Presentation Remote 1.3, and Progress

Presentation Remote 1.3 is out in the App Store; if you already have version 1.0, you should be able to upgrade it from your iPhone or iPod Touch, or from iTunes.

I’ve mentioned what’s new before; also, if you want to see a preview, you can check out a video review one of our customers put up on YouTube.

So, with v1.3 out of the way, I’m going to talk about our other progress. The two most widely asked-for Presentation Remote features are:

  • Being able to change slides from the highlighter/slide view
  • Being able to customise the highlighter (different sizes/shapes)

We’d like to offer both these features — and there’s a prototype version sitting on my desk that features highlighter resizing. The problem is the user interface. In highlighter mode, the screen is filled with your slide, there are no buttons, and everything is controlled by gesture. Currently, a single tap anywhere activates the highlighter, or moves it to a new location; tapping with two fingers at once cancels the highlighter. This doesn’t leave much room for adding two new commands. We can’t, for instance, use double-taps or tap-and-hold for alternatives, because you could easily do either of these while fiddling with the highlighter.

The thing is, we could come up with ways, but they’d be… arcane. Like, tap with three fingers while hopping on one foot to resize the highlighter. We don’t really want that.

Here’s what we’d like to avoid, if possible:

  • Adding buttons to the screen. It reduces the amount of space for the already-quite-small slide, and they’re fiddly when you’re on-stage.
  • Using three-finger (or more!) gestures. Also fiddly!
  • Using the accelerometer (shaking or tipping the iPhone/iPod). We already use it to change modes, and we only do that because changing modes is invisible to your audience — so, if you have a tendency to move your arms around a lot during presentations, it doesn’t matter if it flips over to notes or slide view — you can just flip back. Whereas if it changed slides or messed with the highlighter… that would be bad.
  • Adding extra modes. The two we have are enough, and it’s very obvious which you’re in; the more different modes there are, the more you have to stop and think, “urgh, what mode is it in?” before you can do something.

If we can’t come up with anything that’s simple enough that you don’t have to stop mid-presentation to check an instruction book, then we’re going to steer clear of it. Our current fallback plan is to use two-finger taps to change slides or resize the highlighter but not both at the same time — you’d need to choose which you want from the settings.

This is… not ideal. But it beats hopping up and down. :)