Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

Doc’s Eclectic Views — A doc_Babad EDU-Torial Article for MHReports

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All right Reserved


Over the years I have both given and attended a variety of presentations made by colleagues, fellow volunteers, and subject mater experts. Alas, most of the ‘seminars and presentations by any other name, I attended as a profession, volunteer, or just pain working stiff (aka scientist and teacher) were just plain awful. They wasted my time, insulted my intellect, and inflicted pain and suffering on my fragile mind already weak from living in a world of linear {cause effect} logic.  Unfortunately, the later exceed my own then feeble pitches by a factor of at least 100; didn’t someone somewhere say that it was better to give than to receive?

Folks of all ranks, experience and pedigrees gave these poor presentations. I also must admit to have dished out more, at least early in my career, of lousy presentations. Not on purpose — Just plain Ignorance <no video monitor> or a bit later in my career not caring enough to do better … If the shoe fits, you name your excuses, lack of time is always a good excuse.

DISCLOSURE: On the subject of Persuasive (e.g., Effective) presentation, I am an impassioned and outspoken demagogue. My colleagues always think such a compulsion strange – – needing to be treated – so what! Me strange, why? …I’d rather read even a relatively poor, by a non-English speaking author than hear the pitch.

Day glow colors, and wiz-bang media props not withstanding,  I remain convinced after being a 55 year part of tortured audiences, that the presenters, at least 99.0% of them, are their own worst enemy. Images with a punchy message that don’t detract from your presentations are not, hard to find or create.

This article is about you making peace with your audiences so they not only listen to you but also give real attention to the information you share.

It’s strange or perhaps even amazing how effective a person scheduled to make a presentation can be when we sit around, sharing their ideas. The props are usually napkins or a scratch pad and now an iPad/Stylus combo. However, make it a PRESENTATION, they become hills of Lethe, the forgetfulness inducing spirit. Amazing, how awful the same information becomes, when you hand that person a microphone and a projector and even worse turn out the lights. As a minor sidelight, the best presentation by a newbie I mentored, was rehearsed by the speaker and a few of us, friends all, in a swimming pool.

A Definition of Presentations, One Man’s View — What you may ask is a presentation? Usually it is a semi-formal, nominallyorganized and mostly a one-way exchange of information – a sales pitch made by you or a co-worker aimed at convincing others of the wisdom and rightness of your views and expertise.That’s different from either listening to or passively watching a speech, or sitting at a coffee house actively table trading of ideas (brainstorming) with colleagues. You can pursue these subjects – Google search about them. It’s also alas different from how most classrooms work – oh my preference the coffee table or booth in a bar with lots of napkins, beverages optional or perhaps optimal.

 Thank you for listening!

A Presentation is More than a Sum of Its Parts — There are main two aspects to a presentation, whether at a convention, or made internally to your management and co-workers. There’s you, the presenter (salesperson), and there’s the visuals – props you use.  The later serve, hopefully, to catch and maintain audience attention interest on YOU! – You’re the key to a grrreat presentation.

Note that I’ve liberally adapted materials from those who’ve written the books I’ve studies, Garr Reynolds for example. Many of the illustrations, not quite randomly selected, were gleaned from the many fine examples on the Slide Share site; those items that seem to fit the themes/points/rules/guidelines in my article.

For most of us today, our visual tool is a PowerPoint (Microsoft) or Keynote (Apple’s iWork) presentation. However, presenters should use be any combination of hard or soft props of which they remain in control! Watch Steve Job’s at a recent TED presentation or at various product release events. [E.g., the Macworld Conferences and Expo) or the WWDC developer’s conferences.] Bill Gates, just to drop names, is no slouch at presentation based out reach. All of these folks have been TED presenters. Okay, in a less technical vein, but presentation professionals all, there’s Bill Cosby, the late Daniel Schurr, Conan O’Brien, and of course Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen note.

Okay, neither you or I are likely the naturally talented, much polished and practiced ‘orator’ heroes types that are part my FAVS list. I’d actually pay to hear my heroes speak, rather than watch them on HD TV for free. The KISS rule suggests also keeping in short so I’ll pick only of few whose last names start with the letter ‘B’.  [E.g., Jeff Bezos <>, Mark Bittman <NY Times Cooking>, Richard Branson <CEO Virgin Galactic>] who share their views on the great, and at times not so great ideas of the world

Focusing The Sales Pitch

  • Selling Me (e.g., my knowledge, trustworthiness, or capabilities.)
  • Selling My Project (e.g., funding, change in in organizational direction, focus.)
  • Selling Negative Findings (Don’t let them kill the Messenger, put you in control instead.)

In the material that follows I’ll first share my views on creating presentation graphics and tools. It’s the easiest element to deal with and initially avoid likely personal confrontation like you talk to the podium. There’s lots of available guides, books and examples to use to train yourself, a few of which I’ll reference below. Some of this you know and practice already great… skim it as a refresher. However if I left the material out, I’d be cheating by the rest of you and insulting the gods of pedagogy.

The section that follows the one on creating the visuals will be all about the human element in a presentation.  The me and you making the presentation – the part that is associated with the forever-moving target of know thyself and know your audience.

How often in my early days of presenting, did I wish I could leave both a copy of my slides and paper on each seat? Let me count the times. Then with a cup of espresso in my hand, likely laced with a bit of rum, go to the microphone… sit and sip or a while. After 15 minutes, I’d turn down the background music, and ask “ANY QUESTIONS?”

Do you remember the first — second —third time you looked at video of yourself
making a presentation? … For it was a pure YUCK moment!

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VISUAL AIDES and PROPS — The 13 Commandments of PowerPoint/Overhead Slide Preparation

Presentation Graphics Do’s and Don’t – Death by PowerPoint creates a lose-Lose for both you and your audience.

1.  Practical Attributes of Better PowerPoint Presentations [Paraphrased from Garr Reynolds]

  • Presentations must be both verbal & visual.
  • Too much slide information overloads people’s cognitive systems.
  • Can your visuals be understood in 3 seconds? If not, redesign them to support your talk.
  • Both your slide design & delivery must help your audience organize, and integrate information. Thinking well of you never hurts.

2. Include only one concept, point or idea per slide. If you have a complicated slide with lots of different data, it may be better to break it up into 2-3 different slides (assuming no side-by-side comparisons are needed). If necessary split your slides horizontally into before and after columns. However, you must then then cut down the bulleted items from phases to single of double word descriptors. You won’t have time to get nervous, you’ll be busy sharing what only you, you only know.

  • Capture the major point of the presentation on the title of a slide.
  • A slide one PowerPoint page or one overhead (transparency)

3. Use key words, phrases and or concepts rather than whole sentences and paragraphs. The slides serve as a crib card to you as well as an anchor to your audience.  After all, you will, hopefully, briefly be explaining — discussing many of these individual key points in your oral presentation. AVOID exposing your audience, to death by PowerPoint.

4. Words and Space Use — Follow doc_Babad’s 8 x 10 rule (I do try…)

  • Use no more than 8 lines per slide
  • Use no more that 10 words per line
  • There is no free lunch here; a blank line counts as a line!

5. Minimize Theme DistractionsE.g., Useless) space consuming, repeated information that serves only to clutter your graphic with redundancies. What that?

  • The 40+ point presentation title of the talk on each slide
  • Too large ≥ 2 x 2 organizational logos in the lower right hand corner of every slide.

The tile page, with your firms logo highly visible is okay… sort of a requirements, but after that it should get only minimal expose, except for you conclusions or acknowledgements slide. You have one, don’t you?

Notice that most Canned PowerPoint Templates are just plain wrong for creating an effective outreach to your audience. The most important items on a slide must be limited to your main points and sub-points using simple graphics that highlight the individual ideas. Most templates I’ve checked, and initially used, do the opposite, they because the focus, you the afterthought.

  • Most Data Tables, complex graphs and curves,  cluttered photographs with an unreadable legend just plain suck.
  • Do you want the reader to listen and learn from you or read your slides?

Too often, when trying to hurry the design of a presentation, the temptation is to use materials directly excerpted (cut/pasted) from your paper. Such selections are likely to be cluttered, (likely) disconnected, and semi-organized Think about it. Every time I work first from my paper, rather than crating a story board from scratch, I triple the work it take to create an acceptable set of visuals for my presentation.

6.  Font Selection Suggestions

  • Sans Serif fonts are more appropriate and legible than other fonts
  • Comic Sans MS is an example of a “fun” Sans Serif font
  • Arial is a more “serious” Sans Serif font, but appears too compressed for easy reading
  • Times New Roman is an example of a Serif font, easy to read in a book, harder to read on a slide. Occasionally at a larger than line size [e.g., 12 ==> 16 points makes a great highlight, but use it sparingly.

To avoid visual clutter limit your fonts to two (2) typefaces. I get too uncontrolled when I try to use three font families. I like the Helvetica Neue Family, at times coupled with the more ‘airy” Verdana or better yet an item or two accented with a bit of Comic Sans MS.

This is the different from what I do when writing articles, like this one.  There, I add emphasis by switching between Helvetica and Times New Roman and making extensive use of indented sometimes framed space.

7.  Use a Consistent Combination Of Font Sizes And Character Enhancements for organization and emphasis:

  • Character enhancements include bold, italics, and underline
  • Use character enhancements sparingly
  • Avoid the use of italics and underline if possible; they are hard to see so lose their purpose.
  • Text should be large enough to be read from any location in the room
    • 40 point is appropriate for SLIDE titles/main headings
    • 24-36 point is appropriate for sub topics. Nothing Smaller Will Be Visible.
Experiment by projecting your slides before the actual presentation. Better yet print them out on 8.5 x 11 transparencies. Then tape the transparency aka viewgraph, to a window. Get at least six feet away from the window and see if anything on the slide is either legible to eye catching. Ask yourself, right after lunch, could you stay awake, attentive, interested if these were flashed in front to you?

8. Other Style Suggestions

  • Use all UPPERCASE for acronyms only. If you explain them, they need not be spelled out!
  • The first letter of a header or phrase should be capitalized.
  • Use bullets to list items. It is acceptable to use alternate symbols in place of the traditional dot variant for a bullet, but don’t get cutsey or change the bullets at random.

9. Maintain Consistent Backgrounds For All Slides

  • Eliminate razzle-dazzle effects and unless your audience are rockers and punkers.
  • No clashing backgrounds or distracting colors between slides, background means exactly that – they’re unobtrusive. They also can serve to effectively frame a slides content.
  • Bad background colors make the words hard to reading distracting the audience away from YOU.
  • Photos make lousy backgrounds, the text which overlays them is both hard to read, and the effort of reading them irritates the listener.

10. Bar graphs, pie charts but NOT line graphs are effective tools to show trends and statistics.

  • Use contrasting, bright colors to delineate between categories.
  • Keep graphs simple and use more of them to make your point.
    – I’ve occasionally used a slide show element, for segwaying evolving data;
    – Namely 2-3 evolving graphs, all formatted identically. Typically, I make a simple introduction before using a related compare sequence. …So things went to hell, having first identified the parameters of interest when addressing the first chart.  
  • Actual data collection based curves are seldom legible, and add too much audience distractions as they squint at your figure.

11. Choose a color combination that is pleasing  to the eye as well as fostering the legible.

  • Use a color for the wording that has a very high contrast to the background
  • I use a white or very light pastel backgrounds with dark lettering rather than dark with light lettering. I prefer dark letters, because I find white print hard to read.
  • Use no more than four (4) colors max, preferably three. If you need more to make the point, redesign the slide!

12. Use high-quality graphics including photographs.  — You can take your own high-quality photographs with your digital camera, purchase professional stock photography, or use the plethora of high-quality images available on line (be cautious of copyright issues, however). Use such graphics and photographs only when emphasizing or illustrating a point.

13. I do not use either Audio Clips and Video clips. They may work for Steve Jobs or other widgeteers, but for me, they only distract from my pitch and chew up time!

Additional Slide Related Transitional Thoughts

  • Visual aids should support and enhance the presentation; they should not replace it or repeat it. The most disastrous visual aids traditionally have been visuals made from typed copy. Although perhaps permissible in a classroom, with handouts, these are useless beyond 20 feet.
  • Keep the lights on. If you are speaking in a meeting room or a classroom, the temptation is to turn the lights off so that the slides look better. But go for a compromise between a bright screen image and ambient room lighting. Turning the lights off, besides inducing sleep, puts all the focus on the screen. The audience should be looking at you more than the screen. Today’s projectors are bright enough to allow you to keep many of the lights on. [Paraphrased from Garr Reynolds].

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The Presenter – It’s all about you and your message

  1. Try To Move Away From The Podium —  Connect with your audience. If at all possible get closer to your audience by moving away from or in front of the podium. Use a remote control to advance you slides. This minimizes your dancing around the stage or having to call out next slide, as we all did in the days of viewgraph transparencies.
  2. Memorizing Your Talk — Memorizing can limit spontaneity and detract from your enthusiasm. However, some speakers memorize their opening and closing remarks to allow them to look directly at their audience with undivided attention. Try to avoid memorizing your entire presentation.
  3. Skip the Pomp and Circumstance — You are not a dinner speaker for Rotary or the American Association of Barstool Professionals. As you present, be respectful toward those you are addressing. Be cautious. I avoid, about using words or phrases such as “obviously” and “as you can clearly see from the figure.” This approach projects a pretentiousness that you don’t want to convey. Don’t be afraid to answer questions, with an I don’t know … leave me your card and I’ll find out for you. But do follow-up or the word will get around.
  4. Body English – Avoid distracting movement and unintentional body language: Be aware of your body’s nervous gestures. Some body language to steer clear of:
    • Checking the microphone con tenuously, if it fail’s you’ll know it – It’s the time for a short break of carry on, pretend your hog calling.
    • Jangling keys or change in your pocket or using a Napoléon pose.
    • Practice using appropriate gestures but only for emphasis. Moving your arms excessively is a sure giveaway – you’re spotlighted as uptight.
    • Watch the introductory ‘poises’ of taken show aspirant, before and often during their performances.
  5. Checkout a TED Presentation or Three [] — Better yet just watch one of Steve Jobs keynote address. Ignore the fancy media effects; just watch him hook you and the rest of their intended audience. Slide share is great for presentation graphics but there’s no audio stream.
  6. Speak Slowly And Clearly enough that people at the back of the room can hear you. My machine-gun New York-ese, actually Bron-nix, although I can do Boston as well but am lousy at Brooklyn.) This is my Achilles heel, which to often I drop into when giving a talk when somewhat unprepared. But don’t speak to your self!
  7. If you have a Quiet Voice, Use a Microphone even in an intimate setting. This is especially true if you are a plenary speaker giving your talk in a large theater. If you’ve not used a microphone enough for comfort, talk to an organizer or secretary, if at work, I’m sure they’ll find you a place to practice.
  8. Start your presentation with a brief outline of your talk. Its helps orient the audience to why information is being given. There’s wisdom on the “tell them thrice” adage.
  9. For Technical Talks, give only:
    • An overview of research undertaken, the reason for doing it,
    • A few examples of tools used and/or chemical/technical pathways involved,
    • The important key results, and
    • Possible implications of your work.
  10. Limit Your Content — You or I, no not even Steve Jobs, can coherently present more that an overview in 20 minutes. The “emphasis should be on significance, rather than detail” The people can always read the paper or you can provide them with more detailed information if needed.
  11. Be Prepared — Go over your talk prior to the conference to determine whether it fits into the time available. If it does not, cut it down — Remember to leave some time for questions.
  12. QA — Check the quality of your slides and overheads well in advance of the conference. If they cannot be seen easily from the back of an average-sized lecture room, do something about it! ASAP. I also do a mike check in the seminar room and use my own laser pointer
  13. DON’T move the laser pointer arrow all over the slide while you are talking. Use the arrow or bright spot to highlight a point or value on a slide and then switch it off. [Resting your arm against the podium avoids the Darth Vader effect.]

Most importantly, starting with PowerPoint of Keynote or even large poster boards, use the KISS approach—“Keep It Simple, Speaker

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After Thoughts  — 13 items (commandments) are too few, but the next prime number 17, were way too many!

Some speakers outline their presentations, and then determine the best way to illustrate their ideas. Others sketch their ideas first, and then build their talk around these. However you proceed, be sure your figures and text support each other.

  • As you write the paper, think just a bit about creating a storyboard for your required presentation. Some folks use a large whiteboard; if you’re lucky it’ll have Xerox capability. I prefer cheap copy paper, which I recycle.
  • It is easy to play with ideas to create good concept slides. I use a text editor to minimize distraction of wanting to format and make pretty.
  • Wait until you have written your paper to have your final figures drafted –
  • Legends on figures and table headings must be self-contained.
  • Think about the presentation of the variables that must be identified. For example, use “Heat Transfer Coefficient, “w/m2” –not “h”; “Flow Rate, m3 /s” –not “f.”
  • You usually use more complex figures for the proceedings than would be appropriate for your presentation. Otherwise the figures will get the attention, illegible or not, not you.

Not only will your figures be consistent, but also you might throw out many too rough to use figures in the process.

Don’t Argue!   EVER — As you receive questions from the audience, always be cordial and courteous. The question may be from a novice. Patience will encourage questions and audience participation. and you’ll look all the better for it.

If you must, punch the person out, after the meeting, preferably in the ally. Your career will be dead anyway, but fewer folks will know about it right away.

Microphone Technique – The best position for the microphone is 6 inches from your mouth. This will keep the static down. I like lapel mikes, on my eclectic hand picked custom Bolo Ties, they work fine and give me room to walk around a bit.

Transitions In Your Presentation — Share the main headings and subheadings in your notes with your audience so you don’t falter. Pauses aide the listener–so if you do falter, just consider it a pause.

Presentation Room Size Considerations — Due to the size of the rooms at the conferences, (100-500 people) and the necessary use of a microphone, your presentation will often appear quite formal. Strive for directness and eye contact that you would use in a smaller setting.

An Extra — Read all about it!!

Although I am in the process of preparing presenters instructions, alas only 2 pages long, for a conference I support, I was delighted by the Techniques for Spoiling Your Own Scientific Talk by Joseph Burnett that I reference below. This is material I cannot use because of my sponsor’s concern over offending their audiences. Since Burnett’s audience were mere graduate students…

Due to copyright limitation I’ll only provide you with the list of John’s 10 commandments. These are a mix of graphics and presenter related goodies, you get to figure out which is which.


Notice How The Data Trends Change

It’s Simple, Let Me Walk You Though My Data

  1. Spend a lot of time saying things unrelated to your research.
  2. Don’t waste time on introducing your topic.
  3. Fill your slides with detail.
  4. If possible, represent trends by tables of numbers, rather than graphically.
  5. If you do present material graphically, {e.g., a spectrum) omit from the slide identification of the compound or system represented.
  6. Organize your talk so as to involve many slides as possible
  7. Noting that the rectangular open space on a slide is longer in one dimension than the’ other, arrange your material such that the lone dimension runs from top to bottom.
  8. Create your slides with a few apparently random mistakes that require correction as you discuss them.
  9. Present every detail of your experimental or theoretical results.
  10. If your work involves theoretical principles not frequently discussed, assume that your audience is fully familiar with them and proceed directly with their application to your work

Dr. Burnett closes with… “In summary, to spoil  your talk effectively, you can utilize a number of techniques. Which ones you can use depend on the nature of the work you have done. The general thrust of these techniques is to mystify your audience, to block its efforts to grasp what you have done, and above all to keep it from perceiving the Big Picture. This short article may not provide sufficient guidance on how to spoil your talks. You will however have opportunities to observe practical application of the practices presented in these guidelines, at meetings you attend, at seminars in your department, and the like.”

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Slide Share Internet Site — a great place to look at slide presentations, many of which, done by folks like you and I, are great. There are even a section of talks on Persuasive Presentation and Effective Presentation.

The Presentation Zen Books (…and Presentations) by Garr Reynolds. [Disclosure, I reviewed the books for macCompanion]

Don McMillan: Life After Death by PowerPoint, a YouTube Presentation, September 15th 2008.

Techniques for Spoiling Your Own Scientific Talk by Joseph F. Bunnett of the University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064 J. Chem. Educ., 1995, 72 (12). I found, on Google, a copy of his Illustrative PowerPoint  presentation is posted, but the article itself was harder to find.

Presentation Zen: The Sound Of One Room Napping by Garr Reynolds

Death by PowerPoint in Wikipedia, 2011.

PowerPoint Hell: Don’t Let This Happen to Your Next Presentation (An off day for Bill Gates?), March 25, 2009. [Subtitled: In the “so bad it’s good” category, we honor eight PowerPoint slides that will make you say, “Holy $#@%, What were they thinking? Did Bill make these work?]


Story Board Related

Multimedia Or Just Plain Storytelling By Jane Stevens for the Knight Digital Media Center, Updated May 17, 2011.

Story Board for Pre-Production Videos – This works fro presentation, I done learned it before I had a care for creating more complex media presentations; it was all about viewgraphs then. Google PowerPoint Storyboards for other views on this process.

Other Highly Praised Mostly Book Based Resources

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences [Paperback] by Nancy Duarte.

Multimedia Learning [a Paperback] by Richard E. Mayer

The Elements of Graphic Design: Space, Unity, Page Architecture, and Type [Paperback] by Alexander W. White.

Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire [Paperback] by Cliff Atkinson

The Short Road to Great Presentations: How to Reach Any Audience Through Focused Preparation, Inspired Delivery, and Smart Use of Technology [Paperback] by Peter & Cheryl Reimold

Presentations That Get Results: 14 Reasons Yours May Not [Paperback] by Marian K. Woodall

Non-Designer’s Design Book, The (3rd Edition) [Paperback] by Robin Williams. [Disclosure: reviewed by me for macCompanion]

Robin Williams Design Workshop, The Second Edition [Paperback]. [Disclosure: reviewed by me for macCompanion]

The Non-Designer’s Design and Type Books, Deluxe Edition [Paperback] by Robin Williams. [Disclosure: first edition reviewed by me for macCompanion]

The Ten Commandments of Effective Visuals by Deborah Kendell on August 23, 2009 for the Effective Leadership Community Blog.



Remember it’s all about getting, keeping the audience’s attention and making you look credible!


You will have noticed, quickly I hope, that I violate some of the graphics concepts I espouse, in my illustrations. However, splitting hairs, this is an article, not a presentation.

I also didn’t always document from which set of slides I grabbed an example, mia culpa – authors-presenters may you all forgive me; it’s not a copyright violation, just my getting absent minded and being to lazy to recheck four or five dozen files for the samples I extracted.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

I like using MAMP (Mac Apache MySQL PHP) to develop server-based code when not connected to a test server, and one of my classes in school had several projects where we use PHP and MySQL, so this short piece is on the basics of configuring and using Eclipse Helios to write the PHP code and MAMP to provide server-side functionality on your computer to create a basic PHP application.

  1. Download and install Eclipse for your development platform from here.
  2. Download and install MAMP (or WAMP if you run Windows, LAMP if you run Linux, and SAMP if you run Solaris). You do not need the Pro version of the software.
  3. Start Eclipse, open any perspective and select the ‘Help/Install New Software’ menu option.
  4. In the popup window, there is a field titled ‘Work with:’ – select the drop down list beside it and choose ‘All Available Sites’. Scroll down the list and expand the options for ‘Programming Languages’.
  5. Scroll down the list and click inside the box for the option labeled ‘PHP Development Tools (PDT) SDK Feature’.
  6. Press the ‘Next’ button twice, select the radio button that indicates you accept the license agreements, then press the ‘Finish’ button.
  7. Restart Eclipse with the ‘File/Restart’ menu option.
  8. Open the Mac OSX Applications folder, and then locate and open the MAMP folder. Your next steps are to start and configure MAMP.
  9. Click one time on the MAMP icon.
  10. Click on the ‘Start Servers’ button.
  11. Click on the ‘Preferences’ button.
  12. Check the value of the ‘Start page URL’ – this is the location to store your HTML, PHP, and image files. You need this when you create a new PHP Project in Eclipse. Press the ‘Cancel’ button.
  13. Open the Mac OSX Applications folder, and then locate and open the Eclipse folder.
  14. Click one time on the Eclipse icon to start Eclipse.
  15. You see the preliminary Welcome screen. To close it, press the close button beside the Welcome tab in the far, upper left area of the screen.
  16. Select the ‘Window/Open Perspective/Other…’ menu option to select the PHP perspective.
  17. Select the ‘File/New/PHP Project’ menu option.
  18. Enter a project name, but this is where you deviate from typical Eclipse project setup. Select the radio button beside ‘Create project at existing location’ and browse to the ‘Start Page URL’ directory (see step 12) and use this as the location for your PHP project.
  19. Select ‘File/New/PHP page’.
  20. For a simple hello world application, enter this code:
  21. Save the file with a name of ‘hello.php’ using Eclipse.
  22. Open your browser and use this as the URL for your simple PHP web page:

NOTE: WAMP users do not need to have the :8888 portion of the URL. They use http://localhost/hello.php.

You should now see Hello World in your browser. Pretty simple to create new PHP applications after you install and configure your environment. The only thing to watch is setting the location for your Eclipse PHP source code so MAMP’s Apache engine knows where to find it.

An excellent source of PHP information is They have documentation that can be read online as well as downloaded.

1/21/2012 Update: Added label for radio button in step 18, per comment from Stephen.
11/8/2011 Update: Added sentence to intro paragraph, change hello/php to hello.php in the Note.
3/11/2011 Update: Added WAMP information in the Note below step 22 of this process.

By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Contextual Menus — A Tool Macintosh users too often miss

Responsible Macintosh Safe, Secure and Polite Macin’ — Things You Should Know or Practice


Several months ago I had the pleasure of making a presentation on contextual menus [CM] to the Mid-Columbia Macintosh user group here in the Tri-Cities Washington area. A contextual menu offers a range (often limited) set of choices that are available in the current state, or context, of the operating system or application. Because Apple blessed us with the one-button mouse, unlike our PC/Windows colleagues, we’re not as tuned to using the extra feature the Macintosh OS has made available for ‘right-clinkers.’

I, as I browse shareware offerings have found additional CM goodies easily accessible via my two-button Logitech scrolling mouse. All these and more are grist for what follows. Oh, don’t have a two-button mouse, Apple makes one or three, sort-of, try an option-click! See Note 1 for more specific details.

Note that in the graphic samples I have included, are only a samples, of two different selections from the same general environment (e.g., Finder Windows, MSW 2011 {this article} DEVONthink and a PDF of a Recipe.) So explore, you enjoy the new flexibility CM’s give you every day Macintosh work tasks.

CM Options — A Recipe PDF

MSW CM Image Optio

Contextual Menus Revealed

In some ways the Macintosh operating system reminds me of two medieval rabbis <scholars> discussing a line or paragraph of the Old Testament. Then and perhaps even now there were at least three alternatives for each ‘reading.’ And of course all of this invisible to the common rabbinical-Torah student.

Similarly, for the Macintosh there are at least 3 ways of working with files/folders/actions whether in the Finder or often (if supported) in other applications.

We all know and have gotten comfortable with a menu bar, tool bars in applications like the Finder and MSWord} and of course keyboard short cuts. There are also the added choice of using the Apple dock and when visible the open/active window sidebar. Huh, I always hide my sidebar in open finder windows, making them visible only if I have to do a sidebar-oriented task.

But there’s a faster more focused and faster way, in many cases, to deal with desired ‘short-cut’ actions while you work in a context specific way — Save time, spare your wrists and your mind from extra work — use contextual menus where they are available.

The tool you use on a 2-button mouse is a right hand click.) On Apple’s one-button mice, a bit more fuss, but still easy, an Option Key-Mouse Click. When this works, at the place where your mouse’s pointer is ‘hovering’, Shazam, a menu that focuses only the actions/options available to you magically appears.

That menu will change as the CONTEXT of what you are doing changes. It will focus ONLY on what you can-are allowed-to do from that point (location) in your work.

If you don’t yet use these tools, you will be surprised to know that contextual menus can provide unexpected useful features. For example, in Safari, a contextual menu can be used to easily view or print a web page or to view the source code (HTML code) of any web page. In addition, there are excellent free contextual menu plug-ins for Mac OS X 10.4 to OS X 10.6 that can be added to Mac OS X to let you easily view images, launch applications or organize files. I’ve share a few of my favorites later in  this article.

Like standard menus, contextual menus are sometimes hierarchically organized <think outline view>, allowing navigation through different levels of the menu structure. The implementations differ: Microsoft Word was one of the first applications to only show sub-entries of some menu entries after clicking an arrow icon on the context menu, otherwise executing an action associated with the parent entry. This makes it possible to quickly repeat an action with the same actions (parameters of the previous execution), and to better separate options from actions.

  • What are they and where are they hidden?
  • Apple’s OS X Contributions
  • Share/Free Ware CMs
  • My Favorite Access Tool – Fruit Menu

So, What Are CM’s?

In Mac OS X, when you hold the Ctrl key down and click an item (e.g., an icon or window), a pop-up menu appears. It is called a contextual menu because its contents depend on the item you click; the menu features a list of commands you can perform relative to, or within the context of, the item you click. For example, if you Ctrl-click a file icon, you can choose to open it, open Get Info or an Info window about it, give it a label, duplicate it, or make an alias of it. Other items will give you different menu options. Contextual menus appear with most items in the Finder, but won’t necessarily be available in other applications.

On systems that support one-button mice, the original and mist recent Apple Mice, contextual menus are typically opened by pressing and holding the primary mouse button (most often on one the icons in the Dock on Mac OS X) or more usually by pressing a keyboard/mouse button combination (e.g. Ctrl-mouse click in Mac OS); see Note 1.

Usually the available choices are actions directly related to the selected object. Most often, these are more focused ways of achieving a usual menu bar action, but accessed faster and with less mousing around, clicking and scrolling. However, if short-cuts are assigned to selected menu based actions, the keyboard short cut is faster. But who want to cram hundreds of shortcuts into their memory.

Actually there was, years ago, a CM for collecting shortcuts. I seem to have discarded it along the way of moving through OS upgrades. Any who can find it, please provide feedback in our comments window.

Macintosh OS X CM Actions///Try them out – Try accessing the CM’s in the following environments and see both what you get and how the difference CM differ in their choices based on where you mouse is pointed.

