Friday, February 17, 2017

Desktop Publishing the Easy Way with Google Slides

My first introduction to computers was learning programming, back in the mid 80s. But as computers got better and more useful, the killer application became desktop publishing. The ability to use a computer to lay out a page with text, images and graphics, arranging it to look good and tell a story. I originally learned to do desktop publishing for a club I belonged to, where I somehow got the job of putting together their monthly newsletter. Before I got involved, it was literally a cut and paste job, but I tried using a computer and an early desktop publishing program and I was hooked. I found it incredibly rewarding to apply my sense of design and creativity (I was an art teacher after all) to doing page layout with a computer.

When I changed schools, I was given the job of making the school yearbook, so naturally I completely changed the old manual processes and replaced it with desktop publishing on a computer using Aldus Pagemaker. If you remember those days, the ability to do page layout on a computer, mostly thanks to the invention of the Mac and the laser printer, was an absolute revolution at the time.

Since that time, there have been many great tools for creating page layouts. From the consumer-level Microsoft Publisher, through to the professional publishing powerhouse that is Adobe InDesign, there are many excellent options for page layout these days.

One option that surprises many people is that you can do some pretty credible desktop publishing using Google Slides. What? Google Slides? Yep, all you need to do is change the page format and treat it as a publishing tool instead of a presentation tool. Here’s how.

First create a new Google Slides presentation.

Then go to the File menu and choose Page Setup. From the drop-down menu change to Custom and then enter the size of the page you’d like to work on. In Australia we tend to use A4 size paper (21 x 29.7 cm) but you can set the page to any size you like, such as A3, US Letter, postcard size… whatever you’d like to work on. You just need to know its dimensions.

By making this change, you’ve just gone from this...

To this…

Now that it looks more like an actual page, you can use the Text, Shape and Line options to add objects to your page, or the Insert Image option to add photos and graphics.

Of course, using Slides in this way has a few limitations, as it’s not designed to be a full blown desktop layout tool, but it is surprisingly capable. For the vast majority of the kinds of tasks you’d want your students to be doing, you’ll find Google Slides makes a pretty amazing Desktop Publisher!
Once you get started, you can play around with the ability to change the page color with the background options, or use the image cropping tool to really fine tune the way your images fit on the page. The image editing tool gives you options to recolor your images, make them transparent, and do all sorts of creative things.
Despite not being expressly made for desktop publishing, Slides has tools to align, stack and group objects on the page. There are limited, but still useful options, in the Format menu for working with text, including changing the line and paragraph spacing.
This is one of those times you should probably ignore the defaults, start with a clean blank page, and let you creativity guide you. Have fun!

Chris Betcher
Director of PD for ANZ
Sydney, Australia

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