Secrets the PowerPoint Developers Don’t Even Know…

One of my favorite things to do is to show the developer of a function or piece of software something it does that they just weren’t expecting. I know, you’re thinking bugs, and bugs are fun too. But what I’m really talking about is broken down into two areas:

Things you can do with it that they weren’t expecting


The Blur Trick

This is typically a surprise bonus to the feature.  In PowerPoint 2010 there were two features that were moderately cool on their own: Remove Background and Artistic Effects. Both were useful on their own.  Though Remove Background didn’t actually do as good a job at Photoshop when it came to edge definitions and recognizing what was and wasn’t background.  Artistic Effects was a set filters, like Photoshop filters, that worked on the whole graphic image.  I found a cool way to combine them, but that’s another blog entry: The PowerPoint Blur Trick. Anyway, I’m not talking about that.

Things they never said it could do, but you find a way anyhow

SmartArt is this cool feature that helps users show their ideas graphically.  It may be the single biggest in-product feature for fighting bullet-hell in PowerPoint. Aside from being able to insert various SmartArt graphics onto your slide, you can also select an existing set of bullet points and directly convert that into a SmartArt graphic.

One click conversion to SmartArt

One click conversion to SmartArt

I’d go on with more, but it’s a pretty easy to understand feature, and I encourage you to explore it yourself.

Smarter than SmartArt

Two interesting things about SmartArt. First, you can easily convert it back to text via a command in the SmartArt ribbon Convert menu.  The graphic goes away and you’re back to bullet points.

The second is that SmartArt is created from the same shapes that you draw from the Shapes menu; rectangles, circles, triangles, etc. And you can Ungroup a SmartArt and modify or delete or add to the shapes. Without ungrouping, the SmartArt has to stay in the same level, part of it can’t be brought forward or sent behind. Freely recoloring and resizing parts of the ungrouped SmartArt is a great technique for getting just the right graphic.

However, once ungrouped, a SmartArt no longer retains it’s “Smartness.”  You can no longer apply a different SmartArt design to it, and you can’t get back to the original bulleted text.

Not available after you ungroup a SmartArt

Not available after you ungroup a SmartArt

Or so I thought.

Last week at The Presentation Summit, I watched Nuts and Bolts Speed Training’s Taylor Croonquist show off a quick tip that I simply would never have thought of myself.  I doubt anyone on the PowerPoint team has ever considered this possibility.  It’s  crazy, but you’ll want to add it to your “Things I Might Eventually Need In PowerPoint” toolkit.

I’m not going to spoil Taylor’s tip here, you need to head over to his page to read how it’s done.  Say Hi for me while you’re there.

The trick to reversing the conversion...

The trick to reversing the conversion…

And while you’re there check out some of their other tips too. I particularly liked their very easy to understand explanation of how to use PowerPoint’s Animation Triggers.  Enjoy.

Ric Bretschneider
October 25, 2014, 7:45 PM
Giants and Kansas City are tied 4-4.

Posted in Graphics, PowerPoint, Presentations, Tricks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Design vs. Fashion vs. User

I found myself rereading parts of Richard Saul Wurman’s Information Anxiety this afternoon.

Last week at Presentation Summit I gave a talk on the Pecha Kucha format. Pecha Kucha is a form of presentation using exactly 20 slides, with each slide advancing automatically after 20 seconds. It’s a kind of Iron Chef for accomplished presenters, but in running the local Pecha Kucha event I coach a lot of very successful novices as well. Building a Pecha Kucha is an exercise in information design, painstakingly removing unnecessary bits of info until you get to the heart of your message, the sharpest argument for moving your audience.  In my summation I referenced Wurman’s book as a good reference to learning how to do exactly that.

If you don’t know Wurman, he’s an architect, graphic designer, and cartographer. He reinvented guide books with his ACCESS line, co founded and chaired the TED conference, coined the phrase information architect, and he’s a really readable author.


