Presenting from a Mac - My Toolbox & Techniques

Monday, October 27, 2014 4:30 PM
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Over the last year I’ve had the fun experience of riding the learning curve of spending most of my time in OS X instead of Windows. A key aspect of my professional life is conducing courses & presentations from my laptop so I had to crack this nugget pretty darn fast.

There are some specific platform things I absolutely love about presenting from my MacBook Pro. I love making things full screen (which is literally full screen, even taking over the top Apple menu bar) including browser windows, slides or virtual machines and being able to use the gesture 4-finger-swipe or quickly see my desktop using the thumb+three finger pinch… you can see them all listed here: Mac Basics: Multi-Touch Gestures. The battery life rocks and the speed of firing the machine up is great when walking up to the podium.

Another out-of-the-box thing: when you mirror your screen (which for some reason seems to always work… something you’d occasionally fight with on Windows), OS X automatically goes into do-not-disturb mode so any notifications don’t come through. Very slick… of course some apps can overrule that it seems… which is just downright stupid, but at least I’m most of the way there.

But what about the hardware & utilities? Long overdue, it’s time to write up a few hardware & software tools I use.


As for hardware, there are two dongles I always keep in my bag. First, the Thunderbolt to Ethernet dongle to take advantage of wired connections as well as the Thunderbolt to VGA dongle for all those places that still won’t let us present at HDMI. When I can use HDMI, I’ll take that, and plug in directly to the MacBook Pro’s dedicated full-sized HDMI port (I also carry a 20’ HDMI cable in my bag just in case… and it’s a tiny unidirectional cable that is literally smaller than some USB cables I have.

Keep The Screen Awake!

Don’t you hate it when presenting and when you’re answering some question or going on and on about something (no, I never do that) only to have your laptop screen go dark and to your screensaver? Yeah… me too. I got this killer little app in the Mac App Store called Caffeine which keeps your screen from going to sleep while turned on. It’s super easy to enable as you just click once the little coffee cup icon in the menu bar at the top to fill the cup up and keep the screen awake.

Better yet, how about getting your machine all setup and then keeping it from sleeping when you close the lid? Check out No Sleep.


On Windows I used the killer little tool ZoomIt which is great for zooming & annotating the screen. Unfortunately it only works in Windows and at times I still use it within my VM’s. Thankfully OS X has a built in zoom. You can hold down the CTRL key and use the two-finger slide up/down to zoom in/out at the level you like. I actually like this more than ZoomIt because I can easily move around the screen with the mouse.

Annotating the Screen

So ZoomIt gave me screen annotations but now I can’t do it on OS X? Ah… here comes the $0.99 gem Highlight. You can write up the screen, quickly hide your notes, then bring them back. Works great… I like using this in conjunction with a Wacom Intuos that acts as a big trackpad as well and something to write on.

Screen Resolutions

Finally, quickly change your screen resolutions, mirror or access your display preferences super fast using the Display Menu tool in your Menu Bar.

These are just a sampling of the utilities I use. How about you?

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