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Creating presentations using restructured text

Sup­pose you are a nerd. Specif­i­cal­ly, an open-­source-us­ing nerd.

Who am I kid­ding, you are read­ing my blog, of course you are an open-­source-us­ing nerd.

Let's try again: you are an open-­source-us­ing nerd who needs to do a pre­sen­ta­tion at your lo­cal LUG/pro­gram­ming lan­guage con­fer­ence/Lin­ux even­t/bar mitz­vah.

In that case, you prob­a­bly want to show some slides. I am here to help you cre­ate your slides the nerd way.

A reg­u­lar guy would do them us­ing, say, Pow­er­Point or a sim­i­lar pro­gram like OOo's Im­press

How­ev­er, since you are who you are, you know there are prob­lems in that di­rec­tion.

  1. How do you keep a ver­­sioned his­­to­ry of such doc­u­­ments? (Yes, they are XML now. It's com­­pressed so, un­­less you want to ver­­sion-­­con­trol the un­­com­­pressed... for­get it, it's aw­­ful)

  2. If you use one of those, and you have to use some­one else's com­put­er, he is bound to have in­­stalled the oth­­er.

  3. You will feel dirty in­­sid­e.

  4. It's not at all like pro­­gram­ming. You like pro­­gram­ming.

  5. It's com­­plete­­ly sep­a­rate from cre­at­ing, for ex­am­­ple, a hand­out, or a larg­er doc­u­­ment that com­­ple­­ments the slides.

So, let's get un­con­ven­tion­al. There are a bunch of pre­sen­ta­tion tools that don't have those prob­lem­s, from Mag­ic­Point to Pros­per (or Beam­er), to To­bo­gan [1], to s5 and oth­er­s.

All of them would be cool for you. But I think you can do bet­ter, be­cause there are prob­lems with them.

  • La­­TeX (used with pros­per or beam­er): well, you need to know La­­TeX. If you want code syn­­tax high­­­light­ing you need an­oth­er pack­­age. If you want to use your pet TT font it's not ob­vi­ous, and the re­­sults are... not very in­­spir­ing for the amount of noise. Here's how you cre­ate a slide with four items in it in beam­er:

    \sec­tion{­Sec­tion no. 2}
    \sub­sec­tion{Lists I}
    \be­gin{frame}\fram­eti­tle{un­num­bered list­s}
    \item In­tro­duc­tion to  \La­TeX
    \item Course 2
    \item Termpa­pers and pre­sen­ta­tions with \La­TeX
    \item Beam­er class

    Per­­son­al­­ly I pre­fer my markup lighter.

  • Mag­ic­­Point: needs man­u­al­s. Re­al­­ly, re­al­­ly needs man­u­al­s. Al­­so, it will cre­ate your slides, and noth­ing else.

  • s5: looks dead. It's nicer with rst2s5.

And of course, the killer ar­gu­men­t: if I were to rec­om­mend you use one of those, I would­n't have both­ered writ­ing this!

So, let's go to what I will do for my next con­fer­ence: I will use a PDF. Specif­i­cal­ly, I will use a PDF I built us­ing rst2pdf [2]

If you are not fa­mil­iar with re­Struc­tured Text by all means fol­low that link and get ac­quaint­ed, be­cause it's the bet thing since sliced bread [3] [4] [5] .

So, how do you cre­ate slides us­ing rst2pdf? It's very sim­ple. So sim­ple, I will use an ex­am­ple file.

This is my first slide

* It has, of course, items in it

* More than one item

    1. Numbered lists, too

This is my second slide

rst2pdf can display code nicely:

.. code-block:: python

    for x in range(7):
        print "cute!"

This is my third slide

Also, you can use math!

.. math::

    \frac{2 \pm \sqrt{7}}{3}

That is *not* an image.

This is my 4th slide

Other features include:

* Images, including SVG

* Tables

* Font embedding (Type1 and TTF)

* Extensible

* Background (like this one)

* Page transitions

.. header::

        Rst2pdf Slide Demo

.. footer::

        © Roberto Alsina, 2009

Now, that was not all that hard to grasp, was it? And what's the re­sult?