Guide to Florence & Venice


Guide to New York City

Information Anxiety is 15 years old. That means it was written when Apple was floundering in it’s own design (a 16 lb Mac portable premiered that year), and that it predates the generic popularization of the Internet and World Wide Web.

But ancient as it may be, it is just as viable today as when I first bought it on a whim. It remains one of my favorite books. I can land on practically any random page and be enthralled, entertained and educated. The design is clear and orienting, an example of what the text preaches; making information accessible, removing the unnecessary, and most importantly fitting it to the perspective of the consumer.

ACCESS guide to Twin Peaks

ACCESS guide to Twin Peaks (I have a copy of this around here somewhere…)


Which lead me to visit and reflect on two things:

1) I’m struck by how design and fashion are so unnecessarily blurred by modern usage, typically by followers of fashion who can’t be bothered to understand how to design for their audience. They refer to fashion as design, and amazingly aren’t challenged for this ludicrous assertion.

It really seems simple though: Design is easy to recognize by its timeless nature, its attempt to make things better, easier, smarter, more accessible. It is the data architecture, the positioning, spacing, and ordering. It is the practice of winnowing down to essentials and focusing that information arrow on the forehead of the consumer.

Fashion doesn’t intrinsically contribute to clarity, accessibility, or base usefulness, and it has the annoying habit of becoming tired and needing to change to reinvigorate interest (and promote otherwise unnecessary spending). It vascilates between appearances, each iteration assuring that this is a breakthrough, when in fact it’s just a cycle of introduction, exhaustion, and reinvention. In dark times I tend to look at fashion and design as mortal enemies.

The design of this book is timeless because of its thoughtful planning and consistent execution. The fashion of this book is sedate, does not overshadow the design, in fact it is rather hard to isolate. In short, this balance results in a timeless book.

But this is starting to sound preachy. Let’s move on to…

2) I think I just invented the bookie. A book-focused selfie.

Information Anxiety by Richard Saul Wurman

One of my favorite books.

Yes that ended silly, but I didn’t want you to think I was burning on this issue so much as to lose my perspective or sense of humor. Keep your own perspective and design well.  And, if you must flavor your design with fashion, make sure it deftly avoids becoming information camouflage.

I hope to see more bookies in the future. Send me a link to your own bookie!

4:30pm October 23, 2014 San Jose CA

Posted in Audience, Books, Business, Design, Entertainment, Geeking around, History, Media, Personal, Presentations, Presenting, Random thoughts, Technology, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Beauty of Books

In all its alien loveliness!

In all its alien loveliness!

I recently launched Book Judgement, a companion site all about the beauty of books.

We do judge books by the covers, as well as their typography, binding, paper, and other material arts and we want to recognize the artists that craft them.

Just published is a new article about an amazing book, the Codex Seraphinianus, that is worth finding out about.

Enjoy, and subscribe!

Posted in Books, Entertainment, Geeking around, Media, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Did I say there was confusion…?

…About wireless charging a few articles back?

NOTE: The following image is a prank, that was constructed to make you destroy your own iPhone.  Do NOT put your iPhone in the Microwave.


So, this is showing up today. People who bought the new iPhones with inductive chargers are being, I kid you not, convinced to put their new iPhone 6’s and 6+’s in their microwaves and turn the oven on to charge their phones.

Does this charge the iPhone?  


What does it do?  


download (1)

Read more on Cheeseburger.


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Considering the Blue Pill…

As you may already know from prior posts, that as well as producing the weekly podcast, I often write for a website called Fanboy Planet. Fanboy Planet reports on all the silly and serious aspects of being a fan in this modern day. Being involved in fannish media is a joy which keeps my sense of wonder alive, and gets me into a lot of cool places.

This week I concluded the first trilogy of episodes in my new column,  Digital Fanboy.  This is where I examine the digital realm of media with an eye to how it affects the fannish folks and the movies, books, comics and other stuff they love.

This third episode will be up soon, maybe already!  Here’s a tease and a link…

Digital Fanboy: Episode 3
Dystopian Utopia
Dude, Where’s My Stuff?

