Set Up a Data Connection
First, you need to connect your presentation to your data. This data is often stored in a database or file. Supported databases are Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle. Virtually any other database type on the market can be addressed via OLE DB or ODBC drivers. Files can be text files, comma separated text files, XML files or even Microsoft Excel datasheets are great for storing and manipulating data. To work with databases, you need to understand the structure of the database and you need to know SQL. So that, when you work with Excel, it will be much easier, so for this article I will use a simple Excel file. Nothing complicated. Let’s work with some data that everyone understands; beer! Yes, we are a Belgian company and like to promote some national products. We will display information about beer and pricing on our information screen. This is the Excel file I’m using. A simple file with one datasheet, where we list the names of the beers and the prices.
Start with a Presentation
Next step is to set up a presentation and link some text boxes to your linked Excel data. Start with a new presentation and add a slide. On that first slide, we added a new normal text box. Note that you need to use text boxes to display static information all the time. Insert a text box and type in your text or message. With this dynamic linking, we are not going to type in text anymore. No, we are going to link this text box dynamically to a data source. After the linking, we maintain the information directly in the database or data file, but not anymore in the presentation. That is presenting only!
The Texts tab offers some more possibilities.
- As demonstrated here, the prefix text always comes in front of the dynamic value.
- A suffix text always comes behind the variable value, e.g. to indicate C or F for a temperature.
- The option for an empty text is placed whenever to row exists at the data source, but the value is empty or nothing.
- And finally the non-existing row replacement text, will be copied into the text box whenever the chosen row number exceeds the number of rows in your data. So when you would have value 8 set as row number on the text box, and your data set is returning only 5 rows, then this text will be shown instead.
The last option on this Texts tab, Alternate text boxes every n seconds, is to let text alternate when you have texts with multiple lines. This is explained in detail at another great article. The 2 other tabs called Ticker and Rules, will not be handled here, because there is so much more to say. Here is more information on text tickers and another one on setting up dynamic rules.
Run Your Slideshow
Next time that you open this dynamic presentation, all of the linked and dynamic text boxes will be refreshed with the latest and current information. So when you change the name of the beer of the month, or you change your pricing, then this information is updated automatically on your slides. Furthermore, you can start the slide show and while it is running, it will check for updated information at your Excel file and update the information on the slides, during the slideshow, without interrupting the slideshow at all.
Generate Snapshot Presentations
You can also generate snapshot presentations out of this. A snapshot presentation is a newly generated presentation, filled with the latest information, but then disconnected from your data sources. So you start with your linked and dynamic presentation, and you generate daily or weekly snapshot presentations for statistical purposes, or for distribution to other that do not have access to your data source directly.