Category: Presentations

ParticiPoll: Poll Your Students during Class

I’ve written before about polling options like Socrative and Plickers. ParticiPoll is for those who like to have polls embedded in PowerPoint (works in Office 2010 and higher for Windows; Office 2016 for Mac as of 9/30/2016) but don’t like the cumbersomeness or participant limitations of PollEverywhere.

During your presentation, your participants will use a designated URL to access the polling buttons through any web-enabled device they have, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

With ParticiPoll, you download and install the PowerPoint add-in to your computer. If you don’t have the ability to add software to the computer you use in your classroom and your IT staff won’t install it, ParticiPoll provides a work-around that you need to do each time you want to use it.

When you sign up for a free ParticiPoll account, you will be asked to create the URL your participants will visit. I chose sfrantz, so the URL my participants use is

Since ParticiPoll is a PowerPoint add-in, everything you need to use it is in PowerPoint. Open your presentation and create your question just like you add any other content. In this case I used text boxes. With a question created, you’re ready to add the magic.

Select the ParticiPoll tab. Click “Insert Poll” to add the polling graph to the slide. You will be asked how many answer choices you want; you can have up to six (A-F). The graph will appear at the bottom right corner of the slide by default. You can change its location by selecting all of the graph elements and moving them wherever you’d like. ParticiPoll does not recommend resizing them though; unpredictable things can happen when the votes come in.

Click “Start Polling” to activate the poll.

Run your slideshow.

What your participants see when they visit your polling URL in their device’s web browser

All six answer options will appear as lettered, colorful buttons. The participant just taps or clicks on their answer choice. As long as the question is still open, participants can answer or change their answers.

In the free version, the participants will see ads at the bottom of their screens, although I only saw ads when voting with my mobile device not with my laptop.

Participants will also see a box that encourages them to “Ask the presenter something.” If you are using the free version, the box is there and participants can indeed submit something. However, free-version-account-holders can’t see what was written. You will get an email from ParticiPoll telling you that something was written, though, for what that is worth.

Showing the results

The graph at the bottom of your slide has a counter on the far right to tell you how many votes have been recorded.


When you are ready to reveal the results, advance your slide. Be patient! It can take a few seconds for the results to appear. The slower your internet connection, the more time it will take for the results to appear. When you advance your slide again, all of the results will disappear. Going back to the slide will reveal a reset poll, and your participants will have to re-vote.

How many poll questions and how many participants?

You can have as many poll questions as you would like. Since it’s essentially the same poll interface over and over again, it doesn’t matter to ParticiPoll how many questions you ask. The only limitation is that each poll question needs to be on its own PowerPoint slide.

The number of participants is also unlimited. This is welcome news for those of you with large classes.

What does the paid service get me?

ParticiPoll does have a referral program. After creating an account and logging in, visit their “refer” page to get your referral link. When 5 or more people register through your link, you get one year of the pro version for free. Each person who registered gets one month of the pro version free. [Full disclosure: All of the ParticiPoll links in this blog post are my referral link.]

Automatic Audio Tones to Start and End Class: Android

Mick MacLean (Buffalo State) emailed me with an interesting problem. When you’re teaching in a classroom without an easily visible clock or an easily visible but inaccurate clock, getting class started and ended on time is a challenge. He thought this might be a problem technology could fix. He wanted an alarm of some kind to sound at the beginning class, with five minutes left, and then at the end of class. Ideally this would happen all on its own without his having to remember to set alarms.

Here’s the solution for Android users.

We’re going to have your Android device read your Google Calendar. When your Google Calendar says that it is time for Psych 100 to start or end, the device will emit a sound and then turn off on its own.

From Google Play, download Automagic to your phone or tablet.

Try the free version first or just pony up the $4.  This website explains how Automagic works:

Here are instructions on how to set a “begin class” and a “2-minute warning” alarm.

When you run Automagic on your mobile device, tap the three-dot menu icon. Select “New Flow”. Flow is the term Automagic uses for these little programs that you can create to make your Android device do just about anything you want short of washing your underwear.

A box will appear. Tap the box, then tap the lined-paper icon that will appear above it.

Select “new” at the bottom of the screen. This will create a new trigger.

 Since we want our Android device to do something in response to a calendar event, scroll down, and choose “Calendar Event.”


 We can see that Automagic has already entered the Trigger Type as “Calendar Event.” Leave the Default Name the same. Once Automagic creates a particular trigger, it will save it so that you can use it in future flows if you’d like; you’ll be able to select it using that name. Under “Trigger at event start” choose, say, 0m (as in zero minutes) before. This will be when the “class is starting” alarm sounds. Under “Trigger at event end” select 2m before. This will be your two-minute warning to wrap it up. Since you don’t want this signal for every event you have in all of your calendars, check the Calendars box, and then tap the “…” to the right to select the calendar you want to use. Because you don’t want the alarm to sound with every event in that calendar, check the box under “Titles.”  Enter whatever you have named your class time in your calendar.  If each class entry in your calendar is different, such as “Psych 100: Chapter 1” and “Psych 100: Chapter 2,” use Psych 100*. The asterisk at the end is a wildcard. It says that this trigger will apply to any calendar entry that begins with Psych 100. If you scroll down this Automagic screen, you will see that you can use words in the description or the location you have listed in the calendar event. If you always teach in the same classroom, you can create an alarm based just on that location, provided you put that location in your calendar. If you always teach in the same two classrooms, you can enter them both on this line; just use a comma to separate them. (For more options, tap the question mark icon to the right of the “Trigger Type” line in Automagic.)

Let’s do a quick recap. I have created a trigger. When Automagic sees that it is zero minutes before an event called Psych 100 in my Sue Frantz Google Calendar or 2 minutes before the end of that event, Automagic will… do something. I haven’t told it what yet.

Tap “Save” at the top of the Automagic screen.

This takes you back to the flow screen. Tap and drag the plus sign icon down and release it. Select “Action”.


 Tap “New…”


 Scroll way down. And I mean way down. As you scroll take a look at some of the actions Automagic can do. Select “Sound”.


Under “Sound Type,” select “Built-in sound.”  Later you can change this to “File” if there is a specific file on your Android device you want it to play. (Are you thinking of a snippet from your favorite classic rock band?)  Directly under that, choose the sound you want by tapping the three dots to the right of “Sound.”  I selected “Alarm” and chose Platinum.  Tap “Save.”  (With “alarm” I know that the sound will play even if my phone is silenced.  I don’t know if that is true with other types of sounds. This is especially important for me because I have a flow that silences my phone ten minutes before events where my calendar is marked as “busy” and turns the ringer on again ten minutes after the event. Alternatively, I could create a flow that sends my phone into airplane mode while I’m in class. That way the sound could still be on since there would be no danger of phone calls or texts. Mick tried the alarm, but it just kept ringing, so he switched to a “Notification” sound. Try out different ones until you find one that works for you and your device.)


Tap “Save.”  You’re back on the main flow page.

 Let’s rename this something more descriptive. Tap the three-dot menu in the top right corner. Select “Rename Flow.”

 I chose “Begin and end class alarm.” If the on/off switch is set to off, slide it to on.


Try it out by setting a calendar event with the appropriate title just a few minutes from now. Leave at least two minutes between when you set the calendar event and when you expect the phone’s alarm to go off.

Of course this flow will sound the same alarm at the start of class and again with two minutes left. If you want a different sound for the beginning and the two-minute warning, or if you want another sound for the very end of class, create additional flows.

If your classroom is big and there is a setup for laptops, you can plug the audio cable designed for laptops into your phone’s headphone jack.  When your phone plays, the sound will go through the classroom’s speakers.  Just make sure the speakers are turned up.

Other favorite flows

I don’t even think about the flows I have any more. I mentioned above that when my calendar says I’m busy, my phone is set to silent. When the “busy” event it over, the ringer comes back on.

In that same vein, my phone is automatically silenced at 9pm and the ringer comes back on at 8am.

When I am at home or at work (by GPS location), my phone’s wifi is turned on. When I leave, my phone’s wifi is turned off.

Anything you ask your Android device to do on a routine basis can be automated.

