How do we find references to external image links in a PowerPoint file? Here's the situation. I receive a PPT or PPTX file from a client. I open it on my computer and PowerPoint shows me a warning message: "SECURITY... Related Stories- ...

 

Can You Solve The PowerPoint External Pictures Problem? and more...



Can You Solve The PowerPoint External Pictures Problem?

How do we find references to external image links in a PowerPoint file?

Here's the situation. I receive a PPT or PPTX file from a client. I open it on my computer and PowerPoint shows me a warning message:

warning

"SECURITY WARNING  References to external pictures have been blocked" (followed by a button to "Enable Content")

I know what this means… A graphical image was copied into the presentation not as an embedded picture stored in the PowerPoint file itself, but as a link to an external file. If I don't click the button to enable the content, it SHOULD cause an empty image placeholder with a red X to appear somewhere in the presentation on some slide. But I search through the presentation, slide by slide, and cannot find such a placeholder box. All the images look correct. I also carefully check the slide masters, handout master, and notes master. No images are found therein.

How can I find the place where PowerPoint thinks there is an external picture reference? I have done extensive Google searching on this issue and have found many cases of people asking the question, but no satisfactory answers.

Helpful respondents often get confused, thinking this is a problem with a hyperlink being attached to an image. That is not the case. There are utilities for finding all hyperlinks in a presentation. I tried one just to be on the safe side, and it found no such links. That's not what this warning message is about.

Do you know how to track down the source of the security warning so the image link can be replaced with a file-embedded image?

UPDATE - SOLVED! 

Here are the steps to follow in order to find the problem images in your PowerPoint. I am using PowerPoint 2016, so the specifics may be different if you have an earlier version of the software. As always, MAKE A COPY AND WORK OFF THAT!!!!

1) Click "File" in the top command bar

2) Click "Edit Links to Files" towards the lower right of the file information and properties screen.

EditLinks

3) You will see a list that includes links of type "Picture"

Links

4) Select each image link in turn and click "Change Source". Select a reasonably small, easily identifiable image from your own image library on your hard drive. Once all links are updated to your temporary graphic, close the Links menu and return to normal slide display. 

5) Click through your slides, looking for your temporary graphic. This tells you where the original linked images were. You can now replace them with the correct local version of the original graphics (from your source version that you copied before beginning all this investigation).

 

My correspondent who solved the riddle does not want public acclaim. Instead, the person asked that I publicize a set of instructional videos in the Technobility Webinar Series. I am happy to do so. I'm delighted to have the solution in hand!

 

 

Webinar Vendors - Who Integrates Payment Processing?

Webinar vendors, please post a comment if your conferencing product integrates payment processing for fee-based online events. I'm trying to do a comprehensive round-up on this feature.

Please say whether you have the payment processing built in to your own internal event registration system, whether you use a wizard-based integrator like Zapier, or whether you require custom programming through API calls.

This is your chance to let prospects know about your capabilities in this area! Feel free to include a link to your website if you like… I'm allowing self-promotion on this post.

If you want to add details about how you charge for this functionality, that would be very welcome as well. Do you include it as part of base licensing, offer it as an add-on flat rate option, or do you take a cut of each ticket sold?

I will follow up with a post for users that looks at this functionality from a host's perspective.

 

 

Webinar Market Status - April 2017

Lately I have had several webinar technology vendors ask for my take on the current and near-future status of the webinar/webcast market. It seems like a good time to reflect on the state of the industry.

From a technology standpoint, it is no great revelation that we are in a period of conversion from Flash to HTML5 for the majority of hosted (or cloud-based) webinar products. By the end of the year, I expect to see every hosted technology relying on HTML5, usually with WebRTC handling the underlying real-time communication load. Flash may still be supported as a backup access method for users on non-compliant web browsers, but that should be a relatively short-lived legacy crossover. Flash is just going to disappear quietly into the night, little loved and less lamented in its dotage, while people forget how revolutionary and freeing it was at the beginning of its life.

The big question is whether real-time screen sharing will run effectively for large audience sizes in a true HTML5/WebRTC implementation. So far, most webinar technologies have required presenters to install a local client executable for showing their screen in a webinar. Can we get away from that need? One vendor wrote to me privately and said they have it licked, but I'm still waiting to see it in action.

Market definition is taking a page from politics… More and more polarization, with less tolerance for compromise. There are a few big, expensive webinar/webcast products that are feature-rich and flexible enough to handle multiple use cases and multiple types of content in enterprise business use. On the other end of the spectrum are products with fewer features and less flexibility, competing primarily on price. The vendors and products in the middle of the range are the ones with the biggest problem as they get squeezed between not being cheap enough and not being seen as "safe" for widespread enterprise use.

