Displaying presentations via Apple TV

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I wouldn’t have even thought of Apple’s new Apple TV as a presentation tool—Apple built the device to stream movies and iTunes content, not display PowerPoint or Keynote slides. And yet, a number of Macworld readers have asked us if such a thing is possible.

The answer is, “With a bit of work.”

You’ve actually got two ways to make it happen. The first approach—which works with both Keynote and PowerPoint presentations—puts your presentation on the Apple TV by converting your slides to images:

  1. Export your presentation (in PowerPoint, File -> Save As; in Keynote, File -> Export, and then click Images in the Export screen’s toolbar) as a series of image files; I recommend TIFF format. This will create a folder of images representing your presentation, one image per slide.
  2. Create a new album in iPhoto and then import the folder of images into the new album.
  3. Set up the Apple TV, using iTunes, to sync the new iPhoto album.

To view your “presentation” on the Apple TV, you select the synced album from the Apple TV’s Photos menu, and then immediately press the Play/Pause button to pause playback; you can then use the Back and Forward buttons to navigate your slides. However, note that this approach loses transitions (for both Keynote and PowerPoint) and builds (for PowerPoint; Keynote gives you the option of exporting each build as a separate image). The other downside to this method is that, because it works through iPhoto, you can’t stream a presentation from a Mac to an Apple TV; because Apple TV requires that photos be synced to its hard drive, you must sync the iPhoto album to the Apple TV first.

The second method works only with Keynote presentations (or PowerPoint presentations imported into Keynote) but converts your slides to a movie file—which allows you to stream a Keynote presentation to an Apple TV from any Mac (or, of course, to sync the presentation to an Apple TV from its syncing-partner Mac). To so so, follow these steps:

  1. Export the presentation (File -> Export) and click QuickTime in the Export screen’s toolbar. Then choose Self-Playing Movie from the Playback Control pop-up menu, and enter 10 seconds as the Slide Duration. If your slides have builds, set the Build Duration to 10 seconds; without builds, use 0 seconds.
  2. Drag the resulting QuickTime movie file from wherever you saved it into iTunes.
  3. Once the movie has been imported into iTunes, select the movie in iTunes and then choose Advanced -> Convert Selection for iPod. This converts the QuickTime movie to a format the Apple TV understands.

To view your presentation on an Apple TV, choose it from the Movies menu—the Apple TV’s Movies menu if you’ve synced the movie, or the Movies menu from any other networked Mac via the Sources menu—and, again, as soon as it starts playing, immediately press the Play/Pause button to pause playback. You can then use the Forward and Back buttons to navigate between “slides” in your presentation. (Assuming you have a reasonable number of slides, the Apple TV will use a 10-second skip time, as described in our Apple TV Q&A, for your presentation movie. Since you set your build and slide durations to 10 seconds, these skips should be timed perfectly.)

The advantage to the movie approach is that, since movies can be streamed, you can stream your presentation to any Apple TV from any Mac.

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