I’ve learned my lesson the hard way, more than once. Preview too often. It can’t hurt. It will definitely help.
Copy, Paste and Duplicate
This one seems so simple. Right-click, copy. Right-click, paste. Everyone who uses a PC does it a thousand times a day. Why is it on the list?
You’ve got to do it at the right time. It’s very tempting to create a shape, add a text box, insert a picture, then copy and paste away until you’ve got them all where you need them. But resist the urge. Think through everything that shape will need. Formatting? Triggers? Does it need a hover state, a selected state, any other state at all? Be patient and build all those things into the first object you have, then copy & paste to your heart’s content. It’ll save you untold clicks.
Same goes for Duplicate. If you’re going to maintain some or all objects across multiple slides, just duplicate the slide (after it’s completely built, see above).
It also works wonders for animating objects off of a slide. One thing Articulate doesn’t do well is end-of-slide animation (unless you don’t let the user decide when to move to the next slide, which doesn’t happen all the often). To work around this, just duplicate the slide. Slide number 1 will simply transition to slide 2, with no animation, when the user clicks. Use the first few seconds of the timeline of slide 2 to animate objects off the slide. It works like a charm.
The Slide Master, or Master View, is an often-overlooked time saver in both Articulate and PowerPoint. If you’re using a template, the Master View has probably been set up for you. But if you’re creating your own theme, colors, backgrounds, fonts, etc., you’ll probably be using those elements on multiple slides, right? Rather than making those changes to every slide, make those changes to a slide master. They’ll carry over to your active slide.
If you’ve never played with this feature, venture over to your View tab. Take the blank slide layouts you find there, and jazz them up. Add any element that will be on every slide, or every slide of the same time (e.g. a title slide). Add as many layout types as you like. Don’t miss the feedback master — this lets you use the automated quizzing functions in Articulate without it looking like you did. Once your master slides are ready, just insert a new slide and choose a layout from your list.
Last, but not least, let’s talk about alignment. If you’ve read Robin Williams’ (the writer, not the actor) The Non-Designer’s Design Book, you’ll know that alignment is one of the four principles of good design. I suggest reading the whole book, but I’ll give you a sneak preview: everything should align with something else. It’s a simple rule, and it’s effective. It makes your layout look intentional, grounded. So let’s not leave it to chance.
You might feel like you’ve got a good eye, but remember that things that look perfect on your screen may start to look wonky in the final version if they’re just a little off. And, yes, you could drag objects around your screen until the little alignment lines appear, but that’s time consuming, starts to get difficult if there’s a lot on the slide, and it makes me tense. So use the Align feature. There’s about a dozen ways to align things, too. In addition to left, right, and center, there are the beautiful ‘distribute’ options under the Align tool. If you have multiple shapes or buttons in a line, they’d better all be spaced evenly. That’s nearly impossible to do by eye alone. Just select all your objects, go to your Align tool, and choose ‘distribute vertically’ or ‘distribute horizontally’. It’s like magic.
So there you have it. Some of my best friends in the design biz are at your fingertips. Will you try to go it alone, with nothing but your will and impending carpal tunnel syndrome to keep you company? Or will you call on these friends when you need them?