Presentation Remote

Updates & Expectations

First of all, we expect to have a new update out soon, which will offer a few small bugfixes, and the “blank out screen” feature that a number of people have asked for.

But I’m going to spend most of this post talking about the number-one feature request: Changing slides in “slide view”/”highlighter” mode.

A lot of people ask for this. Seriously. It’s the most-often asked-for thing in reviews, posted to our mailing list or asked about in tech support emails. So, obviously, it’s at the top of the to-do list, and we want to add it as soon as possible.

But… it’s not quite as straightforward as that.

The thing is, we never actually intended to have a “slide view” mode in its own right: it was just necessary for the highlighter, so that you could see which part of the slide you were tapping on. We didn’t expect people to want the slide on their screen, as it’s already up there on the big screen — the idea was, the stuff that showed up on the iPhone, would be the stuff you didn’t show to the audience — notes, slide numbers, controls, and so on.

So, Presentation Remote only fetches the slide image down when you tilt the iPhone into what, at Wooji Juice, was called “highlighter mode”.

Of course, as soon as Presentation Remote launched and people started using it, they wondered why they couldn’t change slides in what they naturally thought of as “slide mode”. When I read the very first email asking about it, my first thought was, “Well, it’s not supposed to be for that!” But of course, I was wrong. Once we displayed the slide image, it’s a perfectly natural expectation that you can navigate with it.

Well, we should try and at least meet — if not exceed — our users expectations!

The problem is… well, firstly the user-interface issues I mentioned before, but we’re working on those. But also, we’ve already set up another expectation: when you drag or swipe the notes to one side, the notes for the next slide are already there, ready and waiting to slot into place. People will naturally expect the slide view to work exactly the same way. It’s just common sense. It’s like you’re shuffling through a deck of cards with your finger, whether they have notes or slide images on them.

Unfortunately, it just can’t work that way: In fact, we have no way at all of getting the image of a Keynote slide, except by waiting for Keynote to actually display it on the screen, and then grab the image as a screenshot.

As well as stopping us from displaying a “next slide sneak preview” (as a few people have asked for), it also means there won’t be anything to display when you swipe the screen to the side.

The current plan — making the best we can of the situation — is to display a “placeholder” with the slide/build number on it (similar to the “notes mode” screen) until Keynote is ready, then send the new image across to replace it. This is… well, it’s just not as nice as the way the notes work, and personally I’m concerned new users are going to be put off.

Why? Because when you have to wait for the screenshot to appear, it “seems slow”. It’s a weird psychological effect — it’s actually running exactly as fast as it always did, but it feels slower because there’s something to wait for! All it’s really waiting for is Keynote to finish playing the transition animation so it can take a new screenshot, but it feels like its lagging behind. And when Presentation Remote even feels like it’s lagging, people write nasty reviews on the App Store, and our sales go down :P

Part of me says, “Do it right or not at all” — and Keynote doesn’t let us “do it right”. But far too many people want slide-view navigation for us to not try and support it, so the question at the moment is: How to make slide-view navigation feel fast, given the limitations placed upon us?