Here is the file seen in oKu­lar:


And here you can get the PDF file for your­self.

Of course, you are notic­ing things in that im­age or PDF that are not in the code I post­ed above, like "where is the back­ground com­ing from?" or "Where did he spec­i­fy that funky as­pect ra­tio?".

Well, the an­swer is this stylesheet:

{"pageSetup": {
    "width": "16cm",
    "height": "9cm",
    "margin-top": "0cm",
    "margin-bottom": "0cm",
    "margin-left": "0cm",
    "margin-right": "0cm",
    "margin-gutter": "0cm",
    "spacing-header": "5mm",
    "spacing-footer": "5mm",
    "firstTemplate": "cutePage"
"pageTemplates" : {
    "cutePage": {
        "frames": [
            ["10%", "10%", "80%", "80%"]
        "background" : "background.svg"

The back­ground.svg is done with inkscape.

And to go from these files to the PDF, this is the com­mand:

rst2pdf slides.txt -b1 -s

The -b1 is so there is a page break after each section (that would be just before each title).

You can show this PDF file with any PDF view­er, but I like Oku­lar's pre­sen­ta­tion mode a lot, and if you want fan­cy, you could try Im­pres­sive.

Im­pres­sive can do neat page tran­si­tion­s, but if you like them [6] and pre­fer to use an­oth­er PDF view­er, you can use rst2pdf's page tran­si­tion sup­port by adding some­thing like this at the end of each sec­tion:

.. raw:: pdf

   Transition Split 1 90 I

I won't tell you what that mean­s, on­ly aim you in the gen­er­al di­rec­tion of the FM

And that's it. There's your slideshow.

If you want to add things like a nice hand­out where you mix one slide / one page of tex­t, that's not hard to do, but I wil leave it as an ex­er­cise to the read­er.

And if you use this... let me know!

todd / 2009-06-26 19:48:

Not Found

The requested URL /static/background.svg was not found on this server.
Apache/2.2.3 (CentOS) Server at Port 80

todd / 2009-06-26 19:53:

Replacing your background image with sample images culled from the web results in a platypus error:

todd@tintin:~/sandbox/rst$ rst2pdf slideshow.rst -b1 -s
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "/usr/local/bin/rst2pdf", line 8, in
load_entry_point('rst2pdf==0.11', 'console_scripts', 'rst2pdf')()
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/rst2pdf-0.11-py2.6.egg/rst2pdf/", line 1651, in main
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/rst2pdf-0.11-py2.6.egg/rst2pdf/", line 1297, in createPdf
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/reportlab/platypus/", line 855, in multiBuild, filename, canvasmaker)
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/reportlab/platypus/", line 777, in build
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/reportlab/platypus/", line 694, in handle_flowable
raise LayoutError(ident)
reportlab.platypus.doctemplate.LayoutError: Flowable ... too large on page 6

Sample svg for background.svg:

Tried this with and w/o the xml doctype declaration.

Todd / 2009-06-26 20:01:

I've narrowed the problem down a bit:

1. If I include your stylesheet, with it's reference to an svg, then this works (I supply a simple svg that's just a blue box). No in text image.

2. If I use an in text image, and no stylesheet, then it also renders ok.
.. image:: foo.svg
:width: 3in
:height: 3in

3. However, if I specify both the stylesheet AND an image in the text, then I get this layout error (above post).


Roberto Alsina / 2009-06-26 20:41:

This was not supposed to get published yet so there may be some bugs :-D

juj / 2010-03-18 10:05:

rst2pdf really impress me. It's so useful and brilliant. Thanks a lot for your work.

jaypee / 2010-04-25 14:26:

great post.....

powerpoint presentation templates

employment background check / 2011-12-27 23:23:

Hi very nice article

cell phone lookup / 2012-01-17 05:52:

Your blog has the same post as another author but i like your better

speq / 2012-05-03 11:48:

svglib is somewhat broken. Use rst2pdf -e inkscape

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