Powerpoint creator Dennis Austin dead at 76

Originally published at: Powerpoint creator Dennis Austin dead at 76 | Boing Boing


I have mixed feelings about PowerPoint. I use it a lot and I believe it can be a useful tool. I also think that seven bullet points is two too many, and for the love of dog people, stop putting yellow arrows on white backgrounds and light blue text on gray backgrounds. Also, never, never, ever, use the word art feature.

You know what I do love? Excel. Excel is the fucking bomb.


I prefer using Pages to Word and when I have to Keynote to Power Point, but nothing else even comes close to Excel. Getting sent a Google spreadsheet is like going to preschool again (and nobody uses Numbers).


I despise Powerpoint in an engineering setting.

Its fine for showing images with a small amount of overlaid text (“the widget causes interference here”). Its fine for summarizing key points of a report, so long as you reference the report. Its fine for acting as a support aid for a training session.

But using the tool to slow a slideshow of 20 pictures of something in a row, or to be the report resulting in a 500 slide presentation, or to compress all of the training text onto slides is an atrocious use of the tool.


rebuilding UIs around newer versions of operating systems

This is the bit that pisses me off most. Why can’t they allow those of us with older but perfectly serviceable hardware with many years of life in it to just stay on the OS version we are on?

I might mind being forced to upgrade slightly less if they just left the applications alone. That UI works, is familiar to millions, all of whom have developed their own workflows to exploit the app the way they want to exploit it.

But along comes an OS upgrade and all of a sudden things are missing, new things with absolutely zero explanation are added and things have moved. When was the last time an upgrade had a manual or even a list of new features and what they do and how to find/use them, let alone an explanation of how to do the thing you used to do with the now missing feature?

Every day I have to quit Microsoft Update simply because I am using a version of Office that does literally everything I want or need, and I have no intention of test driving a new version until I can be productive again.

(The shorter version of this rant is probably a few choice words that include “lawn”.)

Also, since I retired I have used PP probably twice for actual presentations. But it’s a pretty good ‘amateur’ artwork tool for designing posters, handbills, adverts etc. and I use it for that regularly.

ETA and while I’m in rant mode on this topic, why CAN’T we just be allowed to carry on using back-level, perfectly stable versions of operating systems? The moment you have any query or problem it’s jut an excuse for customer support to say “oh, we don’t support that version any more, come back and talk to us once you’ve upgraded, if it is still a problem” when 99% of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with the version being used being ‘old’ and upgrading alone won’t solve it. I accept is is not ‘supported’ in the sense of new releases, latest security whizz-bangs etc, but why can’t customer support just look and see if there was an answer back then to this issue?

Sigh. I know why, of course. Late-stage capitalism’s refusal to indulge in actual ‘customer service’ if it in any way dilutes maximisation of profit by having a trivial cost that can otherwise be avoided. And they wonder why there are fewer and fewer loyal customers, and revert to asking me ever damn time for a review or whether I would recommend them. I stopped playing ball with that long ago and when I do post reviews it is only because I have been moved to post a negative one, and I always explain precisely why I wouldn’t recommend them under any circumstances. They don’t care but it makes me feel a little better. :wink:


That is the fault of the users, though, not the tool. It was supposed to replace slide projectors, overhead projectors and blackboards, not the typewriter.


Oh absolutely the fault of the users, but the convenience of the tool makes people fall into the trap of using it for everything, with all of its limitations.

I very much try to limit the use of Powerpoint to the scenarios I describe above. My presentations deliberately do not contain the whole story. My reports very much do.

Then there are those who favour quantity over quality. A 50-slide presentstion can be seen to carry more weight than a four page report.


There are worse things. I recently collaborated with a French company (they shall remain nameless to protect the irritating) whose preferred method of communication was to screenshot Solidworks documents, redline them in Paint, paste the result into Word, and for some unknown reason, save that off as a PNG and attach it to an email. Très terrible.

From what I can tell, you work at the science end of engineering - lots of math and analysis. I’m at the “how many widgets can you cram into this underspec’d sack” end. PowerPoint can be very helpful when you want to methodically show variations on a basic system structure in a build-to-order interaction.

I have been asked, on occasion, to present seismic analyses or CFD work as a PowerPoint, but I think in those instances the audience isn’t that interested in the numbers, they just want to know someone did the work so they can take it off their punchlists.


Especially when everyone insists on a printed copy, with the Notes section included, at one slide per page!

And, of course, it is a function of nobody being able to read at any length and grasp detail any more.

(More lawns)


I tried to wean my daughter off Google Sheets before she went to college, but had no success. We replaced her ready for the knacker’s yard netbook with a new-to-her Mac and while I was still trying to figure out what version of Ms Office to install, she’d transferred her Google account and disappeared. I think I might have heard a derisive snort about spreadsheets from the shadowed recesses of her room.


I don’t hate PowerPoint, it’s just - meh and the results are usually icky. Things like the endless transition options, all of which are glitchy and the hideous clip art. It’s possible to make an excellent presentation in PowerPoint, but VERY, VERY hard to make a beautiful one.

When Apple released Keynote they produced an application with many fewer features than contemporary Word which made it a pleasure to use - and the presentations just looked better with proper scaling and anti aliasing. Keynote presentations just look better with relatively little effort on the part of the creator (but of course, there’s no accounting for taste).

Since its introduction though, Apple appears to have poured all its efforts in to making a desktop application with an interface designed for a touch screen phone. Stuff that used to be obvious is now hidden away to save real estate on a completely different device.


I took a mock trial course where PowerPoint was used to present photos and charts as evidence to a jury.

A lot of people fell into a trap of using charts and trying to ask questions about orientation (“Were you facing North at the time?” I don’t know, I was thataway.”).

I wound up using 2 photos onscreen and walking the witness through them with a pointer. Thinking in real life one will be plagued with technical glitches trying to get something set up in a courtroom. (Which also happened during the course). Also juries would likely be far from the screen and wouldn’t likely get close details.

Basically it worked by fighting impulse people have when using the program of over relying on it.


Kids today, eh? Tsk! :wink:

As if designing artwork, a narrative or any writing longer than a text message are what a fucking phone or tablet was designed for!

They’ll pry my mouse from my cold, dead hands!

(More kids today/lawns.) :wink:


I actually liked Power Point when I was teaching music workshops on Zoom during the pandemic. It allowed me to play source audio recordings, while simultaneously paging through screens of lyrics. The one big flaw was that i couldn’t figure out how to “rewind” to a midway point; had to play the song from the beginning every time. But it supported right-to-left language typing, no problem, which many programs do not.


Agree about Excel - EXCEPT they still haven’t made it simple to import a csv or txt file with fields of long numbers (like USPS tracking numbers) without turning them into fucking scientific notation. Every time I figure out a method that works a new version breaks it.


Numbers is TERRIBLE


“Next slide please.”

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Or how it loves to turn dates in certain formats into decimal notation. Grrr.


Oh, I can assure you that Microsoft is guilty of that at the OS level as well. For example: I’ve to fight the OS multiple times on multiple devices to change the audio settings back to how I had them set up, because the OS decided that, while it can see the USB mic, it’s not going to use it because it was disconnected/reconnected too many times or no other apparent reason, and has marked it as muted within the ‘legacy’ control panel which requires some digging to get to, and even more futzing when it also decides to dial everything else down by 80% because how dare you speak and want to hear at the same time.

iPad Pro, with the Gen 2 Pencil, and Procurve. Hands down the best tool for making art since Paint Shop Pro with a Wacom tablet, at least here at Casa Del Bonivus.

I know that certain internationalization features of the OS (At least back in the XP Days) had that baked in. (I had to do some work many years ago for a local Jewish Community group, and several of their staffers had the hebrew language version of windows, which was both a treat to see and mildly frustrating because I can’t read it to save my soul We got through it. Same with one of Nikon’s divisions and one of their users, which was running the japanese localization. We go through it with some stumbling.

:cracks knuckles:
I CAN HELP! Import it as as text file, even if it’s a CSV- the import text wizard will let you change what the column’s data type is. (Step three of this page.)