to PDF in Spice-Up

Viewing Your Slides

Click Start Presentation button in the top-right corner of the window.

Click this button to start presenting with Spice-Up

Spice-Up goes into full screen mode, with your first slide loaded. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move between the slides.

Viewing Your Slides Without Spice-Up

According to the developer, you can also launch your slide deck in a browser — your slides are in what's essentially an HTML file (with some JavaScript, CSS, and SVG thrown in for good measure), but with the extension .spice.

When I tried to open one of those files in Firefox, the browser just kept spawning tabs. I had to shut down the browser. The Chromium-based browser I tried only displayed the HTML source of the .spice file. And Web just wouldn't recognize the file.

However, when I changed the extension to .html, all three browsers opened the slides. I only needed to switch to full screen mode to get the full effect.

A Trio of Small Problems

After you create a slide deck, it's given the name Untitled Presentation. You can only change that name on the Welcome screen. It would be more convenient to be able to do that on the slide editing screen.

While you can save your presentations as a PDF, you can't export them to formats that other presentation tools (like LibreOffice Impress) can read. That's probably not an issue for Spice-Up's intended audience, but I'm sure for some people that would be a make or break omission.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, you can add presenter notes to slides. That said, I couldn't figure out how to display the notes when viewing a slide deck.

Final Thoughts

On the rare occasions that I give a talk, slides are mainly prompts. My slides are never anything fancy — no motion, animation, or embedded whatevers. Often, those slides are just simple text and or image. Or just a word, a la the Takahashi method.

For what I need to do, Spice-Up works as well for me as other slide creation tools. It's a quick and easy way to build and organize slide decks of the kind that I prefer to use.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #desktop