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I have to prepare my slides in latex. A quick search came up with different packages. Before start preparing, I need your experiences. I do not want to regret after learning one as I did, learning vim (now can not quit) instead of emacs.

EDIT: After asking this question at that time, i start learning Beamer. Now i'm really happy with that, i created my own template and now it's easier just copying from my .tex files to beamer template. i recommend beamer for powerpoint users who are actively using latex .

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4 Answers 4

up vote 34 down vote accepted

I highly recommend the beamer class.

Here are features of presentation classes intended to help you deciding:

  • beamer provides a huge amount of features, a lot of themes and sophisticated ways for customization. It offers an outstanding comprehensive documentation. It can be used with LaTeX and also with pdfLaTeX. So it's capable of using pdfLaTeX microtypographic features, furthermore it supports PNG, JPEG and PDF image formats besides EPS. It uses pgf for graphics.

  • powerdot cannot be used with pdfLaTeX. It uses PSTricks for graphics and supports EPS images. So, it may be a good choice for a PSTricks user who does't need direct JPEG, PNG or PDF image support. It also provides templates, further it offers a LyX style file.

  • prosper is older. It's successor is HA-Prosper. powerdot has been built on it, so I would not use prosper any more.

There are further and even older classes, such as seminar and slides, the latter is a standard LaTeX2e class. You can find further presentation classes in the category Presentation Slides in the TeX Catalogue.

See also the answers to:

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prosper is really outdated and shouldn't be mentioned anymore –  Herbert Apr 20 '11 at 7:39
Can powerdot be used with xelatex? –  Matthew Leingang Apr 20 '11 at 9:42
@Matthew: I've read that powerdot works with xelatex, though there might be problems since powerdot uses dvips specials. –  Stefan Kottwitz Apr 20 '11 at 16:27
thanks for great comments as usual. i have no doubts to start learning beamer now. –  berkay Apr 20 '11 at 17:49

I do not have a basis of comparison as I've used nothing else (except for SliTeX back in the day), but I have to say that beamer is phenomenal.

Its templating, font, and color selection mechanism make it infinitely customizable, and the overlay mechanisms allows slideshows to be really dynamic. I've never regretted learning it.

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Indeed. I have never regretted it either and it is also priceless to see PowerPoint people's impressed facial expressions when they see Beamer in action. I have not found a better option to date. –  Harold Cavendish Apr 20 '11 at 6:08
thanks. –  berkay Apr 20 '11 at 17:50
I mostly agree, though "inifintely customizable" is a bit exaggerated. See e.g. mbork.pl/… –  mbork Mar 31 '12 at 20:20
@mbork: I didn't say all customizations were easy! :-D Just when you think you know enough LaTeX you find some task which requires you to learn a little more... –  Matthew Leingang Apr 1 '12 at 19:21

Lets try to be little bit less partisan (I know that many people on this forum are GAGA about TikZ/PGF library which is fantastic) and give some more balanced point of view.

There are several classes (I do not mean here LaTeX classes) of presentation tools but classes as in browser based, PDF based, DVI based, Python based etc...

Here is semi-comprehensive list of presentation tools with not such great reviews (for obvious reason a single or even several human beings would have very hard time to be familiar with such plethora of tools).

Now within PDF (LaTeX based of course) class of tools there is almost no contest IMHO.

Powerdot 47 pages user manual (you need to read no more than 10), easily customization well playing with impressive small but active user community. Based on PSTricks its original LaTeX class of presentations (Prosper) which is in works since early nineties.

Beamer 240 pages user manual, most presentation look the same, difficult to customize without at least some knowledge of TikZ, huge user community. In works for much shorter time than PSTricks and based on the proprietary vendor locked data format (PDF) as oppose to a programming language.

I am going for 10 pages manual because I have more important things to do before I deliver that "important" conference talk instead fighting 240 pages of Beamer manual.


Sorry for the slow response guys. I am on a scuba diving trip down at Florida Keys with my kids so this is the first time this week that I am in front of the computer. I would like in this edit to summarize my respond to concerns expressed in the comments.

My original post was meant to present a different point of view but never intended to be too serious. I will tell you what I really think about presentation tools.

1- The most first most important thing in any presentation is the content of the presentation.

2- The second most important thing in any presentation is the content of the presentation

. . .

1000- The thousandth most important thing in any presentation is the content of the presentation.

Now as of tools my advice to any casual (means you are not paid to use TeX per se) user is to apply principle of the least effort+consistency. Some of the best lectures I have seen in my life have been given with black board and chalk. As a matter of fact most mathematician of older generation I met have consider using overhead slides, Powerpoint, TeX and similar tools reserved only for very week mathematician who have no new results/content to report.

If you really want to use LaTeX as a presentation tool use least effort and consistency. If you are using TikZ/PGF libraries as graphing tools stick with Beamer and stay away from Powerdot.

If you are familiar with PostScript and use PSTricks then the obvious choice is Powerdot.

If you are using lots of Python to do numerical simulations chose something Python based.

Do not learn new tools just for the sake of learning it.

P.S. As stated on many occasions I am PostScript bias. I am consistent with it. I use PSTricks, I use Powerdot, all my pictures are in eps format. I can even hack PostSctipt. I like the fact that PostScript is open source for practical purpose. PDF format is vendor locked. Just before this trip I had manually to hack PDF paper from the Annals of Probability in order to print it because of the image stack error with the PostScript version produced with the GhostScript. Error was due to the vendor lock implemented only in Adobe reader. Since I do not use Adobe reader (nor available on OpenBSD) I had manually to fix the PostScript to be able to print PDF document.

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I don't think that Stefan's answer is particularly partisan. But the simple fact is that there are really only two viable TeX packages for presentations, one (Powerdot) requires latex+dvips (which most people don't use anymore) and the other (Beamer) can be used with any engine. Also, the Beamer manual has an 8 page tutorial, which is probably all you need to get a presentation up and running. –  Alan Munn Mar 31 '12 at 20:18
This is partisan, and also misleading. PDF is an ISO standard and so open, not "proprietary vendor locked". I learnt beamer in a single weekend, and customisation is really easy:change a few colours and it looks very different. (Hilarious that "They all look the same" is being used as an argument not to use something.) –  Loop Space Mar 31 '12 at 20:58
Supporting @AndrewStacey's comment; TeXLive only includes packages usable with fully open software, and includes Beamer: See texdev.net/2012/03/27/the-tex-live-inclusion-policy for a discussion on PDF as an open format. Also, while you can be pretty vendor locked while an ISO standard (docx) there are multiple implementations of PDF (xpdf, SumatraPDF, foxit) meaning you can view PDFs on a computer with 0 adobe products installed. Just trying to clarify things. –  Canageek Mar 31 '12 at 21:48
OK! I don't know what Lady Gaga is using which is probably Plain TeX/Metapost directly. However please don't consider downvoting based on disagreement as we had a spree lately. As always, in case of confusion, upvote! –  percusse Mar 31 '12 at 21:52
Could you support your statement the powerdot allows "easily [sic] customization" with some explanation? I found section 9, "Creating your own style", in the manual, which offers a lot of lengths and colors to be tweaked. While this may be more helpful than the beamer manual when it comes to adjustments of this kind, I can't really see how these parameters can substantially change the look of a presentation so that not "most presentation look the same" as beamer presentations do in your opinion. –  diabonas Mar 31 '12 at 22:33

My approach is not really LaTeX-specific (it's not a package), but I'm posting it for the record. It's also very minimalistic.

For small presentations, or urgent ones, you can go with pandoc export to Slidy, for example (pandoc also exports to S5 and DZSlides). you can write a simple document with the article class and run pandoc in it.

Here's a MWE

\author{A. Author}
\title{Lorem ipsum}
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec convallis, neque a scelerisque ultricies, urna metus ultricies ligula, eu sagittis dolor est non dolor. Nunc vestibulum hendrerit urna, convallis egestas diam interdum sit amet.
You can make lists:
\item Lorem
\item Ipsum
\item sit dolor
\item amet
\section{Numbered Lists}
\item Lorem
\item Ipsum
\item sit dolor
\item amet

And then run

pandoc --self-contained --to=slidy <latex file>.tex --output=<slidy file>.html

And you get a very, very simple presentation in a few minutes. The bad side is you'll have to rely on your presentation contents and your oratory skills: it's not “so convincing that your audience will believe everything” (I'm sorry, but that just sounds too comic to me)

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