Late last night I put up an entry asking where was the killer open source presentation software. Sam Hiser responded with a comment as did a couple of other people and Sam has a longer piece on his blog. Sam discussed Dave Raggett’s Slidy and also mentioned presentation support in Opera. More on the latter in a moment. In my book, Dave Raggett is already a founding father of the web and I always learned a lot from him when I was directly involved with standards work.
The idea of using direct markup instead of a WYSIWYG application with hidden, binary formatting is not new. I saw folks at the W3C doing it in the 1990s though it always looked a bit stark. In that same decade, I worked on a piece of software called techexplorer which did interactive display of mathematical documents using either a subset of LaTeX or MathML. While not nearly of PowerPoint-like quality, it did a credible job of allowing you to write markup to display scientific presentations. It was fun to play with, but it didn’t take over the world. The notion of having markup that can be massaged by third-software, open or closed, is really, really important and is one of the things that makes the idea of having the format be XML-based so exciting. I addressed this a while ago with a few other issues in a blog entry.
Back to Opera. This is not open source, but the presentation support is just downright cool. If you want to play with it, download Opera and then go to the Opera Show Tutorial. Follow the instructions to use F11 to go into presentation mode (not just full-screen more, it is more than that) and you’ll be impressed. I’m going to do some CSS hacking on my sutor.com website to see if I can improve things a bit for presentation display.