Technology for presentations

What technologies do you use for presentations ? For Julia talks to smallish audiences I used Douglas Bates’ pipeline of pandoc on markdown to pdf via latex as a template. (I can’t seem to locate the source online at the moment). This is very easy (if you have the tools) and does code highlighting. It uses beamer, but the default style is simple enough that it doesn’t have that garish, busy, beamer look. But, I have not used bells and whistles this way. Embedding videos in latex can be clumsy and may fail depending on tools, including the viewer.

EDIT: Here is the markdown source for Douglas Bates’ talk. It’s useful as a template, and the content was widely praised by people in the know.

For interactive presentations about Julia, I found Jupyter notebooks useful. PGFPlotsX cuts down on compilation time for plots.

For slides where I am presenting results computed with Julia, I use LaTeX, specifically beamer (custom template, I dislike the default look too for the same reasons). Here I don’t usually include code, but when I do, minted (which uses Pygments) is reasonable. Plots, again, come from PGFPlotsX, so they blend in smoothly (font size and style).


I’ve used reveal-md for my last couple of talks, and it’s been pretty easy to use. It has built-in MathJax (i.e. latex) support and code highlighting.

The biggest downside is that if you want any kind of layout control you have to do it directly in HTML+CSS, which is clumsy. But at least I suppose that’s a useful life skill…


I’m a big fan of IJupyter notebooks along with the RISE plugin. At a baseline you get a pretty slick-looking presentation (though I disable the distracting slideing transitions) you can make with mixed markdown and code output. What’s cool about RISE specifically is that during the presentation you can re-execute cells from within the slide


Great, I think it is very useful to collect these ideas in one place.

Another thing (reusing the title of the thread in a different sense) does anyone know what the AV setup will be ? This might bear on what one tries to use.

I am used to physics/biophysics conferences which can be frightening in this respect… I could tell war stories all day.

I once stuck my pendrive in the machine provided, tested the slides, and went to the break. After the break, the document refused to open. Someone lent me his macbook (used for his presentation) it went to sleep every few seconds. I went to the big poster-sized paper easel (fortunately it was there!) and drew the first couple of slides after a fashion, which (fortunately again) were circles with squiggly lines anyway. After someone fixed the gear, I returned to the contents slide.

The American Physical Society AV gear is stone-aged (no doubt because of logistics; there are 10K+ people at the March Meeting.) The last time I attended (two or three years ago), I went to the prep room: Shutdown my laptop, started my laptop, plugged the VGA cable into my HDMI adapter, opened the pdf, clicked my clicker. All OK. I then did all the steps one more time. At the presentation, the gear was different somehow, and no one could figure out how to use it with my laptop. I used my pendrive and borrowed a machine.

At the same session at the same APS conference, I saw a very experienced speaker with a good talk forced to do it literally waving his hands because he did not have the talk on a pendrive in his pocket and his machine wouldn’t work. It was an uncomfortable experience. (I know it was good only because he presented it to me later using just his laptop screen)

I recommend strongly not only having the presentation on the machine, but also copies on two separate pen drives. I have run into situations where one pendrive does not fit in the usb jack of some machine for whatever reason, or is unreadable for some reason.

I would be very happy hear that JuliaCon is far beyond all this.


Yeah, that’s definitely a downside of the Reveal/RISE options - they involve running a local webserver on your machine, make it hard to quickly switch to a different machine, and PDF export can be kinda flakey/tricky.

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It would be great to have the presentations also in a static, reasonably future-proof format (eg PDF slides, IJulia notebook), especially now that v0.7 is more or less v1.0 and the latter (with compatible updates) will be around for a while.


I am another custom beamer template user.
my personal template strips slides to content and title.
No footer or outline.
Also nonwhite backgrounds and nonblack text. Like not so much as to harm contrast but enought to ease the eyes

I like minted but I can’t make it work on my desktop. (I could switch to overleaf for it)
I’ve written what I expect to be the three most code heavy slides for my talk.
I colourized it by hand.
Because highlighting syntactic elements isn’t as good as highlighting semantic elements.
That way I can say “so the bit in blue is needed to floob, the flizzer constructed in the green bit”


@avik Do we know the resolution of the projectors and the best laptop output [port]?


I suppose you mean something like \textcolor{blue}{floob}. For the same reason I used to use plain latex (beamer) for math-heavy talks.

But, if there’s no math, then beamer is not terrible, but the markdown is so much easier. The barbaric way to include something that can’t be done with markdown (like one-off coloring) would be to somehow insert the plain beamer slide into the markdown-source slides with a pdf tool.

For physics talks I ended up using the drawing editor ipe. This may work for a JuliaCon talk that includes much domain content . If it’s the right kind of content. ipe is relatively unknown and doesn’t have nearly the capability of, say, inkscape (let alone Illustrator). One thing ipe does well, that I couldn’t find anywhere else, is allowing latex code as an object. It renders the latex and then you do the same as you do with a triangle; color, scale, rotate, copy etc. If you have a lot of math (or anything you can do with latex) and don’t want to be bound to the beamer layout, the only other options I found were things like tikz, which is way too complicated for my taste. For the presentation, I insert ipe drawings in beamer slides, often with no other element on the page. You can also paste a common header of latex macros in each drawing which simplifies things.

Here is an example talk .

All but the second and the second-to-last slide are ipe drawings. The embedded images were not included via latex in beamer, but rather were imported into the ipe drawings and scaled and moved with the mouse.

I haven’t looked recently for this latex feature in other tools.

For inkscape there is the textext extension that renders latex nicely, like what you describe for ipe. Alternatively I have on occasion written out all the maths in latex and used pdf2svg on the results and imported into inkscape (or illustrator).

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There was few weeks ago a topic about that Creating presentation slides using remark.js that deals with remark.js, a new kid on the block for markdown prez. My answer was :

Starting with jupyter / juliabox + reveal is an easy going experience.
Problems come when you need to change / merge / split / version files.
Not so easy as with markdown directory.

I have converted a few of my slides to git / gitbook, gitbook opensource for these reasons.
A tool with a good equilibrium between simplicity, features and support.

I definitively like weave mindset and think it is the way to go.
But subdorate there may be some shortage on ressource available behind it today.

After Julia 1.0, it may be simpler to expand it and plug more and more things like pandoc, reveal, commonmark etc.

You can publish a gitbook with gitlab pages
example here:
It should work with github pages too (i have not try it personally).

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Plz keep in mind that pdf is one of (the one?) worst format if you need to reedit again.
So always keep your original if u think you need to commit some changes later.
At this point, markdown is unbeaten (even if the variants zoology is a mess. choose one like gfm and stick to it)

I really like It is easy to use, looks nice and renders math with KaTeX. Unfortunately, some of the most useful features require a paid plan.

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I really like the idea of markdown for slides,
since it keeps it simple for text-based slide
However, it has the key problem that if your slides are high in
figures, graphics, and colors then it is not going to be simple.

And to my mind the best kind of slides are not text-based,
but are full of figures.

Take a look at the first 3 slides here




(As should be obvious, I do really like Tikz)

To me they are nearly the idea slides.

  • Highly visual,
  • explaining the relationships in ways that are hard to convey with just speaking
  • show key points that will be expanded upon in the speaking

Though they might be too full and so hard to read on a low-res/small screen

Ideally all slides would be like that, but they take a lot longer to make than just text slides.

On tools and tech for presentations

That linked latex actually contains an chunk of code,
to create a non-beamer based latex presentation.

Its key idea, (which I would like to explore more).
is that slides don’t have to fit on one screen.
The single-screen / forwards and backwards only constraint comes from the technological limitations of transparency and 35 mm slide projectors

But with how computer projectors work now,
there is no limitation to prevent you from scrolling down a slide, (leaving earlier information still visible above)
or zooming in on fine detail as you discuss a particular point.

Although zooming means you need a mouse and keyboard, so harder to do while standing.
And this also knocks out the idea of partial slide changes (e.g unveiling dot points on at a time)

Reveal.js has a related idea that slides can go forwards, backwards, up and down.


Inkscape can do LaTeX.

I was suggesting it as the final format that is archived and made available on the webpage, not as the source. Practically, at this point PDF is one of the best formats for archiving. People should use whatever they feel comfortable with for presentations, but if it generates a PDF that can be archived, it should be.

Markdown and other text-based formats are strong contenders, as you can always read plain text, but if one uses non-standard markup extensions + dynamic features, this advantage is quickly lost.


For JuliaCon we will have HDMI and VGA connectors. We’ve visited the venue, and it looks like the quality of AV equipment is pretty good.

Last year, I saw one of our speakers forced to handwave due to not having the correct connectors, and we hope to not replicate that experience!

Having said that, things can, and do, go wrong. I would suggest having one copy of the presentation on your computer, one on a USB stick, and one on a remote server (preferably without a login – maybe in a public github). The latter is also useful since we will link to the presentation from the juliacon talk pages after the conference.




Searching online for how to do this is a minor odyssey. There are a few extensions, at least one deprecated. Discussions of advantages vs. disadvantages. Numerous posts on “this is how I did it”. In the end, I chose downloading a tarball of the most recently maintained fork of textext. I ran the install script. I tried running the textext extension as well as the “builtin” extension. They both failed. Apparently psedit fails to produce svg with recent versions of gs. There are several discussions of workarounds for various OS’s, downgrading, or building from source, etc.

I would like to know how well latex works, especially how well it is integrated into inkscape. I’ll try again when the incompatibility is fixed.

In ipe, latex support is not an extension(s). All text is latex code; there is no other way to enter text (or math). If you export as pdf, the ipe description is embeded, so that the pdf document can be edited later directly in ipe with no conversion glitches. I really like that latex is not an afterthought. But, if inkscape can do latex as conveniently and flexibly it might be a good optin.

Take a look at the first 3 slides

These look great. The linked version is easy to read.

The listed advantage Use all the commands with fancy math is not unique. This is baked into ipe and maybe an extension does it in inkscape. I’m usually not a fan of wysiwyg, but your Spend hours over-engineering Con is a big deal. I can leave ipe for months and immediately edit the pdf figure (the ipe description is embedded) for another purpose. Tikz is obviously better for more complicated, precise, and programmatic figures. Your wavy arrows and graphs are impressive. I do find some less complicated Tikz tricks useful in combination with other tools.

I also like making most of the slides “highly visual” with arrows, etc. The information is more compact. But, as you note, you can be tempted to put too much on a slide because its easy.

Getting away from the 35mm legacy would be great. How would you design a presentation toolchain from scratch ? We need bold pioneers. But, there is the compatibility issue. At a conference, I want something that conveys my ideas and is bulletproof.

Of course the best is to draw your slides by hand (like on a samsung tablet). I saw a talk by a very talented scientist about interesting work. She drew all the slides by hand. They were beautiful and showed a unity of style. A slide or two were decorated with flowers, probably the conclusion. Communication was very effective, and in terms of presentation, it generated the most enthusiasm. But, we can’t all do that :slight_smile: