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Eliminating "Jaggies" from PowerPoint

Dan Janal

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Responses I received to my request for information on eliminating "jaggies" (rough-edged fonts) from PowerPoint presentations.

-- Brad Snyder

Make sure and specify a TrueType font... the one that usually works best for me is Tahoma (very similar to Arial) and comes with PowerPoint... if you specify the Default font... it will pick up the systems default font (the system it is currently running on, not necessarily the same as your default system). You can also embed the TrueType fonts in your presentation so they will be consistent from machine to machine...

-- Jim Pancero

Your problem is most likely in the projector and the amount of detailed resolution it can project...not in your computer. If the type font looks good on your computer screen then it should project the same way. But most computer projectors have lower resolution per inch than your laptop screen. Either try upgrading your projector (if it is two years old or older) or set up your projector and play with several fonts till you see one that looks better.

We use Arial (A Helvetica type style)

-- Steve Kaye

It depends.

If the computer used for the presentation did not contain the font that you used to make the presentation, it would use a next best font that could appear jagged.

If the resolution of the LCD projector was low, any font would appear jagged.

If the viewer wore dirty glasses, any font would appear jagged.

By the way, the best font will be a sans serif font like Arial or Helvetica.

-- Ed Rigsbee

I shadow my fonts, it makes it easier for attendees to read. It just takes a click.

-- Terri Langhans

Your problem is not the font. It is the size of your display. If your computer is 1024x768 and you're running PowerPoint through a projector that is set for 800x600 you get the pixels (jaggies) showing. And heaven forbid the projector is at 640x480. Here's how to adjust. I hope you have Windows. Go to Start Menu, Control Panel, Display. There is a tab for Settings. Click on that and you'll see a little tool in the lower right that shows you where you are set now. If you click on the indicator and scroll it right or left it will change your settings to one of the ones I mentioned above. Click OK. Don't panic, cuz your display is going to go weird on you computer, but when you connect it to the projector they'll match. You do have to restart your computer to make the changes take effect.

-- Marc Mintz

Are you using a Mac or PC?

If Mac, verify that you have Adobe Type Manager (~ATM) installed (found in your System folder>Control Panel). Verify you have ATM configured to smooth edges.

On either system you have to remember that your font is being displayed as a mosaic of pixels - far fewer than the mosaic of dots used for printing. Therefore there is "less information" used to display your fonts on screen and the result is that they will always be a little jagged, but choosing the right typeface can go a long way to improving the situation.

  1. San serif typefaces (such as Helvetica and Arial display much better than serif typefaces (such as Times and New York).
  2. Medium weight typefaces display better than thin typefaces.
  3. Due to the minimum "information" used to display type on-screen, larger type displays better than smaller type. In the multimedia industry, it is considered dangerous to use anything at or below 24-point size. The standard is to use a typeface that allows for no more than 8-9 lines of text filling the screen.
  4. What is your display resolution? You may check this on a Mac from the Apple Menu>Control Panels>Monitor control panel. On the PC check Task Bar>Settings>Control Panel>Display>Settings tab. The older standard of 640x480 displays so little information jaggies are a constant problem. The newer standard of 800x600 goes a long way to making the presentation looking great (because there is more "information" on screen - and each pixel is smaller it is more difficult to see its jagged outline).
  5. Also consider the distance of your farthest audience member. To check this at your office on your computer:
  • Display your PowerPoint show on your computer monitor.
  • Take your monitors horizontal measurement (for our purposes, let's say 1 foot).
  • Step back from your monitor until it becomes difficult to read (for our purposes, let's say 4 feet).
  • Using this 1:4 ratio, and assuming that you will be using an 8-foot screen, the farthest an audience member can be from the screen and still see your presentation would be 4x8 or 32 feet (actually a little less since your monitor outputs a brighter and crisper image than the projector).

Based on the above information (and over 7 years in the multimedia industry), I use the following in my presentations:

  • Arial Narrow
  • 28 pt type for body text, reduced to 24 when absolutely necessary.
  • 36 pt type for headlines (I generally use Arial Narrow Bold, but at this point size, any typeface should work).

-- Anita Sirianni

Interesting you should ask about the jaggies...I just received the following information from a production firm I work with on the East coast....hope it helps!

All lettering is best seen in a block style. Like Arial. A spline based art program makes the sharper edges. A pixel based looks more jaggy. Less curves less jaggys. Block lettering has less curves.

-- Ken Braly

It's hard to tell much without being able to see the screen (you could send me the file), but the question that arises is what resolution you were displaying?

The old VGA 640x480 would look jaggy no matter what you did because the pixels just get blown up really big when projected.

-- David Arnold

While choice of font will make some difference (the more curved the more jagged), the major culprit is low resolution. Most notebook computers in use today, as well as most LCD projectors, have a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, known as SVGA (Super VGA). If you use a computer with 1024 x 768 resolution (XGA) and a projector that is also XGA, fonts will be smoother and crisper. Both are readily available, but cost more. I always specify in my room setup/av requirements to clients that they provide a projector with "true 1024 x 768 (XGA) resolution." The reason for the "true" is that many manufacturers brag that their projectors can handle XGA, but they do it by dropping some dropping information to squeeze XGA computer output into an SVGA onscreen image. One additional caveat: if you use an XGA computer with an SVGA projector the image will be distorted, so you'll have to set your screen to SVGA for the presentation. This will also result in distortion unless you turn off your computer screen (a simple keystroke combination does the trick - check your manual), so you'll have to glance over your shoulder at the big screen rather than just monitoring your notebook's screen.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions