Sozi at FOSDEM'14

I had the opportunity to present Sozi at FOSDEM'14 in the lightning talks session. Here is the abstract of my talk. I suppose that a video will be available soon on the web site of FOSDEM. You will find my presentation below. Scroll down to read the notes attached to each frame (it is not an accurate transcript of my speech).

My name is Guillaume Savaton. This talk is about a “zooming” presentation editor called Sozi. This presentation is also a live demo of what you can do with Sozi.
When I started working as a teacher and researcher ten years ago, I made slideshows like everybody else. My slideshow editor proposed a default slide layout that looked like this.
As a result, most of my slides were filled with bullet points with a lot of text. I thought it was convenient because if I forgot to say something, I was sure that all my students had the key points in front of their eyes.
But when I had to actually perform in front of my audience, I felt that something was wrong. Generally, I personally find it difficult to read while someone is speaking. And on the other hand, I cannot listen carefully when I am trying to read at the same time.
I started making presentations with a concern to better separate the audio channel from the visual channel. Now most of my slides contained only big titles, pictures and diagrams. But it was still frustrating.

Many diagrams were too complex or too big to fit on a single slide. My presentation software did not provide a zooming feature that could help me focus on a particular region of interest.

At that time, people around me started using a zooming presentation tool called Prezi. It did exactly what I wanted. It provided a web-based editor and a sharing platform that could host my documents free-of-charge. However, I had several reasons not to use it:

  • It was proprietary software with a closed document format.
  • The editor and the player were Flash-based.
  • And it did not allow to get a copy of my documents on my own computer: document data were kept on their storage platform.

The development of Sozi started as an experiment to see whether an alternative could be implemented using open standards and free software.

“Sosie” is a French word that means “look-alike”. In fact, Sozi is not a clone of Prezi: it has a different workflow, different features and a different philosophy. (Actually I have never used Prezi, so I cannot honestly compare their features).

Since Sozi is aimed at presentations that contain a lot of drawings, I chose to use SVG as the document format. SVG is particularly fit for this usage for two reasons:
For authors, SVG is supported by several drawing software, either natively or as an export format. Some of them are free software.
Almost everybody already has an SVG viewer on their computer. Support for SVG has improved a lot over the last few years. And SVG documents can be scripted using JavaScript. As a result, Sozi only adds a presentation layer on top of existing software and formats.
When you create a new Sozi presentation, you first draw the visual elements in a single page as if you were creating a poster.
You can delimit frames using rectangles.
The Sozi editor is implemented as an Inkscape extension that adds presentation data in the form of custom XML elements. The extension also adds the Sozi JavaScript player to the SVG document.
The resulting document can be immediately published and played in a web browser.

The version numbering convention is based on the release date. The latest stable release, Sozi 13.11, was published in november 2013.

Currently, the editor is written in Python and uses GTK2 via PyGTK. It suffers from the limitations of the Inkscape extension system. Its UI is boring and inefficient. It is developed for GNU/Linux and is difficult to install on Windows and OS X.

In 2014, the editor will be completely rewritten in JavaScript as a browser-based application. From the user's point of view, it will provide a more intuitive user interface with direct manipulation of the document and live preview. It will also be easier to install on all platforms.
The official web site of Sozi can be found at this address. Thank you for your attention.