Presentation Remotes

Published 18 years, 1 month past

This one will be of interest to the dozen or so of you who regularly give presentations that involve some sort of (Powerpoint, Keynote, S5, whatever) slide show.

Just before An Event Apart Philadelphia, I went out and bought a Keyspan Presentation Remote.  I picked this particular make and model because I’d used one at Web Essentials 05 and it’s programmable, which always hooks me.  It also has the ability to control the mouse pointer, change the audio volume, and more.  So I bought one.

Bad move.  As attendees of An Event Apart can tell you, we had problem after problem with the damn thing, both with the default settings and with the customized configuration I’d set up.  It turns out the remote has two “modes”, and the default mode can be only partly reprogrammed.  Sadly, it won’t stay in the alternate mode.  If you don’t interact with the remote for a minute or so, it goes back to default mode, which means it stops doing what it’s supposed to do (advance slides).  We ended up just not using it.

While I was at IceWeb, I borrowed Molly‘s (or maybe it was Andy‘s) Kensington Pocket Presenter to deliver my talk.  This little baby is simple as anything: largish back and forth keys that map to Page Up and Page Down, a red button for the laser pointer, and a “stop” button that blanks the screen in supporting applications.  That’s it.  And that’s what makes it great.  Even better, the USB receiver slides into a storage slot in the remote itself, and doing so turns the whole thing off, is pure genius.  It fits easily in the hand, both in terms of size and shape.  It’s the iPod of presentation controllers, designed to do one thing and do it very well.  It’s enough to make me reconsider my whole “one device to rule them all” stance.

I picked one up at the Apple Store the other night for not much more than it costs at your favorite online discount e-store, and I couldn’t be happier.  The one little quirk I noticed was that the first time I plugged one of these into my PowerBook (running Tiger), the system said I was plugging in a new keyboard.  I dismissed the dialog box, and it’s worked without a hiccup ever since.

So: Keyspan remote bad, Kensington remote good.  Of course, if you really need a presentation remote that can do a convincing impression of a slow-moving mouse driven by an Etch-A-Sketch interface, then you may disagree with me on this one.  Me, I’d rather just have a slide controller, and if I need to do something with the mouse, I’ll walk over to the computer and use the mouse.  Shocking!

Comments (14)

  1. Even easier is to use your mobile phone and Salling Clicker!

  2. Only if you have a Bluetooth or wifi enabled phone, Richard. I don’t.

  3. I think I still prefer mashing the space bar to advance. I’ve only ever had a miserable experience with remotes, and even with a great one, you still end up having to juggle the thing while gesticulating.

  4. If you have a new MacBook Pro, you can use the included Apple Remote with Keynote. Just make sure to put the remote in “secure mode” so that nobody else can control your presentation.

  5. Eric,

    If, in the future, you get you get the “new keyboard” prompt when plugging in the USB dongle, go to /System/Library/CoreServices and rename something else. I’ve eradicated all of those pesky prompts on our presentation Macs that way.

  6. Hi Eric,

    as I was the one who forced you to use the original Kensington, I’d better step into its defence ;-)

    I use it all the time, and I’ve not had the problem. All I really use it for is forward and back, which I think is the standard mode – yes, you are right, I think it falls out of advanced mode if you’ve not used it for some minutes.

    The Keyspan also works as a mouse (though, in reality, it is not much fun to use.)

    I love th eidea of Sailing Clicker, but I’ve seen it fall over before, and I HATE fuss with my equipment while I’m presenting.

    I’ll give the Kensington one a whirl soon. Always on the lookout for new toys


  7. Hi Eric,

    I’ve been using the Kensington remote since the Fall semester and I total agree with your comment about it being the iPod of presentation remotes. In fact, I had it in my bag the day you visited my class. The only complaint that I would have about this product is that occasionally I attempt to put the usb dongle back in to the remote upside down and it has a tendancy to get stuck. But that would be mainly user error.

  8. The mac remote does a great job for me.

  9. I’ve been using the Targus PAUM30U for a little over a yeah now and I really like it. I can switch easily between page-up/page-down mode and using it like a normal 2-button mouse. It’s not a small or flashy as the Kensington one, but it works pretty nicely and is a little cheaper. It also comes with an extension cable for the USB adapter in case you use a laptop with a tight squeeze around the USB port (like my old one).

  10. Eric,

    I spent 4 years running IT at The National Judicial college. In that time we went through a ton of remotes and the best one (by far) was the Global Presenter by Interlink. I seem to recall that there was something about it being addressed so you could run another in a room nearby without any interference, although I can’t seem to find that info now. These are small enough to carry along, large enough that they fit nicely into your hand and they have a nice heft to them. We never had any problems in 2+ years of using them. They are a litlte pricey – over $150 but our faculty could walk right in and use them again and again.

  11. I see you’ve taken to spamming (Make money fast Xoftspy, etc.). What’s that all about?

  12. Just bought a load of the kensingtons, simple, easy to use – no brainer. However two issues : 1 minor – as mentioned, the usb dongle got stuck as it can be inserted upside down. 2 medium to major – This depends on how you use your system. Just started upgrading to HP NC6220 laptops which are dual display capable. Switch to dual display and use PPT in “Presentation Mode” and Page up and down no longer advance slides but scroll notes screen 1. Therefore the kingston cannot be used in the mode.

  13. I was wondering if you still use this remote, or if you have upgraded to a Bluetooth model?

    Do you still think it’s great?


  14. Harold, I don’t have that model any more (it was one of the things stolen from me in Amsterdam) but I use its successor, the K33373. I like the form factor of the original a little but more, but the K33373 is decent enough in the hand, and it works just as well as did the older model. So, yeah, I still think it’s great.

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