A chocolate sampler box of nightmares.
February 18, 2022 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I naively started out thinking that Google Slides was just a poorly maintained product suffering from some questionable foundational decisions, but now, after having had to use it so much in the past year, I believe that Google Slides is actually just trolling me.
posted by rorgy (27 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Look, I know pixels might seem like the right call here in the year 2022, but you just never know when you might get an itch to hit that Print button, and you’re really gonna wanna know that that image (or video!) you dropped into your slides is a perfect 2 inches. I mainly present my work on 8.5" x 11" pieces of paper, so I really appreciate this decision.

This is an interesting one to me because, as a non-designer, I’ve never thought of distances in pixels by default. It makes sense to see it pointed out - all of my presentations are on big TV screens or over Zoom, after all - but that’s not where my mind goes.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:44 PM on February 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

For all its free stuff, Google is transitioning from 'they are not your customers' to 'not only are they not your customers, but you don’t even like the damned freeloaders!'.
posted by jamjam at 5:09 PM on February 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

YES!!! But I also feel this way about powerpoint.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:13 PM on February 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Is there a Google product that's not poorly maintained?
posted by octothorpe at 5:35 PM on February 18, 2022 [8 favorites]

Chrome, chromeos, docs, gmail, spreadsheets, maps, Android all seem pretty damn well maintained to me. Search is still very maintained but I feel like SEO has just gotten far to aggressive for ANYTHING like a search product on the internet and it just is never going to the same internet it was 10 years ago.
posted by aspo at 5:39 PM on February 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

The most enraging thing about Slides to me is that if you zoom in closely (which you will have to, since its alignment is crap) your screen will jump out of the space you zoomed into as you try to click on things.

Other failures:
I love clicking on a linked element and having to zoom out in order to actually be able to click on the options because the pop out tool bar appears halfway off the screen.

The paint format tool only works when it feels like it, which is never.

Downloading to jpg or png looks like absolute shit unless you make your document 2 x the size you want it to be. Same with any Google drawings you import.

Slides doesn't have a star shape. If I want a star I have to make a star shape in Powerpoint, then open that PowerPoint in Slides.

You can't save background images. You have to download the presentation as a ppt, then save the image from PowerPoint.
posted by Stoof at 6:33 PM on February 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

Some of those complaints seem pretty reasonable, but complaining about measuring in inches is total bitch eating crackers territory. Actually, it's worse because there are incredibly good reasons to not use pixels. Ems, inches, and millimeters are all perfectly reasonable, but pixels are a complete disaster.

See, there are lots of different display devices out there all with their own pixel count and size. If you are using Slides (or PowerPoint or any other presentation software!) for its intended purpose, you will not be displaying the slides on the same display on which they were composed. You might want to display it on a 800x480 projector or a 65" HDTV or a bunch of smartphones or even print them out.

With the use of physical measurements instead of pixels, the OS and software can correctly scale the content to fit the display. You can't do that (well) with pixels. Which is why using Windows XP to drive a large flat screen TV used to suck so very much. Thankfully, modern OSes don't assume every display is 72DPI and every printer is 300DPI anymore.
posted by wierdo at 6:39 PM on February 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

If I set a box to be 2" wide and tall, on my computer that might be, say, 10% of the width of the screen. What will that look like on my phone, which is say 3" wide? Will it be a 2" box taking up 2/3 of the width? Or a .3" box taking up 10% of the width?

I suspect that it just considers the slides to be "x inches wide" and "y inches tall" and so really I'm just specifying sizes in a not very well scaled percentage of the width.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:10 PM on February 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Perhaps the goal is to discourage the use of Slides, as a first step in a rebellion against PowerPoint.
posted by MrGuilt at 8:14 PM on February 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

If I set a box to be 2" wide and tall, on my computer that might be, say, 10% of the width of the screen. What will that look like on my phone, which is say 3" wide? Will it be a 2" box taking up 2/3 of the width? Or a .3" box taking up 10% of the width?

If everything is designed and working correctly if you specify an inch it will be an inch everywhere, unless some kind of display scaling is explicitly configured (like setting Windows to show everything at 120% or 150% or zooming in/out in a PDF viewer). If you want relative measurements, ems are more appropriate, though I don't know if Slides supports measurements in ems.
posted by wierdo at 8:43 PM on February 18, 2022

I'd be shocked if a 1" box was 1" no matter where you viewed it, because that's so against the way slides would be used. i.e. everything should have the same relative size to the other parts of the slide whether viewed on a phone or a TV. A 1" square would be a huge chunk of my phone and almost invisible on a TV.

"pixels" is the wrong unit too for obvious reason. The right unit seems like it would be "percentage of the width of the slide." I'll mess around with it tomorrow, because I bet it just assumes "slides are 8x10 inches so a 2in box is 1/4 of the slide width"
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:51 PM on February 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

12 points to a pica, six pica to an inch.

We use points for screen layouts but they’re a print unit, too. We need a standard that scales to display size, but neither points nor pixels are right for it.
posted by thecaddy at 8:56 PM on February 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Yeah I just tried it. I made a 4" square in a slide, it was about half the width and most of the height of the slide. It looks proportionally the same on my phone (it's about half the width of the displayed slide). Neither square is anything approaching "4 inches." On my MBP it's about a 2.5" square. On my phone maybe 1". And of course the size changes as I change my browse window etc. Experimentally it seems like it considers a slide to be 10" wide and about 5.5" tall.

