PDF X-Change – Still The One

Nearly a year ago, I mentioned a wonderful product called PDF X-Change, from Tracker Software,  in a post. It allows me to annotate PDF files, which many vendors maddeningly insist on using for briefings. Why “maddeningly”? Because for me at least, the best place for my notes is in the presentation – it provides the context and I don’t need another window open. In PowerPoint I just use the notes at the bottom of the window. PDF X-Change is a free download, and takes care of the rest of the pitches I see. Read more of this post

Report Mining – Minimally Invasive BI

Every organization of any size has reports – usually too many, often largely unread, and typically a gold mine of information not available elsewhere without substantial investment of time and resources, even if the tools are available. Where existing reports are in place and in wide use – such as those accompanying packaged ERP, CRM and other software, or in “production reporting systems” that have been in place for years – they are an excellent source of predigested information. Monarch BI Server from Datawatch can unlock this information for a fraction of the cost and effort associated with new BI projects – and rapidly. Read more of this post

Vista SP2: Seamless, Simple, but Search Still Lags

I’ve been talking here about the upgrade to Windows 7, which has been quite pleasant so far. It’s quicker, with some nice UI improvements, and other bits and pieces I’ll talk about in other posts before long, I suspect. But being the glutton for punishment I am, this evening before dinner I decided to try the other big Microsoft OS change this month – the new service pack (SP2) for Vista, which I run on my iDell (the XPS, if you insist on correct nomenclature.) My conclusions? Read more of this post

Make PDFs Free. Really?

Sometimes, I need to make PDFs. Vendors would like to use stuff I write, and I am happy to let them do so for nominal fees, but I don’t want the content changed. But I’m not really in the publishing business, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a tool for that purpose. So I was pleased when a friend told me about PDF995 and their suite of easy-to use tools. Read more of this post

PDF X-Change Rocks: AR Soft Copy Survey Participants Take Note

Poll results for soft copy survey

Poll results for soft copy survey

This is the third and final post on the topic of which format is best for providing soft copy of briefing material to analysts. After a few more votes were added, the combined total of PDF and annotatable PDF formats got closer to Powerpoint in our survey. The final total was PPT 29, PDF13, annotatable PDF 10. (See chart at right.) Read more of this post

PPT Wins Poll on Analysts’ Preferred Soft Copy Briefing Formats

Preliminary votes and comments are in – nearly two-thirds of our 46 respondents as of April 10 prefer Powerpoint format to PDFs, and a small minority is using annotatable PDF format, though several didn’t even know it exists. (Adobe, are you listening? Some work to do here.) Key themes in comments from AR and analysts:

  • Some analysts like to edit PPTs; when they can’t get them, some resort to other methods. Forrester’s Oliver Young told us, “I take screen shots of almost every Webex or Go-To-Meeting session I end up in since so many vendors never bother to send along the slides.” We heard the latter complaint several times; Guy Creese of Burton Group has the numbers: “Half the time (I keep stats on this, since I find it so aggravating), I’m not sent the Powerpoint.”
  • PDF had its champions too. HP’s Gerry Van Zandt noted its broad platform support and backward compatibility; “for those who DO use Office, you have the issue of the older Office 2003 .ppt/.xls/.doc and the Office 2007 .pptx/.xlsx/.docx files. If you don’t have the translators installed, it’s a pain.”
  • Send in advance; preparation makes the meeting more effective. Rick Brusuelas: “allows analysts to prepare better (isn’t the point to get useful feedback?).” It also helps AR do their job better; Duncan Chapple of Lighthouse AR noted, “if the analyst gets the slides, then so does the AR manager, and that helps spokespeople to be more coherent over time.” Jocelyn Eisenberg likes the active role it facilitates for her: “I insist presentation decks be provided to me in PPT format so I can edit them, if necessary, before sending them on to the analysts.”
  • Powerpoint’s file size can be an issue. Sandy Berman says IBM  “sometimes sends PDFs if the PPT file is too big for the firm’s firewall or gateway or whatever it is that returns huge files to me as undeliverable.” Of course, there may be a hint in there about the contents of the file, too…

Finally, the file is not the point; communication is. Curt Monash, for one, doesn’t want slides at all, and rarely looks at them a second time. Last word to Henry Harteveldt of Forrester: “What I CANNOT stand is the briefing organization taking me through slide by deathly slide. I learned to read at a very young age.”

The survey will run through April 20 and then I’ll do a wrapup.

How Should AR Provide Soft Copies of Briefing Content?

I had a couple of quick exchanges today with some analyst colleagues talking about what method we like to take notes during briefings. We all have our own way of storing them, sometimes a company repository, or a personal OneNote archive. I’ve always used a folder for each vendor within which I store content that can be searched with Google Desktop or some other search mechanism.

By far, my favorite way to take notes is inside Powerpoint files that the vendor gives me. I can keep the slides onscreen and make comments relevant to the picture in front of me. If I have to have a separate window for a text editor, I have to go back and forth, and I can’t easily connect the comments to what is being shown.

Some AR people tell me they use PDFs because they don’t want the content re-used, especially if it might be changed or taken out of context. A fair point, but why tell analysts things if not to have it re-told? There are rules we all follow about NDAs and such, and if we don’t – well, you won’t keep talking for long. John Rymer of Forrester offered a good alternative – annotated PDFs. The content can’t be changed, but you can take notes. Fair enough.

So: a poll.
AR: Which method do you use? And why?
Analysts: Which do you prefer? And why?
Please share, and use comments for color, as always. I’ll report on results when we have a reasonable number.

[EDIT: Poll was removed April 24, 2009. If you have comments please do add them to the comments. See later posts for discussion of results.]