Digital Fanboy is our exploration into digital media. How we use it, how it uses us, and how to get a better handle on everything. I hope that by breaking this down into small tastes I can help you understand what the present and future hold for us, just as I exorcise my own demons in this area. Come, take the red pill…



In Episode 1 we talked about the benefits and additional features we get from electronic media. The terms we hear and what they mean. In Episode 2 I reviewed how media made it’s way into the digital world, and what happened to it along the way. This concluding episode we’ll be looking at a couple of real-world examples of what you can come to expect from the future of digital media, and how to best prepare for it.

Of course like all modern trilogies, there’s the potential for sequels. If you have questions or if there are new developments in this area, Digital Fanboy is the friend who will either explain it or tell you you’re better off not knowing.

You Live in the Future

Digital media changed everything.

I don’t need CD cases, they’re cheaper
and “just as good” on iTunes!

Why clutter up your house with DVD cases when
you can stream those movies on Netflix?

Book cases? Just read those books from the cloud!

Sure, and there’s stuff you can do with digital that you could never do with physical media. I travel with hundreds of books in my backpack. I can choose what movie I want to watch on the plane. Mix tape from 100’s of albums when and where I want? Sure, I’m future boy!

It’s all upside, right? What could be wrong? But about this time in any SyFy movie, you know the foreboding music is about to rise and everything you’ve been enjoying is about to turn on you.

The Current Future Is Broken

Only it’s not happening in the future. It’s already here. Digital media is busted, it isn’t the warm, fuzzy friend you thought you knew. It’s been fed after midnight and then pushed into the pool.

What happens if we feed them after midnight?  Read more here!

Posted in Audience, Books, Entertainment, Geeking around, Media, Movies, Personal, Random thoughts, SciFi Fantasy, Software, Technology, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wireless… Not Really.

Moto_360_by_MotorolaLooking at the otherwise seductive Moto 360, I’m struck by the beauty of the watch and the confusion it represents.

Its charger is labeled “wireless” which is mismanaged marketing of what is more correctly known as inductive charging.  Inductive charging means that the device doesn’t actually plug-in to the charger, it sits on a surface and the proximity of the device to that surface causes the device to charge.

These new “wireless” chargers sound like electricity will be broadcast to the device, through the air, which is technology that isn’t practical given today’s research and prototyping.  I recently bought a Lumo Lift (which I’m very unhappy with, but  that’s a column for another day) which also has a proprietary and ridiculous wireless charger.

In fact, these inductive chargers are wired, and worse they’re not consistently created.  With few exceptions devices require a proprietary and unique-to-the-device dock or other housing for the inductive charging to be made.

fajb_universal_charger_02_march2014So what’s the problem with that?  Well, there’s starting to be a very crowded amount of space on my physical desktop for these devices to sit and glow as they recharge, and most of these inductive devices require daily charging so hello docklands.  It’s really kind of absurd looking when the docks are sitting there empty. The idea of setting them up when you need them puts the whole “wireless” thing to an absurd test of practicality.

This is to say nothing about packing these docks up and finding plugs for them in hotel rooms when you travel.  Forget about it.  And want to keep a charger at your work?  These are never bargains to buy a 2nd one, even when they offer spares for purchase.

A few years back all phones and most devices in the US had different plugs, requiring you to have multiple chargers with different, typically company-specific, tips on them. There are laws in Europe that require standardization. Of late there’s been progress towards standardization on mini-USB as a charging type and USB power levels eliminating the need for even a standard-plug charger.  You can travel with a few USB cords and many hotels are even providing USB power plugs on desks or lamps for the traveler.

But if this horribly misnamed “wireless” fad catches on it will be a big step backwards for us all.  Not wanting to sound too “you kids get off my lawn” on this, but setting standards for and requiring manufacturers stick with them is always in the best interest of consumers. When it gets abused, the customer suffers.

And that’s why, while I love the looks and function of the Moto 36o, I won’t be getting one for my birthday or Christmas.

Ric Bretschneider
September 6, 2014

Posted in Business, Design, Geeking around, Hardware, Random thoughts, Technology, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Just checking in…


Why wear two watches? And why don’t they tell the same time?

A bit of a puzzle of course.

Posted in Personal, Random thoughts, Thoughts, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Warning Wunderlist Users!

8-9-2014 10-40-49 AM







Apparently @WunderlistHelp just tweeted the following.

If you’re missing lists, they are safe. Please sign out and back in again. So sorry for the trouble!

I have not tried this, will check and report back.  In the meantime, I believe Step One below is still a safe first tactic.



It apparently works.  My lists are restored.  My morning is wasted, and I’m still incredibly angry with Wunderlist.

I’m leaving the article up because I’d already sent out notices so this stands as both a data recovery tactic, as well as a reminder that some developers are sloppy and lazy when it comes to scaring the sh*t out of their customers.



OK, finally something on the Wunderlist site:—lists-not-updating-across-devices



All may not be well with Wunderlist even given the support note.  Read the comments thread below, particularly the one just added by Nino.

Regardless, it does seem reasonable that if you use Wunderlist a lot, creating a local archive as described in Step 2 on a regular basis is just a sane thing to do given the history here.


OK, the version of Wunderlist pushed out this week is deleting list items. It’s all over Twitter.  Additionally, if you have multiple devices sync’d to Wunderlist, when you will open Wunderlist you get a glimpse of your list data, and then watch in horror as Wunderlist deletes it forever.

Or almost.

Here are some things you should do now.

First and foremost: DISCONNECT

Do NOT run Wunderlist! If you don’t run it, your local data is safe.

Disconnect your devices from the internet before running Wunderlist. Different on wireless Macs and PCs, but for desktops this typically means just yanking the Ethernet cable out of the back of your computer. There, now Wunderlist won’t try to sync your data into nothingness. Once you’ve disconnected, you can run the app.

Second: Preserve your data.

For each list in Wunderlist, you can right click (at least on the Mac) the list title and choose “Email List.” This will compose an email with that lists contents, all the task names, their status (even completed tasks) and all the contents including notes you’ve added in the details view. You don’t actually need to send the list, copy it from e-mail to a Word or Text document and save that new document and you won’t lose your notes.

Third: Try to Restore

If you’ve already lost your data, the’res a chance you can restore it.
On the Mac, this is easy if you’re using Time Machine. Use the Finder “Go” menu command “Go to folder…” and enter

/Users/[username]/Library/Containers/com.wunderkinder.wunderlistdesktop/Data/Library/Application\ Support/Wunderlist

Search for a file named: WKmodel.sqlite

Frankly, I just restored the whole folder at


Run Time machine and restore that folder. If you’ve never used your Time Machine restore, now is a great time to go to Apple.Com for instructions.

You may have Time Machine save the old folder if you want, but it’s likely pretty useless.

Windows users will need to see if their backups include this path:c:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Roaming\6Wunderkinder\Wunderlist\Wunderlist.dat
Sorry, but I’ve only done this on a Mac, so you’re on your on on restore specifics.

Same basic situation, restore that file if you can.


Now, you’re not really safe after restoring.  If you reconnect to the internet, Wunderlist is looking for time stamps on records, will see that records have been previously deleted, and then delete the task you just restored.  This is just a step that you might do and then follow-up with that Second: Preserve Your Data  step.  You might also preserve a copy of this folder to your desktop or another folder just in cast Wunderlist comes up with a fix.

OK, Now What?

Yes, now you have your lists preserved at least.  Getting them back into Wunderlist is another thing.  Likely you’ll need to copy/paste.  But first, know that they have a bug and haven’t commented on it, so you may want to use something else, like a paper list for a while.  Me, I pasted these lists into Evernote, which is a world-class application that has never lost my data.

Maybe Wunderlist will fix this soon, and maybe they’ll never have a bug like this again.

But I’m not betting on it.

Good luck!

Posted in Geeking around, Personal, Technology, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing | 4 Comments

Swallow the red pill…

As you may already know from prior posts, as well as producing the weekly podcast, I often write for a website called Fanboy Planet. Fanboy Planet reports on all the silly and serious aspects of being a fan in this modern day. Being involved in fannish media is a joy which keeps my sense of wonder alive, and gets me into a lot of cool places.

This week I continued new column, Digital Fanboy, where I examine the digital realm of media with an eye to how it affects the fannish folks and the movies, books, comics and other stuff they love.

The Second episode will be up soon, maybe already!  Here’s a tease and a link…


Digital Fanboy: Episode 2
Locking the Barn Door
Everything is Software, Coppertop


When we last met, I closed with the following ominous paragraph:

Your relationship with your cloud library is your personal login to the various digital comics stores. This should give you access to your purchases on an on-demand basis. But the comics downloaded to your device are basically locked-in there, you’re dependent on that specific device to read them. And the ugly truth is that without a connection to the cloud, at least every few days, your digital comics can turn into something dead. Not really yours to read no matter how much you’ve paid for them.

It wouldn’t be fair to ignore that, so let’s get to explaining how easily the rights to what you’ve paid for can evaporate.

Eating Digital Media

The most obvious commercial media you consume is music. Back in the 90’s when everyone was waking up to the power of the Internet, file sharing proved just how much we loved to carry around music. Typically this meant that individuals would use programs rip music from CDs into computer files that could be played, and of course duplicated an infinite number of times. Of course giving commercial music away to your friends was 99.9% illegal, but music companies really had no way to prevent it. Very frustrating for them, watching all those uncollected profits scamper about the Internet. So they tried to make examples of the few the caught to scare everyone out of pirating music. But that just made people hate music companies more than they did before. What to do?

What to do indeed!  Read more here.

Posted in Business, Entertainment, Games, Geeking around, History, Media, Movies, Personal, Random thoughts, SciFi Fantasy, Software, Technology, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take the Red Pill…

As well as producing the weekly podcast, I often write for a web site called Fanboy Planet. Fanboy Planet reports on all the silly and serious aspects of being a fan in this modern day. Being involved in fannish media is a joy which keeps my sense of wonder alive, and gets me into a lot of cool places.

This week I decided to start a new column, Digital Fanboy, where I’ll examine the digital realm of media with an eye to how it affects the fannish folks and the movies, books, comics and other stuff they love.

The first episode is up now, here’s a tease and a link…



Digital Fanboy: Episode 1
Your Digital Destiny
Where the Heck Are We?

Digital Fanboy is our exploration into digital media. How we use it, how it uses us, and how to get a better handle on everything. I hope that by breaking this down into small tastes I can help you understand what the present and future hold for us, just as I exorcise my own demons in this area. Come, take the red pill…


This is a subject that I love and fear in equal parts. I expect you have some excitement about digital media in your life, and you may have a bit of confusion as well. In these introductory episodes, I’m going to try to break down the basics of digital media, more bite sized than an overwhelming feast. Currently, this is a trilogy:

Episode 1 – Your Digital Destiny – Benefits and additional features we get from electronic media. The terms we hear and what they mean. That’s this episode!

Episode 2 – Locking the Barn Door – How digital media works, and how it fails. What DRM means and how it creates opportunity and complicates “ownership” of digital works. There’s a little Rebels V. Empire here that you can try at home.

Episode 3 – Dystopian Utopia – How digital media “ownership” breaks, the fragility of your digital library, and what still needs to be done to fix that. We’ll talk about the problems happening today, what’s likely to happen tomorrow, and what you and media providers can do to protect your new digital library.

And yes, we’ll be talking about digital comics.



Posted in Books, Design, Entertainment, Geeking around, Media, Movies, Personal, Random thoughts, Software, Writing | 1 Comment