Tom MacWright


Big is a presentation system that I wrote for doing my own talks. It’s a sharply focused tool that’s tailored to a minimalist presentation - which some call the Takahashi or Lessig method.

The Future of Mapping

slides from my talk for WhereCampBoston

It has some special characteristics:

It’s very small - 42 lines of Javascript code, currently. This is with minimal golfing - it’s still readable, because it simply isn’t doing all that much. The most art or cleverness that it’s ever required was figuring out that text should start huge and go smaller until it was small enough - otherwise you’ll always have a line breaking on the last iteration. Lesson learned.


It’s embeddable on a single page. The quickstart is


It’s weirdly attractive. White Helvetica on black, as large as it can go. The restrictions on styling and complete ignorance of monitor size are meant to deal with the trials of bad VGA projectors and conference wifi. Choose your own images, and if they’re too bright to be read on white text, crack open Photoshop and darken them. There’s really not much to it.

It doesn’t adapt to large blocks of text. It forces you into a writing and presentation style.

Oh, and it works embedded in <iframe>s: below is a big presentation. Click to advance.

Thanks to an unfortunate travel schedule recently, I added onhashchange support so that your back button works, and touch support so it works on iPhones and iPads. Which means: a tap means advance the slide. There’s no back button yet.

I think it could be cool to keep pushing Big to be cleaner, smaller, and more usable. Another nice thing is that a slide in HTML looks like <div>Hello</div>. That’s it: a <div>. You can copy & paste them as you wish, and it’ll work. So despite being a nerd’s presentation sytem, there’s no real HTML knowledge required.

Mainly it needs PDF export, which I think can be done with a headless WebKit, but wkhtmltopdf is horribly slow to compile, so I haven’t experimented with it, or its JavaScript support. Previously I used showoff for presentations - which worked okay, and eventually grew PDF export, but very buggy PDFs.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a less absurd presentation system, by all means please use the awesome deck.js.

So kick the tires. It’s open source, public domain.