FinderIcon View on the Desk Top 

  • Document –
  • Folder –
  • Folder Alias –
  • Document Alias –
  • Background –
  • Link –
  • Get Info (Spotlight Comments)
Other Finder Windows 

Sidebar – No action

Main Window Area –

– List View

– Icon View

– Column View

Peek-a-Boo, see what you get!

Application Documents 

Open Apple “TextEdit” File

Open PDF File (Acrobat)

– Text

– Image

Open PDF File (Apple’s Preview)

GraphicConverter – Only a few universal ‘moves’

Safari –


Desktop Finder — Selected Folder

Desktop Finder Window-No Selection

CM of a Folder in a Finder Window

Other Share/Free Ware CMs I Find Useful

FruitMenu — My Favorite ‘super’ Haxie <Utility> FruitMenu is a haxie that gives you the ability to customize the Apple Menu and contextual menus. There’s more focused CM tools listed below.

Shareware and Freeware With Which I Work
A Better Finder Context Menu 



CopyPastePro Contextual Menu *

DEVONthink CM *

Doc Merge 2.4.1 *



PrintWindowCM *

Shortcuts 2.0.1


* Part of a parent application

These CMs and others can be found on the MacUpdate Site [

Shareware Item Details:

  • A Better Finder Attributes 4., Context Menu — A Better Finder Attributes allows you to change file and photo dates and times, as well as other useful file attributes that the Finder won’t let you touch. Quickly change the following file attributes: modification date and time, creation date and time, batch adjust the Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) time & date that JPEG pictures were shot to compensate for time zones or incorrectly set camera clocks, set the file creation date to the time that a digital camera picture was taken, lock or unlock the file (prevents the name and the contents of the file to be modified, set the Mac OS 9-style creator & type codes, show or hide the file extension for particular files.
  • ClipToIconCM 1.0 — ClipToIconCM is a contextual menu plug-in which adds custom icons to files using pictures on the clipboard.Suppose you have a file with a generic icon and you want to add an icon that conveys more information on the file’s contents. You can add a custom icon to this file using ClipToIconCM by first putting an image file on the clipboard. For example, you could use your web browser to find a web page with the desired graphic and then use “Command-Control-Shift-4” to select a portion of the screen to “capture” to the clipboard.
  • ClipToWebCM 1.0.3 — ClipToWebCM is a service application and contextual menu plug-in which tries to open the currently selected text (or clipboard contents if there is no selection) as a URL in your default web browser. Of course this isn’t anything a copy and paste operation can’t achieve, but it’s quicker. It’s also more versatile than the “Open URL” contextual menu item since it doesn’t require a full URL. (Note: As of version 1.0.2 the selection can also be a Finder file or folder; the text will be the name of the object.)
  • FilePathCM 1.2 — FilePathCM is a contextual menu, menu bar item and service for copying the:POSIX path, URL encoded POSIX path, Server afp URL, Abbreviated (Tilde) POSIX path, POSIX path for Terminal, HFS path and more
  • MoveCM 1.2 — MoveCM is a menu bar application, service and contextual menu item for moving, copying, aliasing, hard linking and archiving (zip compressing) files and folders quickly into common folders. i.e. without the need to drag and drop them, use aliases, etc. It is a generalization of the Finder’s “Move to Trash” contextual menu item, you can apply it to any folder you like. Use the System Preference pane to specify destination folders. The menu bar application or contextual menu will then consist of menu items that correspond to these destinations. Control click on one or more files and/or folders in the Finder, select a destination from the menu, and the files and/or folders will be moved (copied, archived) to that destination. You have the option, specified in the preference pane, to have the destination folder opened for you after the operation completes. You also have the option of having the menu items in the contextual menu named after the destination folder, or by its pathname.
  • PrintWindow CM 4.1 — Print Window offers the ability to print a file listing directly from within the Mac OS X Finder. No more taking screenshots of windows or settling for text-only printouts of filenames only. Print Window provides the works: icons, file information, sorting and so much more!
  • ShortCuts CM 2.0.1 — Shortcuts is a Mac OS X application to assign hot keys to contextual menu items. Version 2.0 also allows you to display a menu with items added by CM plug-ins. Since Apple removed contextual menu plug-ins support for 64 bit applications in Mac OS 10.6, Shortcuts is currently the only known way to use contextual menu plug-ins in 64 bit applications.
  • WordDumpCM 1.0.9 — WordDump is an application, contextual menu and service for extracting all the words from documents. Supported document formats include Text, PDF, MS Word, HTML and RTF. The WordDump service, available from the Services menu, also counts the characters and words in files and text selection. These menu items are called “Count Characters” and “Count Words.” You may need to turn on the option to display the service menu items in the Services Preferences of System Preferences.

DEVONthink File Item CM  

DEVONthink CM of a Found ‘Search” Item

Final Thoughts

Contextual menus are a great way to do things faster and more efficiently on your Mac. They also give you some added functionality to programs, while just giving you easier access to frequently used commands in others. Overall, I find contextual menus to be quite useful and periodically check MacUpdate site for new ones. <Note: I’m much less enamored with the Apple related services menu which I’ve not yet mastered and which my favorite applications do not support – More about that in a future article.>  If you haven’t considered using them, try them out- you just may start asking yourself how you could have lived without them.

