This guest blog entry was written by Articulate QA Project Lead Dave Mozealous.
You just upgraded to Studio ’09 and are impressed by the new features and the crisp quality output of Presenter ’09. You want to go the extra mile and make your screenshots look pixel-perfect. Well, here is the definitive article on how to make your screenshots look great in Presenter ’09.
First, some background information about images
A scaled screenshot looks worse than its original size version
Any time you resize or “scale” a raster image like a screenshot, the scaled image will look worse than the original. It doesn’t matter which program you use to scale the screenshot, it will always look worse. For example, the first image below is its original size. Then I used Photoshop to scale the second one down to 95% of the original. The third I scaled up to 105% size of the original. Notice how the second and third images are slightly blurry and lack the clarity and crispness of the original? Scaling screenshots is bad and you should try to avoid doing it.
Original (320 pixels x 222 pixels)
95% (304 pixels x 210 pixels)
105% (336 pixels x 233 pixels)
PNG is the best format for screenshots
PNG is a great format for screenshots because it uses lossless compression so your file will look the same as the original image. Always use PNG for screenshots. As soon as you take your screen capture, save it as .PNG. Formats like JPEG use lossy compression, so some of the original data is lost. They won’t look as good as PNGs. JPEG works better for photographs. (Note that converting a JPEG to a PNG won’t have any benefit. It always needs to be a PNG from start to finish.)
How to prevent scaling your PNG files
Now we know that we want to make sure that we are using PNG images for our screenshots, and they should not be scaled. So how do we prevent scaling our screenshots? There are actually three places where scaling can happen:
1. Prevent scaling at playback
The first thing we will want to do is to lock your Presenter ’09 Player Template at the optimal size. This will prevent the Flash Player from scaling your content.
- Click the Articulate menu in PowerPoint
- Select Player Templates
- Click the Other tab
- Select Lock presentation at optimal size from the Presentation size drop-down
This will now lock your presentation at the optimal size, which will lock the slide size at 720 pixels wide by 540 pixels high (click here to view at full size; shown below smaller so that it fits in this blog post):
2. Make sure your original screenshots are not scaled
We got the player locked now, and we know the slide size (720×540), so now it is time to go get some screenshots. We know that the maximum slide size is 720×540, so we will want to take screenshots that are no bigger than 720 pixels wide and 540 pixels high. Almost any screenshot tool will let you crop your images.
Two important things to remember when saving your screenshots:
- Save your image as .PNG
- Crop your image to be 720×540 or smaller
Now we have our screenshots, so let’s move on to the next step.
3. Insert your screenshots in PowerPoint and size them
Let’s add some screenshots to PowerPoint, and then set them up so they are sized for perfect-looking output.
First, find out the dimensions of the image you want to insert. We will need this later so that we can properly size it in PowerPoint.
To get the dimensions of an image:
- Right-click on the image in Windows and select Properties
- Select the Details tab
You’ll find the image dimensions here. Make a note of them.
Now let’s insert the image in PowerPoint:
- Select Insert -> Picture
- Browse to and select your screenshot
The funny thing (or annoying thing) about PowerPoint is that when you insert an image, PowerPoint scales it. That’s exactly what we don’t want to happen. So now we have to fix it.
In PowerPoint, objects are sized based on inches, and we only have the dimensions of our image in pixels, so we need to convert the pixel size (image size) of our image to inches (PowerPoint size).
Use this form to convert the pixel size to inches:
Your browser does not support iframes.
Can’t see this form? Click here.
Resize the image to its original size in PowerPoint
Next, it is time to resize the image in PowerPoint so that it won’t be scaled:
- Right-click on the image in PowerPoint and select Size and Position.
- On the Size tab notice the Height and Width cells, here we will want to set the size of our image in inches.
- Enter the values and hit Close.
Using these steps, I’ve created a demo here that has two screenshots on it. Click here to view it. The first screenshot fills up the entire slide; its dimensions are 720×540. The second one is smaller at 500×300. You can download these images if you want to test it out with some sample images before you use your own.
As you’ll see, if you use these steps, your images will always look identical to the images. The secret is just to avoid scaling!