Poster Design with PowerPoint

This post offers some guidelines on the design and printing of academic conference posters for Holy Cross students, staff, and faculty. While it focuses on the use of Microsoft PowerPoint to create posters, it is not a general treatise on how to use PowerPoint. For that, see the PowerPoint Help Center. Here we offer a few tips on how to tweak PowerPoint for optimal poster printing. The examples are shown as they appear on the Mac, but users running PowerPoint under Windows should find similar functionality. We also briefly discuss the use of LibreOffice Impress and Google Slides in poster design.

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Research Tools for Google Docs

Google Docs ( has evolved to the point where it is a viable alternative to desktop word processors (see 10 Reasons to Love Google Docs and 6 Tips for Writing Your Thesis in Google Docs). It works completely in the cloud, so that you can access your documents from anywhere, on any device, even without an Internet connection. Documents are easily shared and editable by multiple people simultaneously. In addition, an increasing number of add-on tools make Google Docs an even more powerful solution for writing research papers. This post discusses some of the tools and add-ons that will help you write your research paper using Google Docs.

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Introduction to Geographic Information Systems Using QGIS

A GIS (Geographic Information System) is a computer application designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data, in addition to composing and printing maps. It combines a traditional database with a visual display of map features, such as points (e.g. houses), lines (e.g. streams and rivers), and polygons (enclosed areas such as lakes, habitat types, and town boundaries). A GIS can also incorporate image data, such as remote sensing imagery of the earth taken from satellites or aircraft, scanned paper maps, georeferenced drawings, etc. External data residing in spreadsheet, database, or plain-text files can also be mapped in a GIS as long as the data include geographic coordinates or can be joined with data that do. In addition, GIS software can access map layers from server-based databases and Internet Web Map Services (WMS).

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The Plain Text Workflow

(Microsoft Word must die.)

The Plain Text Workflow is an alternative to writing with a word processor. Mind you, I said writing, not typesetting or formatting, which is a major part of what word processors do. The idea of the plain text workflow is that you separate the act of writing from that of producing a formatted, typeset final document. You initially capture your words using a plain text editor, perhaps using a lightweight formatting language like Markdown. Then, using freely-available software such as pandoc, you translate your plain text document into whatever file format you need to provide (to a colleague, reviewer, literary agent, journal editor, blog post, email, website, etc.), be it Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, PDF, HTML, or whatever. You might also bring this translated file into your word processor to continue tweaking the formatting. However, your original words are captured in one or more plain text files, which remain the source from which various other document formats flow. With the plain text workflow, you work in plain text, and all of those other document formats are outputs from your plain text source document.

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