Plickers: Poll Your Students Using One Smartphone

When asking students during class to respond to multiple choice questions, you have a number of options. You can use a dedicated clicker system like iClicker where you can have students use a remote or a web-enabled device to respond. You can use a completely web-based system like Socrative. You can go the low-tech route and have students hold up one of their A through D cards. Or you can merge high-tech and low-tech and use Plickers, although this doesn’t feel low-tech at all.

With Plickers, each student gets a unique QR code (download the PDF). The orientation of the QR code determines the student’s answer. This is card 1 showing B as an answer. Rotate to the left and C would be the student’s answer. Ask your multiple choice question, and have students respond by holding up their cards with their answer pointed up.

Working with the app. [Updated 5/10/2014:  The day after I posted this article I got an email from a kind person at Plickers telling me that they just overhauled the mobile app. Ignore the app screenshots.  It looks different now.  I’m working on an updated blog post.] 

Open the Plickers app on your smartphone or tablet* (Android/iOS). If you have assigned cards to students, you’ll see the students’ names on the left. If you haven’t, you’ll see the card numbers. Notice how they are all gray.

Click “scan.” Your device’s camera will come on. As you stand at the front of the room panning from one side to the other, the app will register the QR codes your students are holding up. (The 5.5″x5,5″ cards are readable from 20-25 feet; I had no problem picking them up in the back of my classroom. If you have a larger room, you may choose to use the bigger 8.5″x8.5″ cards.) As each code is scanned, you’ll see an orange outline appear around the QR code and the answer the student selected will appear in blue above the QR code. This is much easier to see on a tablet than on a smartphone. As each student’s response is recorded, their gray box will turn blue. If you tap the menu button (three vertical dots), you can toggle the student names off and toggle the bar graph of results on. If you want to be the only one to see this information, you can stop here.

Working with the website.

If you want the students to their names and the results, let’s switch over to the website, Go into the course you created when you signed up, and click the “Teach!” button. (More on course creation below.)

This is what the webpage looks like before scanning the QR codes. (“Grid” shows you each of the cards.)

As you scan with your device, students will see their box go blue so they’ll know their response has been recorded.

While that’s all good, what you really want to see are the results. Click “Graph.”

If you want to see how each student responded, click on the “Classes” button, select your class, then select the poll you’re interested in. Unfortunately there isn’t a way (yet?) to download the responses, but it’s easy enough to copy and paste the student responses into a spreadsheet.

Creating a class and assigning cards to students.

Click on “Classes” and then “Add a new class.”

After naming your class, you can enter your students’ names. Cards will be assigned in order. (Yes, it would be cool to upload a .csv file with names and card numbers already entered, but alas, not yet.) Click on a student’s name or card number to change it. This feature is a little buggy. Sometimes the changes stick and sometimes they don’t. Navigating to another page and coming back seems to help.

Note: Students can change their answers as long as you’re still scanning. You can even switch to the graph view before you’re done scanning, and students can watch their answers come in. Let’s say, for example, you ask students how well they believe they understand a particular concept, from A (totally get it) to D (totally confused). If you have a number of students at the D end, you can leave the question running as you try a different way to help students grasp the concept. Tell students to hold up their cards as their understanding changes, and do another scan. Have the responses slid toward the A side? If so, you know you can move on.

Plickers is a new product, so keep your eyes open for new features and improvements!

*If you are going to use your tablet, test it first. On my Ellipsis, Plickers worked great. On my Galaxy Nexus, it read the QR codes incorrectly; it read them as though the student responded with the letter on the left, not the letter on to. [Updated 5/10/2014: As part of the mobile app overhaul I mentioned above, the developers have built in the ability to “rotate answers.” Run a question as a test. With the device’s camera on, scan a Plickers card. If the top answer is not the one that’s recorded, tap the menu button (three vertical) dots, and select “rotate answers.”  Once you calibrate the device, the settings will stick, and there won’t  be any need to redo it.]


VLC Media Player: Take Stills from Video

The VLC Media Player is arguably the best video player out there. All the cool kids use it. And it’s free. It’s cross-platform. That means that whatever you’re running, e.g., Windows, Mac, Linus, Android, iOS, VLC Media Player will play.