Although that changes if you change the aspect ration - a 4:3 aspect ratio gives me 10" wide and 7.5" tall.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:57 PM on February 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

So basically whenever they show "inches" what they really mean is "units of 10% of the width of the slide" because no one is imaginging a 10x7.5" canvas when they enter units of inches.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:58 PM on February 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

You can set the page size.

Just tested it. The default is 10x5.3 for some reason, but if you go file->page setup you can set it. I suspect if you print it there's an option to print it actual size but I don't really care much to test it.

Pixels makes not sense, some sort of virtual measurement does. If I see it "full screen" on my phone I expect the elements to be the same percentages of the slide after all.

(That said, inches... ugh. And I'm an American, poor rest of the world.)
posted by aspo at 9:37 PM on February 18, 2022

The practical problem with inches is that they are enormous compared to the sizes and distances anyone cares about on a slide.

As a result, the units you actually use are fractions, and maybe some people find it easier to calculate using “2 and 3/16” than “35” but I sure as hell don’t.
posted by bjrubble at 11:36 PM on February 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

I feel like the ship has long past sailed on the whole pixels vs. ems or whatever debate, and pixels won--with the caveat that the web uses "device independent pixels" now so they're not really pixels on a high-DPI display. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Of the possible units they could've picked, inches are probably the worst tho. Ideally they'd let the document author choose what unit they'd like to work in, like most design-oriented programs do. Curious how much of Slides' behavior is from aping PowerPoint; the rare times I need to make a PowerPoint deck I'm using some built-in template and built-in layouts 'cause who has time for design when it's only gonna be presented to coworkers, so I have no idea what it's like for designers.
posted by Aleyn at 12:02 AM on February 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

I sometimes think about how good all the various Google products would be if only the company had been broken up for parts a decade ago.

Facebook, by contrast, is just good-for-nothing garbage and should be burned to the ground. But Google tries to make useful things, but because it’s an unwieldy behemoth which is impossible to have any oversight of, most of the useful things become neglected. Their users go elsewhere, losing trust in Google’s ability to make useful things.

If Google had been broken up by regulators, this dynamic wouldn’t have set in. But as it is, we’re left with all these Google products that now only half-work, but that started out genuinely good.
posted by Kattullus at 12:17 AM on February 19, 2022 [8 favorites]

Ye gods, this whole discussion takes me way back to one of the great horrors of my last office job as the company graphic artist. I was regularly called upon to set-up powerpoint slides featuring images, and had to work things out to where the images would look good on-screen, but also print out nice and sharp, to, all while keeping file size nice and compact.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:15 AM on February 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

In software, it is not unusual for the industry standard to be absolute crap. Often, after ten (or twenty) years, a crappy product will evolve into something nice, but by then the world has caught on to its crappiness and have moved on. I think this is because conventional wisdom takes ten or twenty years to acknowledge reality.
posted by jabah at 6:32 AM on February 19, 2022

\title[Huh?]{My Inevitable Confusion}
\author{The GCU \emph{Sweet and Full of Grace}}
\institute{Culture Contact}
\frametitle{My confusion. Let me show you it.}
     \item I don't get it.  Doing it in \LaTeX seems much simpler.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:50 AM on February 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

More and more I believe that Tufte is correct in his suggestion to just get a single piece of A4 (letter) paper. Write up your presentation using WORDS (and the occasional diagram), using proper visual hierarchy, in 2-3 columns on each side of the paper, and send that out as a pdf to everybody. Spend the first 10 mins of the meeting letting everyone read the document, and the rest of the meeting discussing it. The end.
posted by nushustu at 7:27 AM on February 19, 2022 [6 favorites]

One thing I love / hate is the ability to link slide (sets) and drawings in multiple decks and documents. No more hunting for “did I use this figure in the For Managers version?”

The flip side is that I have to make all drawings “60 inches” wide to have them display in “high res” when imported. Still killing me in 2022 is no built in way to import vector graphics .

If we are going to complain about defaults Beamer doesn’t have shit to say. I will always blame Beamer for student seminars with slides packed with illegible equations. A text based interface encourages lots of text when people should use slides to show complex objects, relationships, and data. For text, talk. It’s also time consuming and annoying to position objects and format tables.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:29 AM on February 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Honestly though. Whenever a non-designer person builds out a slide deck, it looks like shit. Basically every time. Yes, sure, designers can make the decks look good, but as someone who recognizes the difficulties to make the deck look good, I tend to think it backfires. It bothers me that someone spends an inordinate amount of time building a presentation deck instead of their real work. Show me the actual work, and talk me through it f2f. I don't need slides.
posted by nushustu at 7:50 AM on February 19, 2022 [6 favorites]

Maybe when displays all use Postscript for rendering we can resolve this.
posted by Snowflake at 8:36 AM on February 19, 2022

I wonder how many \hspace’s or \vspace’s the presentation I gave this past week had.

And how many overfull hboxes. How come I never have an overfull vbox? What of the vboxen?

Re:Beamer and bad student presentations: people are capable of giving bad presentations in any format. Sometimes an equation is the right way to present something, even in slides. To my knowledge, Google Slides doesn’t pop up a “wtf are you thinking no one can read this”. Might be a nice feature.
posted by nat at 11:09 AM on February 19, 2022

"More and more I believe that Tufte is correct in his suggestion" is often right thinking, I find. Even (or especially) when Tufte is a cranky dick.
posted by rorgy at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

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