Marc Beattie recently posted an article on The Wainhouse Research Blog in which he examines standalone audio conferencing and what he refers to as Personal Web-based Conferencing (PWC). This category encompasses peer-based meetings through products such as iMeet, GoToMeeting, and dozens more. He points out that PWC in the USA is growing in volume, but declining in revenue as vendors race each other to find a bottom point on pricing. Under the current model, I think we are headed towards the eventual elimination of fee-based web meeting products. Vendors will offer simple web meeting products as free loss-leaders to capture market share and hopefully get users locked into using their more expensive products for scaled-up use cases.

This divergence in price/performance is already creating negative effects for vendors when it comes to supporting more structured web events, and the problem is going to get much worse. Users who start with simple PWC web meeting products are being conditioned to think of web collaboration as a free (or at least, minimal cost) service. When they move from holding a simple ad hoc web meeting to hosting a webinar, they expect the same low-cost/no-cost model. "It's just something that runs on the web… Why should I pay for that?"

Vendors have to justify licensing costs for their webinar/webcast products by pointing to features, features, and more features - almost always showing up as in-session interactivity functionality. We end up with overstuffed products containing marginally useful options that never get refined and stabilized, since development effort continually has to be funneled towards the next shiny new addition.

The things that make a product truly superior in business use often aren't "sexy" or even apparent… How reliable and consistent is operation on the dozens of different devices, operating systems, and web browser versions in use around the world? How good and accessible is technical support and documentation? How smooth is screen sharing display? How is the quality of received audio for attendees? How well integrated is telephony and computer audio, and what are the options for international phone access? How is video quality maintained for users on slow or inconsistent wi-fi connections? What is the audio/video quality in event recordings, and how good is the reliability and access to the recording? How useful are post-event reports for actual analysis work, and do they require lots of manual data manipulation?

It takes a lot of dedicated software engineering, rigorous stress testing, and hiring of skilled support personnel to differentiate on those "hidden" quality elements, and since they aren't the factors that tend to sway purchase decisions for inexperienced users, they are the hardest to justify from the vendor's perspective. That's why products like ON24 and Adobe Connect tend to concentrate on enterprise sales in high-volume applications, where IT-savvy purchasing agents make a centralized technology decision for all users in the company. In those cases, the revenue return justifies the investment by the vendor.

I am seeing a growing trend in add-on pricing as a solution strategy for mid-range webinar vendors. This is analogous to what we are seeing in the airline industry. Your basic licensing fee gets you a live webinar. If you want additional recording features, you pay more. If you want additional branding or reporting customization, you pay more. If you want premium support, you pay more. It makes sense from the vendor's perspective, but it can have a negative psychological effect on users. It feels like a "bait and switch" where you see one price and then find out that you'll actually have to pay more for the things that act as differentiators and allow you to work the way you want to. I don't like it myself, but we'll see more of it this year rather than less.

Finally, we come to the issue of vendor consolidation. This is a perpetual process and it will continue as it has for the last decade. I think we are past the point where the big guys are buying technology. There aren't that many revolutionary technology plays left in the webinar space. Instead, they are buying customer lists and eliminating pesky competition.

I think the spin-off we recently saw when Citrix divested its collaboration products and sold them to LogMeIn may be repeated at other vendors where standalone web collaboration doesn't fit in with the rest of the company's business. I would not be surprised to see Cisco sell WebEx to someone else or cease licensing the standalone versions… I get no sense that Cisco is interested in growing and developing the Meeting Center, Event Center, and Training Center products… They are incidental to the big picture idea of unified communications and collaboration that Cisco has pursued for years (currently marketed under the Cisco Spark banner). On a side note, if Zoom doesn't get bought up soon, I will be astonished.

Okay, that's enough crystal ball work for now. Agree? Disagree? Think I overlooked an important trend? Add your thoughts in a comment. I review comments before publishing them in an attempt to eliminate spam, so yours might not show up for a bit after you submit it. But I love hearing from you!

 

C'mon And Zoom

 

 

Zoom is a relative youngster in the web conferencing space. The company was founded in 2011 and its preliminary collaboration product (Zoom Meetings) went into general availability at the start of 2013. I originally knew it as a peer group meeting product, which is not my primary focus, so I didn't stay on top of developments. By late 2014, Zoom Video Webinar had come along and I should have paid more attention. But I did not have a client using the product until recently, giving me the chance to use it in a production setting and properly review its utility as a webinar platform.

I asked Janelle Raney, a product marketing executive at Zoom, for help with background on the company itself. Janelle explained that corporate headquarters are in San Jose, California, with additional support locations in Kansas City and Malaysia, sales offices in Santa Barbara and Denver, and development offices in China. The company does its own engineering in-house, rather than using outsourced developers (this is important to me in helping to maintain quality control). Growth has been fast, and there are now approximately 475 employees worldwide supporting more than half a million businesses using Zoom conferencing and collaboration products (these include hardware-based conference room video conferencing systems, instant messaging, and phone conferencing).

I used Zoom's web-based live chat for technical support quite a few times during my testing. No matter what time of day or night, including weekends, I was able to get a tech support person chatting with me in short order. They were knowledgeable about the product and were able to answer my product operation questions.

This review will focus exclusively on Zoom Video Webinar. Licensing follows the now typical industry model of allowing unlimited usage for a monthly subscription charge. Tiered plan rates start at USD $40/month for a room capacity of 100 participants. Plans can extend all the way up to 50 speaking roles and 10,000 view-only attendees. There are add-on charges you will probably want to plan for, such as storing, streaming, and downloading webinar recordings on Zoom's cloud servers. Participants can always use computer audio or telephone with local toll numbers. But if you want to add global toll-free numbers or call-out to participants, you'll pay more as well.

The basic operation and conceptual organization of Zoom will be familiar to anyone who has used GoToWebinar. Visual content comes from sharing a presenter's computer screen… there is no upload and conversion of PowerPoint files or other types of documents. Presenters can stream live video from a webcam. The live video image overlays a portion of the screen share display rather than residing in a separate margin space. The software runs as an installed executable application on each participant's computer.

Zoom's clear differentiation is in the quality of its screen sharing. I will say without hesitation that this is the highest performance screen share I have encountered. I ran PowerPoint slides in slideshow mode at full screen, full resolution and the software was able to smoothly display the most complex animated sequences involving movement and color changes to every pixel on the screen. I was frankly amazed to see PowerPoint's "origami" slide transition effect reproduced perfectly. I can't imagine anyone using that effect for anything other than torture testing a screen share product… It visually "folds" the slide content into an origami swan that rapidly flaps its wings and flies off the screen. It's a crazy amount of fast pixel movement that Zoom somehow manages to keep up with. I don't know how they do it. As a presenter, you can easily use smooth scrolling on a document or web page and know that attendees are able to see the scroll happen as you see it, rather than as a discontinuous sequence of partial redraws.

Live video performance is also fine, with nothing particularly good or bad to remark upon. An interesting and unusual feature is that a presenter can set a dynamic option during a session that optimizes the screen share for showing full motion video. Again, this is the only screen sharing product I have seen that can keep up with a full smooth motion video and display it to attendees with synchronized sound. If you pause the video, attendees pause on the same video frame. Very impressive.

Interactive features include the usual polling (which can be "choose one" or "select all that apply"). There are slots for up to 8 selection choices. Presenters see raw votes, while attendees see percentages only. Polls can be predefined as part of the webinar setup, or may be added during a running web session. Interestingly, you can define multiple questions to be displayed within a single "poll" - acting as a miniature survey within the session.

There are some quirks involved with typed interactions. It took me a while to get comfortable using Chat and Q&A (two different types of text interaction that can be controlled separately). For one thing, administrative options use inconsistent interfaces.

Here is the Chat window. The organizer has options found under the word "More" at the bottom right:Zoom chat options

Compare to the Q&A window. The organizer has options found under "Options" at the top right:

QA options

That is obviously not a big problem, but it is one of several areas that left me feeling like features had been added piecemeal, without an eye towards overall cohesiveness in operation.

I don't know if you could read the option on the Q&A panel, but it is unique in my experience with web conferencing products. Organizers can choose to allow participants the option to submit questions or comments anonymously if they desire. If the option is enabled, attendees can check or uncheck a box to attach their name to their text submission. The problem is that even when the option is disabled, attendees see the option box to "Send Anonymously"… It just is inactive. This can be frustrating and confusing if they don't know why they can't use an option they see on their interface. It would be much better to eliminate the display of the option when not enabled.

Attendee Question

This problem exists in other areas as well. For instance, the host can disable chat for attendees, but they still see the option and can open the chat window with a message saying "Host disabled viewer chat."  Don't tell my attendees what they could have done if only I had been a kinder host!

Question and Chat management is fairly simple. Chat messages may be tagged to be seen by the entire audience or by panelists only. A panelist can respond privately to an incoming chat message from an attendee. Questions can be answered publicly or privately in typed text, or the host can set a flag indicating the question was "answered live" (presumably by audio). There are no other panelist/host controls to set priority flags or delete individual submissions. Text in the Chat window is selectable for copying and pasting into another document, but text in the Q&A window is not (more inconsistency).

One of my biggest areas of dissatisfaction with Zoom Webinars is that the host cannot open attendee microphones if desired. Viewers (Zoom uses the term "viewer" to indicate an attendee without panelist authority) are always limited to text responses. If you want to allow a viewer to speak, you need to promote her or him to panelist status. This causes a logout/login sequence to occur on their computer, taking several seconds. The attendee then has all other status privileges associated with panelists, including the ability to see private panel chat, turn on their webcam, and so on. It is simply impractical.

I was also disappointed in Zoom's implementation of private setup mode for use before a webinar goes live. They refer to this as "Practice" mode. It is very simple… It just blocks all viewers from logging in to the webinar. Panelists can speak with each other and test out their content in private. Then when they are satisfied, the host exits Practice mode and lets attendees log in. I find this much less useful than products that let attendees log in early and see some kind of lobby display or visual content while the panelists are able to continue talking in private.

Recording worked nicely. You have the option to record to your local disk or to your cloud-based Zoom account. You can pause and continue a recording during a session (I wish more products had this feature). Recordings are automatically saved in two standard formats: mp4 for audio/video and m4a for audio-only. I did run into a problem in one of my tests where my profile headshot remained displayed over a corner of the shared screen content. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get rid of it.

Registration page customization is fairly standard. Zoom lets you use a standard field for Country with a pre-populated drop down list of choices. Even better, it gives you a proper State/Province drop down with choice lists that change dynamically for the USA and Canada. Now if they could just make that State/Province field disappear completely when another country is chosen! You can add custom questions in short text input format or your own set of drop down choices.

Email customization is extremely limited. Confirmation and reminder emails have a standard format and content, with slots where you can slip in some text of your own. You can't customize the email that goes out to panelists with their login instructions. You only have three options for when reminders get sent… 1 hour before start time, 1 day before start time, and 1 week before start time.  Even the optional follow up emails to attendees and absentees include boilerplate text you can't get rid of. And the soonest you can schedule a follow up email to go out is 1 day after the webinar. That is insufficient and Zoom needs to work on better flexibility and shorter response windows.

Post webinar reports include a Q&A report in spreadsheet format. It lists each question, the user name, email, and any answer that was provided (or the "live answered" flag). It does not include a time stamp for when the question was submitted.

An Attendee report shows the usual join/leave times and number of minutes in session. The spreadsheet format is frustrating in that it includes different sections all on the same sheet, with column titles that don't correspond to the same column data in other sections.

A Performance report shows quick summary stats for numbers of registrants, attendees, and questions asked.

And now we come to the tougher part of the review… Subjective impressions. This is where I end up frustrating the Zoom product management folks, because I'm not pointing to specific features, but to my overall "feel" for the product as a user. As I said at the beginning of this piece, the screen sharing performance is unmatched. It's a great vehicle for showing software product demos. I would use it in a heartbeat for meetings and conferences where everyone is on an equal footing for participation. It is obvious to me that this was the original development focus and vision.

The relative simplicity of many features points to a desire for a short learning curve and easy "pick up and use" operation. Yet when I did my early testing and ran my first client webinar, I repeatedly found myself confused over how options should be set, how to most effectively manage attendee interactions, and especially how to handle multi-presenter handoffs and presentation control. I had a situation that never got resolved, where we couldn't lock the live video on one primary presenter… Every time another panelist spoke, the image switched to them. The feature that was supposed to lock it to one person had no effect.

The inability to allow attendees (viewers) to speak was frustrating for my client's needs. And I wanted much more control over email content and scheduling.

I think Zoom Webinars is "almost there," but needs a bit more detail work to bring it up to fully competitive status with other products concentrating on business webinars as opposed to web meetings. It's not that it needs more features… It just needs some hardcore use case analysis and refinement of existing functionality to make it more intuitive and flexible for webinar administrators and presenters.

 

 

Webinato Joins The HTML5 Crowd

You may be paying attention to a "March Madness" phenomenon that has something to do with tall people throwing rubber balls into nets, but as far as I'm concerned, March Madness refers to the nonstop string of webinar vendor announcements concerning conversion to HTML5. This makes three posts in a row covering such news.

The latest addition to the fray comes from Webinato. An announcement on their website promises HTML5 operation by the end of 2017 and a new interface they refer to as Storyboard. This sounds like a reimagining of a feature already in production on their current platform that allows presenters or organizers to specify a sequence of presentation elements and then rapidly switch between them. You might have a couple of slide decks, a YouTube video clip, a poll, a survey, and an uploaded video clip to show in your webinar. The storyboard concept lets you click through the list to bring up the proper content window and start it playing for attendees.

The one bullet on the web page that interests me the most is the first item, which says "Entirely HTML5 & Web Based Platform." So far I have not seen an example (from any vendor) of screen sharing that relies only on HTML5. If somebody manages to create such an implementation that does not require the presenter to install a local application, it will be a coup and a major step forward in proving HTML5 ready for full collaborative functionality.

This is going to be a very different industry by the end of the year… At least from a technology perspective. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Make sure you have upgraded your web browser to a version that supports HTML5 and WebRTC!

 
 
   
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