## How-To Use the LaTeX Beamer Class for Great-Looking Presentations

In academia, LaTeX is a popular alternative to PowerPoint for presentations. In this how-to, I'll introduce you by example to the beamer class for creating presentation in LaTex. Using LaTex for this purpose has many advantages:

• Present great-looking equations.
• If you use LaTeX for your papers, you can easily reuse your equations and tables.
• A more "professionnal" overall look.
• Avoid compatibility problems when using computers other than your own. While you don't always know which PowerPoint version is going to be available (if any), you're almost sure to find a PDF reader. Just to be on the safe side, you can carry with you a standalone PDF reader like Sumatra PDF portable.

However, using LaTeX has limitations such as the lack of a user-friendly graphical interface and the impossibility to add media elements such as videos and animations. Furthermore, you have to say goodbye all those great transitions (just kidding, I hate transitions).

Before we start, if you are new to LaTeX I suggest you first have a look at Getting Started with LaTex.

To introduce you to the use of the beamer class, I will go throught a sample presentation:

\documentclass{beamer}

\usecolortheme{seahorse}
\usepackage[latin1]{inputenc}


These commands tell the TeX engine that the document is going to be a beamer presentation. To see what other themes and colorthemes are available, check out the beamer class user guide [PDF].

\title{My Nice Presentation}
\author{Productive Scholar}
\date{March 12, 2008}
\institute[2008]{ECON 101}

\begin{document}

\frame{\titlepage}


Sets up the title frame. The author and the institute (here I put 2008, but it could be your university) appear on the bottom left corner of every frame.

\section[Outline]{}
\frame{\tableofcontents}

\section{Introduction}

\frame {
\frametitle{First Frame}
\begin{itemize}
\item<1->One good argument
\item<2->Another good argument, after one click
\item<3->Last one, after another click
\end{itemize}
}


The first two lines make the outline frame. The rest create a frame with three bullet points. This frame consists of three actual PDF pages. The first bullet point will appear on all three, the second one on the last two pages and the last one on the last page only. This way, when you "click" (advance one page), a new element appears. To control the page on which the item first appears, change the number in the \item<1-> tag.

\section{Next Section}

\subsection{First Sub Section}

\frame {
\frametitle{Second Frame}
This text will stay on all pages.
\only<1>{
\begin{itemize}
\item<1->This will only appear on the first page
\item<1->This is also only for the first page
\end{itemize}
}
\only<2>{
\begin{itemize}
\item<2->This will only appear on the second page
\item<2->This is also only for the second page
\end{itemize}
}
}


In this case the first two bullet point elements appear on the first page of the frame, and only on that one. The other two elements only appear on the second page. To limit a part of the frame to a specific page, put your LaTeX code inside brackets after a \only<#> tag, where # is the page number.

\subsection{Second Sub Section}

\frame {
\frametitle{Last Frame}
This is the last frame
}

\end{document}


One last frame and the document is complete.

This short example is only meant to get you started. To learn more advanced stuff, like creating hand-outs or designing your own themes, check out the beamer class user guide [PDF].

On Windows most people use Acrobat Reader for presentation, which is ok (except when an Auto-Update pops-up at the beginning of your prensentation). The free Foxit Reader is another alternative.

On Mac OS X my favorite PDF reader for presentations is Skim. It works great and even allows you to add nice (for those who like transitions) Keynote-like transitions to your presentations (it has to be the same transition for all frames though). I also use the free iRed Lite to control Skim with my Apple remote. [Update: The most recent version of Skim now has built-in support for the Apple remote.]

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### 24 Responses to “How-To Use the LaTeX Beamer Class for Great-Looking Presentations”

1. Timothy Morth Says:
April 27, 2008 at 3:39 am

Hi,

Just wondering how did you set iRed Lite to work with Skim? Any applescript or step by step guide?

Cheers mate.

Tim

2. I didn't do anything fancy like that. Since the only controls I need are to go forward and backward one slide, I only configured those.

