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I currently use powerpoint for preparing talks, because I am very particular about placement of things. I can see myself using other GUI programs to generate TikZ graphics for my slides, but I very frequently have things carefully placed to point to something or appear next to something, etc.

To summarize: I use powerpoint because I care very much about the placement of objects (shapes, images, equations, etc), and it allows me to use the mouse to select multiple things, move them slightly, repeat with fewer things etc. in a very fast and intuitive manner (visually).

As far as I can tell, if I were to switch to beamer I would have to do this manually using spacing commands or changing literal numbers in commands representing sizes or end/start points of lines, etc.

Is this accurate? If so, how does everyone do this without just changing a number, recompiling, change a number, recompile, etc the same slide a thousand times?

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    I have produced thousands of beamer slides, consider myself picky as far as placement is concerned, and do not think that the issues you are describing are really there. In contrast, I like the fact that with beamer I am able to globally redefine things such that the slides have a uniform appearance. If you work with nodes etc. you almost never have to adjust anything. – marmot Apr 17 '18 at 18:50
  • @marmot Could you walk me through your workflow of careful placement of shapes, sizes, text, and equations? I guess Im just missing a concrete example. All examples I find online are just filled with hackish style spacing commands with numbers I would have never guessed without testing/compiling a million times – user79950 Apr 17 '18 at 19:53
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    I struggled a bit with positioning when I first started using beamer, but this eventually led me to adopt a cleaner, more consistent design. Of course many things are automated or can be changed globally, and TikZ allows you to position things quite precisely. Just don't try to assign everything absolute coordinates. When I tweak things in beamer I usually copy a single frame into a temporary file that has the same preamble as my main file. This way I can quickly check to make sure things look correct on that frame without having to typeset the entire document. When I'm done, I paste it back. – erik Apr 17 '18 at 21:16
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I can't walk you through because others like @samcarter are much more experts and I also do not have the time. But I can give you an example.

\documentclass{beamer}
\usepackage{tikz}
\usetikzlibrary{shapes.callouts,shadows}
\usetikzlibrary{overlay-beamer-styles}
\usepackage{pgfplots}
\usepackage{xparse}
\NewDocumentCommand{\ShadowExplain}{r<> O{} m m}{%
\tikz[remember picture, overlay]
\node[alt={<#1>{drop shadow,opacity=0.8,text opacity=1}{invisible}},
visible on=<#1>, 
align=center, fill=blue!20, 
rounded corners,draw=none,rectangle callout,
anchor=pointer,callout relative pointer={(-230:1cm)},#2]
at (#3) {{#4}};
}

\begin{document}
\begin{frame}{Redshift}
\begin{overlayarea}{\textwidth}{8cm}
\begin{tikzpicture}[xscale=-1,yscale=0.5,remember picture]
\begin{axis}[hide axis,width=8cm,height=4cm,clip=false] 
\addplot[domain=20:300,samples=800,        
colormap={}{ 
            color(2cm)=(red);
            color(16cm)=(blue);
        },
        ultra thick, point meta=x*x,mesh]{sin(pow(x,2)/15)};
\end{axis}
\node (observer) at (-0.2,1) {observer};
\node (source) at (7,1) {source};
\end{tikzpicture}
\ShadowExplain<1>{source}{e.g.\ a distant galaxy}
\pause
\ShadowExplain<2>{observer}{some lonely astronomer}
\end{overlayarea}
\end{frame}
\end{document}

This produces a sequence of two slides

enter image description here

The reason why I am preferring beamer very very much over Keynote (and not to mention PowerPoint) is that I have full control over the appearance of things. If I were to decide that the callout color should be different, I'd just have to adjust the macro. And I can access all elements of graphics as illustrated here, I just need to define a node and remember the picture. This also works with external graphics, where I can add nodes/coordinates on top. And, of course, it is soo much easier to typeset nice looking equations. And it is straightforward to make a presentation using a (LaTeX of course) paper or some notes as basis. Finally, this site is full of nice examples, animations and so on.

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Try the package xcoffins. You might need to adjust a number and recompile, but the development cycle is much faster, due to the coffins acting as ¨objects¨ that could be put anywhere in the working space and lock together in very precisely and intuitive way.

  • thanks for this suggestion I hadn't heard of it. Do you know of any high quality beamer examples that uses this package? thanks! – user79950 Apr 17 '18 at 20:07
  • I tried copy/pasting some examples I found on tex.SE but after compiling, no PDF is produced? – user79950 Apr 17 '18 at 20:17
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    I just sent an example of xcoffins in tex.stackexchange.com/questions/427068/… It is not beamer but it could show you some of the advantages. It works with xelatex, not pdflatex. – Simon Dispa Apr 17 '18 at 22:47
  • sorry yes when I compile with xelatex, how do I actually read/present the output? – user79950 Apr 18 '18 at 2:58
  • Hey @Simon Dispa - still not sure exactly how to view the output ;L – user79950 Apr 19 '18 at 18:17

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