Writing walkthrough guides is easy. It’s the formatting of the content that will take you forever to do, especially of you are wanting to repurpose the content into other formats like scripts, blog posts, summaries and even books. And if you want to make a change to a guide, or correct mistakes then that can take just as much time because you might break some of the formatting, or pagination, or you may miss one of the formats. And if you wanted to have specific page breaks, formatting requirements or different page sizes for different versions then it just doubles or triples the work.
Some people may have lackeys or interns that they can give this job to, but I wasn’t one of them, and have literally spent weekends formatting books and transferring images one by one into Word so that I can publish document or create detailed blog post series.
One day it became too much and I decided that I had to stop the insanity and find a better way. Because I capture all of my walkthroughs in PowerPoint – just because it makes everything look consistent and tidy – I looked into how I could automate the process and have it do all of the work for me. I blew the dust off my copy of Visual Studio and created Author Tools for PowerPoint.
These tools automate a lot of the leg work that I used to do manually by using PowerPoint as a repository for all of the walkthrough details and then uses pre-defined word templates as a basis which it then transfers all of the images and text automatically and also formats all of the walkthroughs in a number of different ways based on how you are wanting the information to be consumed. For example, if you are building a book then you may want headings on pages, but if you are publishing it as a blog then you probably don’t.
This reduces the time to format a 400+ page book from 8+ hours and tens of thousands of repetitive keystrokes to probably about half an hour and a single click.
In this walkthrough (which is created with Author Tools for PowerPoint) I will show some of the setup and also how it works.
Automatically adding boilerplate to documents
If you are converting a larger storyboard into a number of smaller documents, as you would do if you were breaking them up into bog posts, then you will probably want to add a standard introduction to each of the blog posts, and maybe even some standard follow up text at the end for more information and even an author biography for credit.
Although you can do this manually, the Author Tools for PowerPoint has a nifty feature built into it that allows you to create Boilerplate panels in the storyboard just for these types of content and you can have these automatically inserted at the beginning and end of the document as it created saving you a lot of cutting and pasting.
Before we start though, if your template does not have the Boilerplate Master Layout then you will want to add it. To do this, click on the View ribbon bar within PowerPoint and then click on the Slide Master button within the Master Views button group.
This will switch you to the Slide Master view where you will see all of the different master slides that Author Tools uses. Right-mouse-click on the Parts master layout and select the Duplicate Slide Master option.
This will create a new slide master for you which we will now convert over to be a Boilerplate slide master.
In this example we deleted all of the slides except for the blank slide and the first content slide. We also made some cosmetic changes to make the slide master look a little different. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.
Now we need to mark the Slide Master as being a Boilerplate master. To do this, right-mouse-click on the parent slide master and select the Rename Master option.
When the Rename Layout dialog box is displayed, set the Layout Name to Boilerplate and then click on the Rename button.
Now right-mouse-click on the content slide and select the Rename Layout option.
When the Rename Layout dialog box is displayed, set the Layout Name to Introduction and then click on the Rename button. This slide will be used to add introduction text to all documents.
Now duplicate the Introduction slide, right-mouse-click on it and select the Rename Layout option and then when the Rename Layout dialog box is displayed, set the Layout Name to More and then click on the Rename button. This slide will be used to add more information text to all documents.
Right-mouse-click on the More slide and select the Rename Layout option and then when the Rename Layout dialog box is displayed, set the Layout Name to Author and then click on the Rename button. This slide will be used to add the author biography text to all documents.
After you have done that switch back to the Normal view within PowerPoint.
Now that you have the Boilerplate slide masters, add a new slide to the storyboard, and then select the Introduction slide master.
This will allow you to type in the default text that you want to introduce the content. Keep in mind that this may be different from the general introduction that you may have written for the walkthrough.
At the end of the presentation, you can now add in a new storyboard panel, but this time select the More template. Here you can type in the links and content that you want to use to point people to more content.
To finish this off, add in one last storyboard panel, but this time select the Author template. Then paste in the biography of the author that you want to append to the document.
To see this in action, select the Blog style
from the dropdown list and you will then see that the options within the Boilerplate option group get checked. You can do this by hand as well if you like.
When the document is created then the text from the Introduction will automatically be added to the document.
And at the end you will see all of the content from the More and Author slide have been added as well.
This is a great timesaver if you are breaking up your storyboard into smaller documents and is also a great way to add consistency to your documents. If you do this by hand then there is always a chance that you will miss something, or copy in the wrong content.
If this has piqued your curiosity then you can test it out yourself, we have made the install kit available for download for free as the Student Edition.
Just download the kit, install it and then follow along with the examples that are in the book, and also use the samples that are included with the software to see the same examples on your system. You should be able to get it up and running pretty easily and maybe you will find that writing and publishing is not that hard at all.
If you want to grab it, then just follow this link: http://bit.ly/1ZEF5Uo
About the Author
Throughout his 25+ years of experience in the software industry he has worked in many different roles during his career, including as a developer, an implementation consultant, a trainer and a demo guy within the partner channel which gives him a great understanding of the requirements for both customers and partner’s perspective.
For more information on Murray, here is his contact information: