I am preparing a seminar course and will be showing a lot of figures: photos, screen captures of journal figures, etc. Some amount of equations but probably less (by slide count) than the images.

I see advantages for using Powerpoint/Impress for slides heavy in images/figures: you can often copy figures in OSX Preview and paste into Powerpoint/Impress without having to explicitly screen capture, and download figures as Powerpoint slides from online journals. With Beamer, you additionally have to convert jpegs to pngs for pdflatex) and bring in an external tool (e.g., Adobe Photoshop) for annotation.

However, I'm more comfortable with Beamer because I don't have to rely on my unreliable hand-eye coordination to place and align figures, and you know which figures on the hard drive are included in the presentation because of the explicit \includegraphics command (as opposed to importing figures from the menu bar in Powerpoint/Presentation).

Have you deliberated such a decision and what has been your experience? Can you also comment on

  • how well Beamer handles images(pngs) in comparison to Powerpoint/Impress (is it inefficient)? Since the page size of Beamer pages are much smaller, does that generally make raster images less readable?
  • when annotating, I often "place" the image in Adobe Photoshop, draw over it, and save as pdf. Is it better to save back to a png and let Beamer do the conversion?

Update: Thanks for bringing to my attention that jpegs are accepted by pdflatex. So this is one less hassle, unless the picture is in gif format, but I would say those cases arise less often. A lot of the arguments "for" Beamer is the pdf format, but I often print my Powerpoint/Impress slides to pdf anyway so that's a moot point for me. I understand the tikz package is a very powerful tool that permits annotation, but for this part I think a WYSIWYG tool might be more convenient as as each figure/image is unique and a little more complicated than slide layouts. Positioning text, boxes, and arrows often have to be handled on a case-by-case basis whereas you can get a sense of general positioning for slide layouts after a few times, and the latter is therefore more amenable to solving with macros.

Edit: I had thought the LibreOffice presentation software was called "Presentation" but it is "Impress". Sorry for the confusion.


8 Answers 8


I use beamer for all my teaching. The only time I might resort to Powerpoint is if I am hard pressed for time since it is easier to make corrections last minute. The fact that this happens less and less is probably because with time I grow more comfortable with Beamer. From a different angle, beamer forces you to think things through in advance.

For my graphics I use .jpg, .pdf and .png mixed in my presentations. Png is great for line graphics which it compresses very well. Since it is non-destructive, it does not compress photographs well so I use jpeg compression for such illustrations. Since I also work a lot with postscript output from for example Matlab, I convert the eps-output to pdf. All in all I find working with these graphics formats very easy. As you implicitly state working with LaTeX prevents cut and paste but I note that you use Photoshop in which case it is easy to cut from other documents and save as .png or .jpg. With Adobe Illustrator I am also able to extract postscript graphics out from (unlocked) pdfs which is very useful for teaching.

I am sure there are many other ways to get around moving graphics between applications but these work for me.

  • 2
    Maybe it's the case that shorter (quicker) presentations are better in Powerpoint and longer ones in Beamer (kind of my view on Word vs LaTeX documents also).
    – hatmatrix
    Dec 5, 2012 at 4:03

when annotating, I often "place" the image in Adobe Photoshop, draw over it, and save as pdf. Is it better to save back to a png and let Beamer do the conversion?

In addition to the comments about using .jpg files, note that within latex, you can use tikz to do the annotations. You gain all advantages of tikz against raw included pictures : consistent font with the rest of the presentation, cross-references...

And you don't have to rely on "hand-eye coordination" to place your annotations as well. :)

Simple example




    \node[draw=black,anchor=south west] at (0cm,0cm) {\includegraphics[width=10cm]{capture.jpg}};
    \path[draw=red,very thick] (.5cm,0.8cm) rectangle (3cm,2cm);


The image capture.jpg

enter image description here

The result

enter image description here

  • I just learned about the tikz package (today in fact) but it seems very powerful and thanks for the example. Not having to align annotations is appealing :) but in this case it seems like you would have to guess the dimensions of the "TikZ" text you highlighted and recompile over and over until you get the rectangle just right... or am I wrong? Is there a helper tool?
    – hatmatrix
    Dec 5, 2012 at 4:01
  • 2
    There are tips... For example, something like \draw[black!30!white](0,0) grid (10cm,3cm) will add a grid on the picture, which you can use to extract dimensions and remove only on the final version of the slide.
    – T. Verron
    Dec 5, 2012 at 7:15
  • This is indeed useful... even works with .1\textwidth units and so on. I'll have to figure out where the grid lines correspond to.
    – hatmatrix
    Dec 5, 2012 at 13:06
  • @crippledlambda: For positioning elements on top of images, take a look at Drawing on an image with TikZ
    – Jake
    Dec 5, 2012 at 13:25

This answer specifically addresses the Copy&Paste point.

If you really like Copy&Paste, but also want to use beamer, LyX might be a good compromise. With LyX, you just put the image in the clipboard and select Edit->Paste Special. LyX will then immediately open a "Save as" dialog, where you can specify where and under which name the image will be saved. However, you can also just press Enter to choose the selected name and path.

Specifically for MacOS there is also the option to Paste as LinkBack PDF, which is enabled if the source application of the image supports the LinkBack technology. Basically, this is what OLE once was for Windows: You can later right-click the pasted image to edit it in the original application. LinkBack is supported by many OS X applications, among them EazyDraw, OmniGraffle, and LaTeXIt.


