What to do if your Impress slideshows are slow?

Updated: September 3, 2010

Here's a simple situation for you: You create an Impress presentation, rich with fancy graphics and powerful statements, everything you need to convince your boss that you ought to get a nice bonus at the end of the year. Then, you hit F5 to start the presentation and you hit a snag. Well, no so much as a snag, more of a triple row of needle-sharp stakes and a whole field of caltrops and bouncing mines.

The presentation is crawling slower than a rheumatic snail. You try to advance through the slides, but it takes many tens of seconds for the slides to switch. Mouse clicks, cursor keys, nothing seems to work. Transition effects are painfully slow. The entire system feels completely unresponsive and you have no idea why.


What to do? How do you solve a problem like this 15 minutes before the presentation begins? Not to worry, I'm here to help you earn that bonus - don't forget to donate a fraction of it, though.


Step 1: Try another machine

This won't solve your problem, but it could give you an indication of what's wrong. If the same file plays smoothly on a machine of similar characteristics as yours, then you know you have a localized problem related to your computer and operating system and not the file itself. Solving it might not be easy, but at least, you won't have to fiddle with the file format or the content.

If the presentations fails universally on all machines, go to step 2.

Step 2: Disable unneeded components

You might want to consider disabling macros, Java and additional components that could slow down the execution. Another option is saving the presentation in different formats, including older version of OpenOffice or even Microsoft PPT format, although you may lose some of the formatting in the process.

The likelihood of an extremely badly prepared presentation with slides merged from the seven corners of the world, each in its unique and ugly style, impairing the functionality of the program are not that high. But it can happen. It used to be a problem in the past, but it is no longer an issue with modern software and new operating systems.

A quick check list of things to look through ...

Java Runtime Environment (JRE):


Visual Basic code:


Security & Macros:


Macros level

If neither of these helps, try for step 3.

Step 3: Hardware acceleration and anti-aliasing

Believe it or not, OpenOffice tries to make good use of the graphic card to help with the crunching of more graphic-intensive parts of your presentations. However, if you have a very old card, this could become the bottleneck of the entire execution.

I had this problem on T42, adorned with an ATI card. Hardware itself was OK, but with no drivers supported in the latest version of Ubuntu, I was forced to use the open-source alternative drivers, which, frankly, are horrible. The open-source drivers offer 2D stuff, at best, and even so, the performance gain is marginal.

In this case, what you want to do is disable the use of hardware acceleration and let software handle everything. This will increase the memory usage and the CPU utilization a little, but you will get your snappy presentation back.



I've tested the effects of enabling/disabling hardware acceleration and anti-aliasing on a total of four laptops, with just one running with a decent graphic card. In the three cases where I had to do with open-source drivers, presentations would run extremely slowly. Disabling the two components did the desired effect. On the high-end machine running proprietary drivers for the Nvidia 9600GS card, things worked well either way.


So there you go, the simple solutions to get that annual bonus after all.

I don't have any grand conclusion for this rather short yet extremely useful howto, so I should probably wrap it now. No, wait! I do have something to say after all.

Creating presentations has become the modern weapon, from the marketing whiz to the bespectacled geek. And it's used in all the wrong ways, as a replacement for the speaker rather than a complementary additive. If you want to present your ideas, it does not have to be the dorky, old-fashioned slideshow. You could use Wink or maybe recordMyDesktop to capture the action on your desktop, video, audio and whatnot. You could create a sexy Web page and sprinkle it with Flash animations. Or perhaps use something like Slidy.

Office suites can be fun, but you can do so much better.