You need to open the editor (iRed Lite menu -> Show Editor)
Create a new layer (using the control pull-down menu next to the "Got to Layer..." pull-down menu, in the Layer tab). Check "Activate layer with application" and enter Skim, so this layer activates when Skim is active.

Next, in the Button tab, set the the right button action to Current App :: Cursor Movement :: Right. Do the same for the left button.

That's it!

If you want to add more controls, you can open the "Expert" menu by clicking on the arrow next to the save button. It will open a new panel where you can create a group of actions for Skim, like keyboard shortcuts. This should let you add almost anything since Skim has a keyboard shortcut for almost all menu items.

Hope this helps you.

Vincent

3. I stopped using beamer years ago -- I wrote my first my first beamer class as a grad student and used it up to my final job talk. The fastest thing for me now is to use Keynote, LaTeXit and cut & paste. Keynote quickly and easily makes lovely uncluttered slides, I mostly cut and paste mathematics and figures out of my papers or use the lovely LaTeXiT for one off formulae. I should add that I am a mathematician so it is not like I don't have much need for TeX'd slides ....

Cheers,

JF.

4. I agree, Keynote works great with LaTeX, is more user-friendly and looks great. I've used it in in the past with TeX and it looks even better than any beamer class I've seen. I just got Office 2008 for Mac and the new PowerPoint also looks very good.

However, I use beamer the most for two reasons:
1) Since I work on Mac and most of my collaborators work on windows, it is easier to use beamer for presentations. Sure PowerPoint is cross-platform, but in the past I had some problems if exported LaTeX formula (in pdf) that show up great on Mac but aren't recognized on Windows.
2) I often work on a paper at the same time as the presentation. The way I usually work is I write a first draft before I get results, including empty tables. Using the \include command in LaTeX, I can share tables, graphs, etc. between the paper and the presentation. Thus, when I do have results, or if I only want to change something, I am sure that both documents stay in sync.

5. [...] allerdings nicht, denn sie bedarf viel Zeit, um sich in das Programm einzuarbeiten. Die Blogseite Productive Scholar zeigt in einem Artikel, wie man sich die mühsame Arbeit erspart und gibt eine genaue [...]

6. I like Beamer for class notes because it's very easy to take content in and out from semester to semester without actually losing track of it.

However, I haven't found a way on Mac to both see notes and to use links. Skim (or any number of other things) lets me use links but cannot split the not screen to my computer and the presentation screen to the projector. SplitShow does the latter but has had an enhancement filed for over a year now to follow links.

7. [...] allerdings nicht, denn sie bedarf viel Zeit, um sich in das Programm einzuarbeiten. Die Blogseite Productive Scholar zeigt in einem Artikel, wie man sich die mühsame Arbeit erspart und gibt eine genaue Einführung. [...]

8. Nice posts, it is informative to people who are not use to Latex. Hope that you will explain about this in layman’s term to reach those first time users.

9. AWESOME

10. Thanks for the nice introductory posts to Beamer.

11. Thanks a ton for the material. its the perfect guide for those who have had exposure to LaTeX and who wish to learn neweer tricks of the trade ...

NS

12. Is it possible you explain me how to use LATEX in Windows from scratch? What do I need?

13. Matthias Says:
May 1, 2011 at 3:27 am

Its simply not true, that you cannot embed multimedia.
If you know the right packages, you can easily integrate videos and music into you slides. Although that only works with Adobe Reader as playback program.

movie15 by Alexander Grahn is a great package for that purpose, if you want to have a look: google ctan movie15 latex

14. Its an excellent guide. If you make it a bit longer, some of us can use as template.

Cheers,
Ramesh

15. Just as a clarification: you can place animation in beamer class presentations. You have to fulfill two conditions though:
-you use the 'animate' package;
-whatever the OS, you have to use acrobat reader, as far as I know it is the only pdf-reader able to display animation.

You then use the \animategraphics command.

cheers
w

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