While this media player has many more features than the average user will ever need, it has a few that are especially noteworthy.

Custom bookmarks

On the playback menu, you can add custom bookmarks to your video file. If you’re a keyboard shortcuts sort of person, CTRL+B.

The “Edit Bookmarks” window will open. Go to the spot in the video you want to bookmark, and click the “Create” button. Want to create additional bookmarks? Repeat as needed.

To navigate to a particular bookmark, double-click on it.

Jump to a specific time

If you’d rather not use bookmarks, and you know the time in the video you want to move to, on the playback menu select “Jump to Specific Time.” Or CTRL-T.

In the popup window that appears, enter the time and click “Go.”


Want to take screenshots from the video? On the video menu select “Take Snapshot.” The image file will automatically be saved in your pictures folder – or at least that’s where they are saved for me. The file path will flash briefly in the video window.

Each snapshot follows this naming convention: vlcsnap – today’s date – time in video.

To change the default location of where snapshots are stored, on the tools menu select “Preferences” (or CTRL+P).

In the popup window click on the video icon. At the bottom of the window, you can browse to the folder where you’d like all future video snapshots to go. If you don’t like vlcsnap as the prefix amended to the filename of the image, change it to something else. You have two choices for image filetype: png (default) or jpg. For saving images from video, jpg is probably a better file format. Read more about the difference.


While you’re in preferences, click on the hotkeys icon (bottom left). Here you can see all of the keyboard shortcuts and change them to your liking. My favorite: Space to pause the video; space to resume play. No fumbling with the mouse!


Want to skim the video? On the playback menu, mouse over speed, and select “Faster (fine)” or just plain “Faster.” “Faster (fine)” will increase the speed in smaller increments. Every time you click on it, the video will speed up by a tenth – 1.1 times faster, 1.2, 1.3, etc. Clicking on “Faster” jumps you to 1.5 times faster, then 2.0, then 2.5. Keyboard shortcuts are very handy here. As the video is playing, to speed it up slowly, “Faster (fine)”, use ]. To slow down slowly, use [. To do the big jump “Faster,” use +; “Slower,” use -. Interestingly, on my keyboard, the + sign up with the numbers didn’t work, but the + on the numeric keypad did. And = will return the video to it’s normal playing speed.


Try it out. Our IT people have it installed on all of our campus computers. You may already have it and don’t know it.


Watch the video featured in this post.



Epic Pen: Write on Your Screen [Windows]

You’re in class (or creating a video for your class), and you want to write on the screen to bring attention to some important point. Sometimes you’re in PowerPoint. Sometimes you’re showing a PDF. Sometimes you’re on a website. Epic Pen will write on your Windows screen (XP and later), regardless of what program you happen to be running.  Use your mouse to draw, or if you have a touch screen PC, your stylus.

Here I’ve written on a webpage.

This is the Epic Pen toolbar.

Using Epic Pen is just like writing on a transparency. Even when the content underneath changes, the transparency is still there. Here I minimized my browser, but the marks I made on the screen haven’t gone away.

As you move from window to window, remember to erase your “transparency” by clicking on the icon on the bottom right of the Epic Pen toolbar – or use the keyboard short, CTRL+6. Text Message Your Classes for Free

In March 2012 I wrote about SendHub, a platform for texting a group of people all at once. is a similar service with a free space for educators. Unlike SendHub, with, students do not see my phone number and I do not see their phone numbers.

When I started texting students en masse – first with SendHub, now with – I wasn’t sure what to think of it. Should I insist that the only acceptable means for electronic communication between students and me be email? Well, why? There are certain communications where email is appropriate, but sometimes a quick question/answer is better handled via text. Last week after class, I emailed my students a questionnaire that I wanted them to fill out and bring with them to class. I texted my students to tell them to check their email. At the same time I scheduled another text to go out a few days later asking if they had completed the questionnaire yet, and I scheduled another one to go out the morning of class reminding them to bring the completed questionnaire with them to class. This is more hands-on than I generally am with my students, but it was really important to me that they bring the completed questionnaire to class because of what I wanted to do during class time – and I didn’t want to spend class time waiting for students to complete the questionnaire.