You can also use Ipe. I use Ipe for annotating images, which I will then insert into a Beamer presentation, but you can actually create a whole presentation in Ipe. The only problem with that is you cannot include pdf or eps images easily.

I usually take a sort of middle way: create an annotated image in Ipe as a multi-page pdf with incrementally added annotations, and insert the individual pages of the resulting pdf on my Beamer slides.

  • Good to know but seems maybe too low-level for me at this point.
    – hatmatrix
    Dec 5, 2012 at 13:08

Even though I personally like Beamer, I want to advertise alternatives:

You can display and snap to a grid in Impress (LibreOffice) to arrange the images. If a presentation is mostly images, I would recommend Impress/PowerPoint.

If you have simple equations, the latest PowerPoint equation editor is very good or a simple way to generate Latex style equations in Impress is TexMaths. You can also use websites like this to generate equations as images and insert them into the presentation.

  • Right, I was looking at TexMaths thinking this makes Impress reasonably competitive. The grid is an appealing feature for many reasons too.
    – hatmatrix
    Dec 5, 2012 at 13:08
  • Good. However like many other systems (and unlike the MathType counterpart). Once you put the equation in the document is difficult to edit it.
    – alfC
    Mar 28, 2014 at 18:05

Well, it all depends on the purpose :-)

I personally use beamer for all my teaching and other stuff that calls for long-time maintenance, but tend to use Keynote or Powerpoint for smaller "one-shot" presentations, such as conference talks. The point here is to get a workflow that makes it reasonably easy to switch between both:

  • Identical Layout: I have a beamer theme that exactly resembles my Keynote template (or vice versa), so that content can (geometrically) easily be transferred between both.
  • Transfering Content (1): For images on slides in beamer or Keynote, I use the generated PDF from either one and Skim or Preview to select the part of the slide I am interest in and either save the selection as a new PDF (Keynote-->Beamer) or paste it into Keynote. If time is really short, I even transfer complete slides just as PDF image (omitting the slide number). Because they share the same layout, this is barely noticeable. The downside is that the content is not editable, of course.
  • Transfering Content (2): To transfer special LaTeX material (namely, TikZ pictures and formulas) in an editable way to Keynote, I employ LaTeXit. It's a superb tool!
  • Graphics Format: I basically use PDF only and convert all other formats into PDF, with some exceptions for JPG images. In particular, I do not recommend to use PNG, as it can slow down the pdflatex compilation process considerably. See: Fast PNG embedding using pdflatex

I'm using beamer because of its comprehensive and partly unique features:

  1. Math: With LaTeX the best mathematical layout is available
  2. Sketches: With the tikz package any technical sketch or diagram is possible
  3. Graphs: With the pgfplots package you font consistent, complex graphs with overlay effects are possible
  4. Videos, Animations and 3D objects: With the media15 package animations and youtube videos, even embedding of 3D objects into PDFs is possible with pdflatex
  5. Overlay effects: With beamer you can overlay even between formulas and tables
  6. Hyper linking: With beamer you can link and connect anything, formulas, table of contents and beamer-buttons
  7. Layout: Total control of any layout aspect (through (La)TeX, at least theoretically)
  8. Self-contained: All information, all layout controls in one single text file and all media content embedded in one single output file
  9. Standardised: With the PDF output format you are independent of proprietary viewer formats and software versions! (I started with beamer after I was forced to present my PowerPoint presentation with a different PowerPoint version: Some formatting changed and my animations didn't run!)
  10. Typography: The default beamer layouts and font selections guide you in good presentation techniques (not too cramped, etc.)
  11. Availability: The tools are standardised, cost-free and easily available on many OS, LaTeX is the standard in scientific publishing and there are no licensing or patent issues nor software lock-in.

But I'd also like to mention possible disadvantages of beamer, compared to WYSIWYG solutions, for example, Libre Office's Impress or PowerPoint ;-)

  1. The learning curve is steeper, but excellent tutorials and user communities (TeXamples e.g.) are available
  2. Command syntax is harder to memorise and type, but the LaTeX and beamer manuals and references are excellent and widely available.
  3. Image positioning remains somewhat cumbersome :-/
  4. When mitigating point 3. and placing images automatically, a sterile and a bit too perfect overall impression might ensue (at least for my taste)
  5. Often corporate presentation templates are not available for LaTeX (but it's worth to redo them in beamer ;-) )
  6. Sharing with WYSIWYG content is only partly possible, the majority in business environment is using PowerPoint :-(
  7. Expressing oneself in a mark-up language like LaTeX compared to WYSIWYG is brain dependent and might be more difficult for some humans. If you enjoy programming anyway, go for beamer!
  8. Often the process of editing, compiling and evaluating the change in your document takes longer. But this improved much with auto-reverting viewers and faster CPUs, besides there are now WYSIWYG environments for LaTeX available TeX SE question.

By the way, I'm using now org-mode to write my beamer presentations (and anything else textual) to save myself some of the cumbersome aspects of the LaTeX language among other advantages.

By, by the way, lately I discovered Reveal, the html presentation framework. Which is looking interesting when considering to publish the presentation on the web.


To make diagrams on Linux/Unix (and probably Mac) you can use e.g. xfig or dia (depending on the exact type of figure), for complex figures I happen to love asymptote, check it's gallery. Nice is that you can include LaTeX text cleanly. Ipe is said to be very nice, but I haven't used it, just became aware of it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.