[laptop + LaTeX == Presentation]


This page collects some examples and tips for producing a high-quality Portable Document Format (PDF) document that is formatted for displaying on an entire PC screen (with something like a 4:3 aspect ratio, the most common ratio). The obvious intent is to use the document for a PC-based presentation (most commonly, a laptop). This is how I make all my talks. With a PDF format file one can give a laptop presentation using the Acrobat viewer. Part of the intent of this approach is to leverage one's knowledge of LaTeX in preparing papers to create talks. With this philosophy we have tried to use as little extra LaTeX as possible that is specific to creating overheads. Most of what you will read in the source will work as well in a document. My preference is to have fairly clean overheads that emphasize the talk's content. Accordingly some of the more elaborate LaTeX packages for talks have more features than I really need.

pdflatex and pfuef

We use a combination of pdflatex and the pfuef package created by Reinhard Furrer. (Version 2.1 is part of the example given below.) PDFLaTeX results in a high-quality pdf document that is formatted for viewing on a PC screen or with a data projector. It directly converts LaTeX to pdf without creating an intermediate dvi file. The obvious intent is to use this file for giving a laptop-based seminar. However, this strategy allows for a printed version (handouts) to be made with minimal changes. Here are some examples written in LaTeX, (with a few extra commands), and a description of how to prepare figures and how to view (present) it. Finally, we note one advantage of PDFLaTeX is that it can incorporate several types of graphics images including jpg and png formats.

An example talk

The text file talkpfuef.tex is a short example that has most of the elements that are used for seminar overhead slides. To try this out grab the tar file Example2.tar.gz, unzip and untar it. The main components in Example2 are

  • talkpfuef.tex The LaTeX file that you will modify for each talk.
  • ColorsFromR.tex Definitions of several hundred colors that are the same as the graphics in R.
  • NychkaStuff.tex These are some special latex macros -- lots of boldface symbols that I like to use. Strictly optional.
  • example.png,IMAGe.jpg, BoulderDI01532,jpg Some graphics used in the sample talk.
  • talkpfuef.pdf What the pdf version of this will look like.
  • pfuef Version 2.1 of pfuef package used by the talk. Note: This installation also has some extra images added in the p5figures directory that I like to use.
  • showcolors.tex, showcolors.pdf Simple display of the different colors from ColorFromR.tex so one can match a name to a hue.

And then (in UNIX/LINUX):

Move to the Example2 directory
pdflatex talkpfuef

will create the file talkpfuef.pdf (actually it may overwrite the file already created.) and can be viewed by any pdf veiwer.

Some LaTeX tips

  • Don't forget about the minipage and tabular environments in LaTeX to lay out several figures in a table or side-by-side. minipage, in particular, is nice for putting a block of text beside a figure.
  • The linking option in pdflatex can be useful to jump from one slide to another.
  • It shouldn't be surprising that pdf graphics play nicely with the pdflatex package.
  • The vector-based flavor of png is also a favorite graphics format for images that would be large in pdf format.
  • pdf graphics formats 'zoom' well. jpeg, gif do not ... this should come as no surprise -- they are already rasterized.


Use the /includegraphics command and refer to the example to see how it used. It appears to be standard and more flexible than the psfig command. Unfortunately, ps figures can not be directly included under pdflatex, but see the conversion tips below.

We recommend that one draws the figures directly in png, pdf or jpeg format rather create later problems with the conversions from postscript to another format.

At this point, I know of no package available for Windows and Unix/Linux that can incorporate animations/movies. Generally, I have the animation "ready" and simply minimize acroread for a moment, show the animation, and continue.

Creating pdf format figures

Here are some suggestions to convert postscript files or to create plots in R with the intent of including them in your talk.

  • From an existing postscript file:
  • If the plot has 8.5 X 11 aspect just
    convert fig1.ps fig1.pdf
    Sometimes the ps file has too large a margin around the edges. Here is a sequence that will trim off any white space around a postscript figure. A real shrink wrap! In UNIX
       ps2epsi fig1.ps fig1.eps 
       epstopdf fig1.eps
    produces the file fig1.pdf

  • A pdf/png graph created directly from R:
  •    pdf("fig3.pdf")
       plot( 1:10)
       plot( 1:10)

Creating jpeg format figures

These are great to reduce the size of images. However, typically text is not reproduced well. In UNIX use

convert  -quality 100 fig1.ps fig1.jpg

A more interactive tool for conversion is xv. Setting the quality less than 100 (even just 99) will usually produce a much smaller file but with some loss of clarity. R also has a jpeg function to create jpeg figures directly.

Viewing or giving a presentation

The pdf file that is produced can be viewed easily using Abode Acrobat this is acroread in UNIX/LINUX.

  • Use control-L key to toggle back and forth between full screen and a smaller window with a tool bar.
  • Cursor keys move you forward and backward through the talk.
  • Clicking on the arrows in the tool bar will let you retrace your steps after following a link.
  • Control-q to quit.
  • Don't forget the zooming capability! Control + and Control - . But I would practice these before you give your talk!

Last modified: Dec 15 2006