I have to tell you, it’s a pretty powerful feeling to know that when I hit send on a text message to my class all of my students will likely be reading that message within seconds. Granted, may be doing it during class with one of my colleagues. In that case, Me: 1, Colleague: 0.

You could make use of the testing effect by periodically texting students questions relevant to your course material. Attach points to it or not. All correct responses received within 60 minutes earn one point with five points going to the best answer. Schedule the questions to go out at different times of the day so that students aren’t disadvantaged because you’re sending out questions when they’re always in Chemistry or, worse yet, driving home.

Let’s take a look at

While I wish that the interface looked a little more like it was for grown-ups, it is possible to do everything you need to do via text message (or the smartphone app) and never visit the website. If you use the website or the app, it’s intuitive. If you want to manage it all from your phone, you’ll need this list of commands. Of course you can mix and match. Use when you’re at your computer, but use the app or your text messaging app when you’re on the go.

In, you create different “cells.” You may have a cell, for example, for each of your classes, a cell for the club you advise, and a cell for your department.

Creating a cell

After creating a account, click on “cells” at the top of the screen. Click “start cell.”

In step one, choose a cell name.

In step 2 decide who can join. If you choose “restricted,” you can decide what sort of information you want the person to provide, such as a username or short bio. Or you can enter a password, so that only those with the password can join. My class cells are open. Who wants to get announcements for my class if they’re not actually in the class? Of course as the cell administrator, I can kick out whomever I’d like.

In step three decide how you want to manage texts that are coming and going. If you are using this for your class, curated chat is the safest bet. This is the setting I use for my classes. When students reply, the messages come to me privately. I can choose to respond to just that student or to the entire class.

In step four provide some information about your newly created cell.

How others can join your cell

Now when you click the “cells” link at the top of the page, you will see a link to your cell. This is the page for my new cell. In the share box on the right, you can see there are a couple ways people can join this cell. You can just give people the public link, in this case Or you can give them the texting instructions below that. For my class cells, I put the texting directions on my syllabus. (You are welcome to join this cell to see how it works from a student perspective. It is easy to leave the cell when you are ready. Just reply to a text from the cell with the word stop in the body of the message.)

Receiving messages

In the top right corner, you see two orange buttons: “email on” and “sms on.” Every time a text is sent to this cell, you will get both an email message and text message (sms) by default. If you don’t want text messages sent to your email, click the “email on” button, and it will turn to “email off.” If you choose to not get messages to either email or text message, you’ll need to use the smartphone app or the web interface.

Sending messages

Messages can be sent from the web interface just by entering your message in the message box. Or you can send them from either the app or from your text messaging app. In the latter case, I would send a text message to 23559 with @SueFrantz in the message, and that message will be sent out to everyone in the cell. If I just wanted to send to one person, I would enter there @username.

Sending a poll

Clicking “send poll” in the web interface gives you this screen. Here I have the question set to close in 30 minutes or “when all members vote”.

This is a question I sent out to my students.

This is what it looked like in the app on my phone after two answers arrived.

This is what the final poll results looked like on the web interface.

When the poll closed, the results were automatically texted to everyone in the cell. This is what they looked like in text form.


If you have separate cells for each of your courses, you might want to create a hashlink so you can communicate with both classes with one message. For example, if you have two sections of a course, and you have information you want to share with both sections, you can create a hashlink so any time you include that hashlink in the message, it will shared with students in both sections.

This “hashtag & links” box is on the right side of your cell’s page.

Click the “add hashlink” button to get this screen. Choose what other cell you want to link to your current cell. And then choose a hashtag. Let’s say that I had two cells, one for each section of a course. Let’s say that they are named @psycha and @psychb. I can create a hashtag, say #psy that will allow me to post to both cells with just one text message.


You can add an RSS or Twitter feed, so that new content from that feed is texted to everyone in your cell. Here I’ve add my twitter feed so that any tweet I send out will automatically sent as a text message to everyone in the cell. Instead of sending out all tweets, I can add a “search filter,” like a twitter hashtag, so that only tweets from me that contain that hashtag will be sent out to everyone in the cell. (If you decide to join this cell just to see what it’s like, know that I’ve deleted this “receptor” – you won’t get a text message every time I tweet!)


Try it out. Encourage your students to join your class cell. You may discover all kinds of uses for it. Just don’t get too carried away with your new-found power!


MagPointer: PowerPoint Add-on

MagPointer is a PowerPoint add-on (Windows only) that allows you to highlight certain areas of your PowerPoint slides on the fly. Although designed with web-based presentations in mind, it works well in the face-to-face classroom.

In the screenshot below you can see a PowerPoint slide with the MagPointer toolbar on the right – 5 colored squares. Sometimes when I run MagPointer, I get the black border you see here. Other times the slide covers the entire screen, and the MagPointer icons overlap the slide. It works fine in either case, just an fyi.

MagPointer at work

Mouse over any element to see the dotted outline of that element.

Click on the dotted outline to highlight that element. How cool is that?

Mousing over any of the squares on the right shows the MagPointer icons. The top two squares allow you to advance or reverse through your slides. Be aware that MagPointer is still in beta, so all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet. In version, when I use these icons to advance a slide with multiple bullet points, sometimes I get the next bullet point, and sometimes I get the next slide.

You can highlight any part of the slide; you’re not limited to your PowerPoint elements. Pick a spot on your slide, click once, then move your mouse anywhere on your slide to create a frame. To make the highlight disappear, click inside the frame.

Want to highlight multiple areas of a slide? Click the second icon from the bottom. Now you can click and drag anywhere on the screen, multiple times. To clear the frames, click inside each frame, or mouse over the MagPointer icons and click on the red X at the top, or simply right-click on the slide.

You can zoom in on sections of the slide. The fourth icon is a magnifying glass. Click on the icon (or right-click your mouse), then click and drag on the slide to create the size of magnifier you want. Now you can move it around the slide, magnifying as you move. When done, click the red X on the right side of the slide. In the version I was using, the magnifier would go beyond the top, left, and bottom edges, magnifying everything there. The magnifier wouldn’t go beyond the right edge, so anything on the right edge could not be magnified.

MagPointer is portable.

Portability means that you can put it on a flashdrive, carry it with you into your classroom, and run the program from there. No need to fight with your IT department to get it installed on your classroom computer. The MagPointer developers are hoping that they’ll be able to eventually sell site licenses to educational institutions. Keep an eye on that. When you download MagPointer, it will, by default, install itself on your computer. If you’d like to try out the portable version, contact the MagPointer developers directly through their webform.


Right-click on the MagPointer icon in the system tray (lower, right corner of your screen), and select “Configuration.” Here you can change how the program behaves. Set it up in a way that works for you.

Try it out

While in beta, MagPointer is free.

PowerPoint: Animating Charts

I was recently putting together a PowerPoint 2010 presentation that had a lot of charts in it. I wanted to reveal the data gradually, so I looked for a way to animate. It’s easy to do, if not entirely intuitive.

After creating the chart, switch to the “Animations” tab. Click on the chart to select it, then click the “Add Animation” button. Choose the animation style you like; I chose “fade”.

Now, with the chart still selected, click “Effect Options.”

Here I can choose how I want the data to appear. When you mouse over each option, your chart will preview what it will look like as you step through your presentation. (Hats off to the PowerPoint 2010 team. I love this feature!)

In my sample chart, “By Series” will show the blue bars first, then the red, then the green. “By Category” will show all of the 5-minute bars first and then all of the 1-week bars. “By Element in Series” will show the 5-minute blue bar, then the 1-week blue bar, then the red bars in sequence, and finally the red bars in sequence. Lastly, “By Element in Category” will show the 5-minute blue bar, then the 5-minute red bar, then the 5-minute green bar, and this will repeat for the 1-week bars.

Click on “Animation Pane” to see the animations that were created. Click the down arrow next to the top animation in the animation pane to see all of the animations for the chart. The very first animation makes the chart itself appear. For my purposes, I wanted the chart already to be there when I advanced to this slide, so I clicked on the very top animation (“Chart 3: Background”) and hit delete on my keyboard. Done.

Side note

The data depicted on this slide comes from a nifty Roediger and Karpicke (2006) study. Participants in the study either had 4 opportunities to study a science passage (SSSS), 3 opportunities to study and 1 opportunity to do a free recall practice test of everything they remembered from the passage (SSST), or 1 opportunity to read the passage and 3 opportunities to do free recall practice tests (STTT). When they took the real test 5 minutes afterwards, the repeated study group remembered the most, but 1 week later, the practice test participants remembered quite a bit more. In psychology we call this the “testing effect” – the act of recalling information helps us remember it.

Roediger, H.L., III, & Karpicke, J.D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

ZoomIt: Draw on Your Screen [Windows]

ZoomIt was designed to let a presenter zoom into a particular portion of the screen. For most presentations I don’t need a zoom, but I would like to be able to draw. Of course PowerPoint gives you drawing tools, but the menu system is a hassle. If I’m showing, say, a webpage, then the PowerPoint drawing tools are of no use.

When I press CTRL + 2, my cursor changes to a red plus sign. I click and hold to draw on the screen. When I’m done, I press ESC. It’s pretty straight forward.

After downloading ZoomIt, run it on your computer.

Look for the ZoomIt icon in your system tray (bottom, right corner of your screen). Right click on the icon, and select “Options”. Here you can see the instructions for the various functions. Once you’re familiar with them, press “Cancel” and use the keyboard shortcuts to do what you want to do. (Note: The keyboard shortcuts won’t work if you have the ZoomIt options screen open.)


The first tab shows the zoom functions. The default keyboard shortcut is CTRL + 1. After pressing and holding the CTRL key, press 1. You zoom in on the screen, and moving the mouse now moves the entire screen. Use the mouse wheel or the up and down arrow keys to zoom in and out.

Click on the screen, and the cursor changes to a red plus sign. You’re now in drawing mode. Click and hold to draw. (See the “Drawing” section below for more drawing functions.)

When you’re done zooming, press ESC.

The second tab is for LiveZoom. In regular zoom, the screen will freeze while you zoom. Usually this isn’t an issue, but if you’re showing video or other dynamic content that you want to continue to run while you zoom, LiveZoom is your better option. In LiveZoom, use the up and down arrow keys to zoom in and out.

To draw in LiveZoom mode, press CTRL + 2 to enable the drawing tools. At that point, LiveZoom will act like regular zoom in that the screen will freeze. Press ESC to exit drawing, and LiveZoom will be re-enabled.

When you’re done LiveZooming, press ESC.


You can also have just the drawing functions without the zoom.

Press CTRL + 2 to enter ZoomIt’s drawing mode. The cursor changes to a red plus sign. Click, hold, and drag to draw.

Like in other Windows programs, CTRL + Z will delete what you just did, CTRL + C will capture the screen, drawings and all, and CTRL + S will save it. Want to erase everything? Type ‘e’.

Want to change the pen color? While in drawing mode, type “‘r’ (red), ‘g’ (green), ‘b’ (blue), ‘o’ (orange), ‘y’ (yellow), or ‘p’ (pink).”

Want nice clean lines? Hold down the Shift key for a straight line, CTRL for a rectangle, and Tab for an ellipse. For an arrow, hold down Shift and CTRL.

Switch to a white (‘w’) or black (‘k’) background.

Would you prefer to type? Press ‘t’. Use the up and down arrow keys to change the size of the font.

When you’re done drawing, press ESC.

It’s portable!

If you want to use it on another computer, such as a classroom computer or a conference presentation computer, copy the files onto a flash drive. On the other computer, plug in the flash drive, and run the ZoomIt program. When you’re done with your presentation, exit ZoomIt, and eject your flash drive.

Multiple monitors

ZoomIt works on multiple monitors. However you can’t just move from one to the other. If you want to use ZoomIt’s drawing tools on, say, a presentation monitor, you need to move your cursor to that monitor before pressing CTRL + 2. You will only be able to draw on that monitor. To draw on the other monitor, you need to press ESC, move your cursor to the other monitor, and press CTRL + 2 again.


Try it out in your office or at home. When you’re feeling comfortable (it won’t take you long!), put it on a flash drive and carry it to class.