References and Notes

More About Contextual Menus,

The Apple Macintosh’s Keyboard Option Key – Wikipedia

Contextual Menus, Wikipedia.

Note 1.

On systems that support one-button mice, context menus are typically opened by pressing and holding the primary mouse button (this works on the icons in the Dock on Mac OS X) or by pressing a keyboard/mouse button combination (e.g. Ctrl-mouse click in Mac OS). A keyboard alternative for Mac OS is to enable Mouse keys in Universal Access. Then, depending on whether a laptop or compact or extended keyboard type is used, the shortcut is Function + Ctrl + 5 or Ctrl + 5 (numeric keypad) or Function + Ctrl + i (laptop). [Wikipedia,]

AppendicesMore Than You Wanted To Know

For Lawyers and Philosopher Only! — A context menu (also called contextual, shortcut, and popup or pop-up menu) is a mouse-click activated menu in a graphical user interface (GUI) that appears when implemented by the user, It works by using a right mouse click or middle mouse click to operate.

The Gobblygook {double-speak c/o Wikipedia} Definition A context menu (also called contextual, shortcut, and popup or pop-up menu) is a “Mouse Activated pop-up menu in a graphical user interface (GUI) like the Macintosh OX that appears upon user interaction, such as a right mouse click or more rarely a middle click within a mouse operation. A context menu offers a specific limited set of choices that are available in the current state, or context, of the operating system or application. Usually the available choices are actions related to the selected object or “window.

More Complexities You May Not Need — A keyboard alternative for Mac OS is to enable Mouse keys in Universal Access. Then, depending on whether a laptop or compact or extended keyboard type is used, the shortcut is <Function + Ctrl + 5> or <Ctrl + 5 on a numeric keypad> or <Function + Ctrl + i on a laptop.>

Snow-Leopard CM Limits CM’s to 64 Bit Mode Only. — I don’t know what that statement means but all of my CM’s including ones dating back to 2007 seem to work just fine.

Acknowledgements: Unless otherwise noted I have provided the referenced source of the contents in these articles. I also found in my many notes I’ve stashed for future articles, that certain themes keep coming up, that parallel what I’ve read or practiced.  In many cases I have acknowledged as well as modified the original document(s) to personalize their content for our readers.

As needed the information provided was created, and as appropriate demonstrated on my iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB installed 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running the latest Snow Leopard Mac OS X version with all current security updates installed.

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies. Some of the articles listed in this column contain materials that are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledge and is limited to educationally related purposes, which this column provides.

By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.

The Russian Mir and US Skylab space stations were the first space stations used for research done away from the confines of gravity. The news, newspapers and magazine articles of that era showed a bit of what the astronauts saw in orbit, and while the quality of images was generally lacking, they were better than nothing.

Now we have the International Space Station (ISS), which is a near earth orbit (~ 250 miles above earth) space station constructed from components built by the US, Russia, Japan, and Canada over the past 10 years. The first mission to construct the ISS was launched on October 31, 2000, and the ISS is still being updated today. The next major component for the ISS is a tool to help in the search for dark matter, which is scheduled for the last scheduled flight of the space shuttle Discovery in 2011. Modern satellite and cable companies carry the NASA channel, which has live and prerecorded feeds from the space station, and the quality of this material is impressive.

A couple of days ago I looked at the ISS in Starry Night Pro (SNP) 6 and the station was on the far side of the planet away from the sun, so I couldn’t see many details of the station. I left the software running and 15 minutes later the station had returned to the sunny side of earth (makes sense as the ISS makes 18 orbits around the earth every day), so I could easily see the station as well as earth below it. The image below is how the station would appear to a visiting vessel.

By the way, so far there have been 67 Russian, 34 shuttles, 1 European, and 1 Japanese vehicles that have visited the ISS. In the screen shot above, you see the earth revolving under ISS. I like how the station goes from visible to barely seen when it leaves the sun-side of earth. This is a nice way to show students learning astronomy how our planet looks from earth orbit. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Tip: If you want to know the position of the ISS at any time so you can look at it with a telescope or binoculars, SNP has that data. Select the ISS, then select the Info tab and look at ‘Position in the Sky’ to get current position :

I looked at the ISS information in SNP and it is good, but the software also allows user to access online information about the space station from within SNP. I selected the Online Info option for the ISS, which launched Safari and took me to a page in Wikipedia. Now this choice of information surprised me, because most of my undergrad classes expressly forbid us the use Wikipedia as a source for any project or paper. I’m not knocking Wikipedia, but I’ve heard more than a few college professors express mistrust of the accuracy of some of the information.

In a future update of SNP, I’d like to have the ability to add my own links for external information, because NASA’s excellent site and Wolfram|Alpha have a ton of good information on the ISS – size, weight, missions, people that visit, – and NASA’s site also has a lot of good videos and still images, as well as blog entries and tweets by astronauts on the ISS. I’d also like to be able to jump directly to JPL’s and MIT’s sites that have ISS- and space-related content from within Starry Night.

Speaking of NASA’s site, if you’re interested in the space station, you can have a calendar with beautiful color images of the ISS. NASA has one available – click here to download the 2011 ISS calendar.

Click here for Wolfram|Alpha data on the ISS (as well as other astronomy information), including the current position of the ISS.