Speaking at #EngageUG ? Here are some tools

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 at 4:36 PM UTC

It's only 48 hours until the deadline for sending abstracts. If you haven't sent it yet, hurry up! If you already have sent one or more, you may want to start checking out how to create your presentations and demos. Another challenge might be the collaboration with a co-speaker when you don't share the same solution for chatting, conferencing and screen sharing. I collected some tools that might be helpful during the preparation.


I like to use Slack for all the work that is just chatting, quick file sharing and just getting awareness. You can possibly find all of the people from the "Yellow Bubble" in the OpenNTF Slack channels or via a direct conversation.

OpenNTF Slack -> https://slackin.openntf.org/

Video and audio conferencing is much easier that just to use a chat solution like Slack. I like to speak to people and maybe share my screen (or see the one from my partner). We all may have valuable solutions at hand but they may not be the same for all. If you want to use something that is free, where no registration is needed and that works out of the box, then give Jitsi a try. It was already mentioned in the latest HCL publications as it will be integrated into the next Sametime versions.

Jitsi -> https://jitsi.org/

Abstract Preperation

Besides a text editor to capture your abstract you need a good speaker photo of yourself. If you haven't already a good photo, then hurry up and find one. Mostly photos are not suitable as profile pictures as they have ugly or dark backgrounds. Theo likes bright backgrounds. A nice tool I found some years ago is Remove.BG that automatically removes any background noise from your portrait. It's a free web app that works just fine.

Remove.BG -> https://www.remove.bg/

Creating the Presentation

Of course you have your favorite presentation tool like Powerpoint or Keynote or Google or whatever works for you. All of these solutions have a problem: they are not very useful when working with someone else. An exception might be Powerpoint in O365 but to be honest, I really don't like to mess around in these applications. I found a very simple way to create presentations (offline, not online like Prezy) that are suitable for a Git repository. A Git repository allows you to track changes and even revert them back if you made a mistake. As a developer you are used to use it for decades.

Now my way of creating a presentation is to use markdown and a tool called Marp. It used to be a stand-alone app but nowadays it is a plugin for Visual Studio Code, the best editor I could find around. Both are free to use and Marp gives you the flexibility to create presentations just by typing markdown - which is easy to learn.

If you tinker a bit with all the extra features that Marp offers you and if the plugin for VS Code is setup correctly, it's a pleasure to work with.

As the source file in markdown is plain text, it is perfect for a Git repo.

The presentation from last year was also made with Marp. Me and Jan worked seamlessly together in just a single markdown file: https://gitlab.com/obusse/engage-2019

The downside: you cannot use Theo's template and have to create your own "branded" slidedeck.

Visual Studio Code -> https://code.visualstudio.com/

Marp -> https://marp.app/


I always like to have backups when demoing stuff. Sometimes it's helpful to show a small clip or animation. At least for macOS there are a view options:

  • use Quicktime Player to capture your screen
  • use Kap, a tiny app that produces animated GIFs and also mp4 - for free, too!


We live in times where we could easily work together using the right tools. As long as you don't share a common infrastructure with tools like Connections or O365 or whatever, there are tons of alternatives.

Hope to see you in Arnhem! Smile

Latest comments to this post

Oliver Busse wrote on 15.01.2020, 18:05

Good catch, Paul! I use Gitlab as Github didn't offer private repos when I needed them, but the other will of course work, too.

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Paul Withers wrote on 15.01.2020, 18:03

And for your demos, don’t forget source control (GitHub and BitBucket both offer private repos for small numbers of people). It’s best practice not only for collaboration but also for backup. Docker is a good option for running a configured and standard Domino server.

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