Use Android to Control Your LibreOffice Presentation

I’m a big fan of LibreOffice Impress and am excited about its recently released version 4.0.0.

hands holding Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphoneI make frequent presentations, use Linux exclusively, and own a new Galaxy S III Android phone, so the new Android Remote feature certainly caught my eye. It lets you use the volume rocker on your Android device to page through LibreOffice slides that you’re projecting from a Linux notebook. Working through Bluetooth by default, the app also runs over WiFi. Since conference venues frequently have issues with WiFi, being able to use Bluetooth is a big plus.

Professional presenters use clickers that plug into the notebook to run their shows. You’ll definitely score style points when your technically inclined audience realizes that you’re effortlessly controlling your slides through Android.

And it gets better. The slides appear on your smartphone screen along with your notes, so you’ll know what’s on the slide without having to look back at the big screen. You can also blank the screen and see a grid of your slides, so you can jump around at will. I like to keep my attention on the audience, and this will really help.

Here’s how to get everything going.

Prep, Downloads and Installation

Although the LibreOffice marketing material claims otherwise, the stock 4.0.0 version doesn’t actually support the Android Remote feature. What you want is the 4.0.1 version, which can be downloaded from the LibreOffice development builds page. It will replace an existing LibreOffice version. Once that’s loaded and installed, click on the Help and About drop-downs to make sure you’re on the right version.

If you don’t already have a Bluetooth manager installed, consider loading the Blueman device manager. It’s a little application that lives on the system tray and lets you pair and manage your Bluetooth devices on your notebook. I loaded it using the Synaptic package manager.

Next, download the Impress Remote app to your phone. It’s a simple installation and doesn’t take very long.

Then start Bluetooth on your phone. Ensure that the phone’s Bluetooth is visible to other devices. Using Blueman, initiate pairing from your Linux notebook. You’ll be asked to select a pass code on the notebook, which you’ll have to match in the authentication pop-up on the phone.

Once you’re done with pairing, go to Preferences under the Adapter tab and set the Friendly Name to something you’ll remember. I used “rob-notebook.”

Loading Your Presentation

Go back to the phone and start Impress Remote. You should see your notebook’s machine name appear on the Choose a Computer screen, under the Bluetooth heading. Click the notebook’s name and you should see a Start Presentation button appear. Press it, and your presentation should appear on the notebook. You should also see the slides appear on your smartphone. Notes will show up, too, if you’ve added any to your slides.

If Start Presentation doesn’t work, make sure you have the Impress window active. If you’re on another LibreOffice application, like Writer or Calc, the button won’t have any effect and the presentation won’t start on the notebook.

Stop the presentation by hitting the ESC key on the notebook’s keyboard. The Start Presentation button will reappear on the smartphone screen.

Use Impress Remote Over WiFi

There are times when I’d much prefer to use a remote application over WiFi instead of Bluetooth. For one thing, there’s a noticeable difference in the speed of slide changes and their display on the smartphone. But if you’re at a crowded conference with everybody using WiFi, Bluetooth could save your bacon.

Setting up Impress Remote for WiFi is pretty straightforward. But be advised that right now the WiFi feature is considered experimental and is slightly quirky to get working. Once it’s up and running, however, there don’t seem to be any problems. Needless to say, your notebook should be connected to your LAN using WiFi.

On the notebook, go to Tools then Options and click on the Advanced selection under the LibreOffice tab. At the bottom of the window check the Enable Experimental Features box under the Unstable Options heading.

Move over to the LibreOffice Impress tab and under the General selection, check the Enable Remote Control box under the Presentation heading. Finish up with an OK for the Options pop-up window.

On the smartphone, make sure WiFi is active and connected. Start the Impress Remote application. A Choose a Computer screen will appear and probably be blank. Press the Option key (3 vertical boxes) in the lower-right corner and select Options. Check the Enable Wireless box, then hit the back button. You should now see the name of your notebook on the Choose a Computer screen. Click your computer name, and a new screen should pop up with a big number in the middle. That’s your authentication PIN.

Note the PIN, and return to the Impress window on the notebook. Click the Slide Show drop-down and select Impress Remote. On the resulting pop-up window, pick your smartphone name. An input box should appear where you can enter the PIN that you noted from the Impress Remote application on your phone. Do that and then select Connect.

Now: Back on the smartphone, a Start Presentation button should appear on the screen. Hit the button, and you should see your slides appear both on the smartphone and your Linux notebook screens. Great!

Use the volume rocker to go forward and backward through your slide deck. You can also touch a slide to the right or left to move through the deck. If your presentation doesn’t appear, make sure that you’re in the active Impress window on the notebook.

The best way to get back to Impress edit mode is to push the ESC key on the Linux notebook. Remember that this feature is considered experimental, so you may have to jimmy around with it a bit. Once everything is running, it seems very stable and fast.

Using The Remote App

Once Impress Remote is functioning, just use the volume rocker on the smartphone (or tablet) to advance the slides. The little four-square-boxes icon in the upper-right corner of the app lets you toggle between sequential slides or a random access list of slides. Select a slide and it will appear on the screen. This feature is great for bringing up appropriate slides during Q&A sessions.

If you insert notes with your slides, those will also appear in the Impress Remote app window on your phone.

In some cases the text may be too small to read on the smartphone. To deal with this, I installed the Impress Remote app on my Asus Transformer Prime. It worked without any issues. Make sure to have the Impress presentation up and running on the notebook, then start the LibreOffice Impress Remote application on the tablet. Everything works exactly the same way as on the smartphone.

Wrap Up

That’s pretty much it for the LibreOffice Impress Remote. This little Android app is easy to use, and I think my tech audiences will be impressed. (Get it?)

Give it a try, then let me know in the comments how it works for you.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons