Another day, and another add-in to PowerPoint offering to change the way we present. MagPointer is a tool that proclaims it will make presentations easier to follow and more effective. Sounds great! Let’s investigate…

MagPointer allows you to interact with your slides while you are presenting – in a number of ways. The tool lets you highlight specific objects on a slide (while dimming the rest of the slide), create frames around specific slide areas and zoom/magnify into specific areas. The add-in also has a laser pointer feature as well.

To allow you to try the features there’s a 30-day free trial. A full licence for the software, as an individual user, costs $19.95. [Editor’s note – it looks like MagPointer has folded, although downloads do seem to be available online.]

So what’s the point? Well, before we get to that let’s take a look at how it works.

What it does

Once you install the program, the next time you run a PowerPoint Show you and your audience will see this:

MagPointer Startup

This will then fade away and you’ll be left with you slide content and a selection of icons of the right hand of the screen:

MagPointer Icons

These icons are the MagPointer functions, and will be visible to your audience as you present – they sit on the slide’s right hand side in a minimised state, and when you mouse over the icons they become bigger. If you use the presenter view in PowerPoint (using two screen), MagPointer will work as expected. However, MagPointer’s icons will still display on the audience facing slides, which is a shame – as it would have been nice to hide the icons away on the presenter view screen.

The first two icons allow you to navigate through your presentation as you would if you were using the arrows keys. They let you to click forward or back through the presentation – nothing exciting here.

The next icon draws a frame on the slide, and fade everything outside of the frame – allowing you to direct your audience’s attention to the area of the slide you’ve selected. You can change the colour of the frame as well.

Frames

The next tool in the list is the magnification tool, which allows you to select an object or area of the slide and magnify that area. You can control the magnification – for example you can zoom in and out of a photo or use it to highlight text.

MagPointer Magnify

Moving on to the next icon, this allows you to highlight multiple text paragraphs, table cells, rows or columns within the content on your slides. Like the frame tool, you can change the colour of the highlight as well.

MagPointer Highlighter

The next icon allows for multiple framing, so let’s you frame multiple objects on screen and compare them with each other – again with the ability to change each frame’s colour to help identify the different areas highlighted.

MagPointer Multi Frames

The final icon lets you turn MagPointer off. As you can see I’ve used a very boring and dull slide to help demonstrate the functions of the MagPointer tool, I’ll explain why in a moment.

When to use it

Okay, okay, so what’s the point of MagPointer? Well although I don’t sound too amazed by its functions – I can actually see it being fairly useful in certain situations with certain slides.  What situations and what types of slides I hear you cry? Let’s look.

When you aren’t expecting to have to present, or haven’t had time to tailor you slide deck to your audience, using MagPointer can be helpful. The fact that it allows you to interact with your slides ‘live’ is pretty clever. We’d always advise you know what you are going to say, and what to present – and so have your slides build with the ‘path’ of your story built in (using animations and visuals). However if you haven’t been able build these type of slides, and have static info heavy slides – then using MagPointer to guide your audience through the information overload is definitely a good thing to do.

The tool works when the slide you are presenting are poor – too much information on slides, no animation to draw people’s attention (hence my bullet point example.) Essentially MagPointer lets you focus in our areas of a slide and block out others, and thus draw the audience’s attention to the information you want them to see.

Our solution would be to go back to the start and revisit your content. If your slides have too much information on them – rather than present, using a tool on the fly to ‘correct’ the material – you should reopen PowerPoint and create better content. Also it is great for audiences when you physically point at slides!

That’s not to say it’s all bad, I do see a good use for MagPointer in the world of visual presentations. When you have a process map or other diagram and your audience wants to dictate how it is presented and viewed, the ability to freely choose which areas you focus on is really useful. You could create the same interaction in PowerPoint alone – but trying to build out all of the potential options could be quite time consuming and challenging. Having MagPointer in your locker, if you present these types of slides a lot, would help great deal.

A word of caution, if you are going to use MagPointer, definitely practice with the tool first. It can be tricky at first and you’ll need to learn how to use the tool correctly before you start presenting professional with it.

So all in all, MagPointer is a useful tool in some quite specific situations. However in the main I suggest just making better slide content from the start – this will ultimately help keep your audiences engaged with your story.

Don’t agree? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear how others are using MagPointer!

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Written by

Karl Parry

Operations manager

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  1. Image of Yossi Pinkas Yossi Pinkas says:

    Thank you Karl for your detailed and objective review.
    I couldn’t agree more that one should prepare better presentations in advance as well as avoid placing too much information into a single slide.
    MagPointer isn’t a tool that should be used in each and every kind of presentation. Presentation experts often ignore the fact that PowerPoint is frequently used to display various information in day-to-day business meetings,classes or other face-to-face or online gatherings, where no one expects to see a fancy presentation but just have the relevant information displayed on a screen. Consider a management team reviewing a slide containing a table of financial data, a group of doctors presenting a patient case and reviewing a CT image of the patient’s brain, a group of engineers reviewing a diagram of a product in a design review meeting, a training session for technicians learning to repair a specific electrical circuit, an art class looking at the fine details of a picture…These are the cases where MagPointer becomes extremely useful with its zooming and highlighting capabilities.
    Any tool should be used for the purpose it was designed for, and MagPointer was never meant to be used in a TED-like presentation nor by Steve Jobs or Guy Kawasaki (who would never use a Windows-based software anyway).

    Yossi Pinkas
    Co-founder, MagPointer

    • Image of Karl Parry Karl Parry says:

      Thanks for the comment Yossi! I’m with you – MagPointer shines when you are looking at a static diagram (like a schematic, or medical scan), especially when you aren’t sure what your audience will want to focus on.

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It is, quite simply, the best deck we have. I did a nice presentation with it yesterday and would like to do the same next week... I am sure it will get a lot of use. The visual impact and flow are compelling!

Peter Francis Janssen