Beyond "Presenter View": How to Best Use the Notes Field with Dual Monitor Presentations in PowerPoint 2003, © 2006-2008 by John M. Smart
(This article may be excerpted or reproduced in its entirety for noncommercial purposes.)

Update (2008)

A functional Presenter View has been included in Microsoft's PowerPoint 2007 ($95 upgrade at Amazon, for PowerPoint alone). Microsoft finally gave professional speakers software that allows us to have private, online notes synchronized with each of our slides. But before you go running to install that product you should know three important things: First, if you are a PowerPoint 2003 user seeking to get this feature you will be saddled with the cognitive overhead of having to learn PowerPoint 2007, with marginal benefits for the majority of those who already know and are good at using PowerPoint 2003. PowerPoint/Office's 2007 ribbon interface is quite irritating to learn for PowerPoint 2003 users (there are third party plugins to get the classic 2003 skin but they don't help all that much). Second, remember that Microsoft doesn't allow PowerPoint 2003 and 2007 to exist on the same computer. They force you to install only one or the other on your machine. Third, don't think you can use PowerPoint 2007 on your laptop (for display) and your familiar 2003 on your desktop (to create and edit your presentations) without the following limitation. If you create anything in PowerPoint 2007 on your laptop, even using the 2003 compatible file type, it often won't display properly in PowerPoint 2003, and sometimes vice versa. So you if you install PowerPoint 2007 on your laptop to use its Presenter View you really shouldn't use your laptop to make or edit slides (unacceptable for most of us), or as I said, they won't display properly in PowerPoint 2003 (you'll get random font, size and italics changes when you try to import slides from your 2003 into your 2007 slide decks. Ouch.)

So if you stick with PowerPoint and Office 2003 products as I have, because you don't want the performance hits and hassles of Office 2007, are able to wait patiently on speedy and simple Windows XP for a speedy and simple Google OS 2010, and want something better than the nonfunctional Presenter View that comes with PowerPoint 2003, then the workaround described in this article is what you want. It works just fine if you follow the steps below. I wish you the very best with your presentations!


Microsoft PowerPoint (2003 and earlier) is the world's leading presentation software. One of PowerPoint's important features, the Notes field, allows the user to add notes below each slide of their presentation, so that these notes can be read or skimmed during one's presentation. Unfortunately few of us know how to do this, even though having digital notes next to each slide allows us to have visually cleaner slides (with details viewable only by the speaker), and a significantly more fact and quote-filled presentation.

One of the reasons so few of us use digital notes with our slides is because we have a mistaken belief that there's only one way to do it in PowerPoint 2003, and the way that most of us know, "Presenter View," just isn't worth using for most speakers. Presenter View was created to allow presenters to be able to see their notes and slides at the same time, yet it is such a poorly designed feature that most presenters find it of little practical use.

Many PowerPoint users assume Presenter View is the only option for displaying presenter notes and audience slides simultaneously, so they never discover a practical solution. Fortunately there is a great and easy-to-learn alternative, Dual Monitor Presentation, that allows you to add extensive readable notes with each slide and that has only one trap, which is relatively easily avoided. After reading this brief tutorial you'll be on your way to a much more effective way of writing and giving your PowerPoint presentations.


Setting up PowerPoint's Presenter View is covered well in this helpful article on Michael Hyatt's Working Smart blog. For people with very good eyesight who have only the briefest of notes accompanying each slide, and who don't mind having to stand next to their laptop during their entire presentation, Presenter View is for some a marginal improvement over desktop "cloning," which is the most common setup where the presenter sees the same thing on their laptop that the audience sees on the big screen. With cloning, any notes you may have must be on paper next to your presentation, and manually flipped as you advance your slides.

Presenter View is commonly touted as a solution to this problem, but Presenter's notes screen is very small and unresizable, and the notes font is very small and light, and can't be bolded or enlarged. For many, that makes this feature unusable during a presentation. One final problem is that wireless clickers are dysfunctional in Presenter View. Instead of advancing slides, they advance the notes page up or down, which keeps you from being able to walk around the room while you're giving your presentation.

Fortunately a great alternative exists, though few presenters know about it in my experience. It is called Dual (or Multi) Monitor Mode (DMM). If you are using a newer laptop that has either a PCI or AGP video card (unfortunately not PCMCIA) driving each monitor, this option will work for you. What it does is allow you to run PowerPoint's Normal view on your laptop monitor, while you are running a Slide Show view on Monitor 2 (the audience monitor or LCD projector). As long as you are careful with how you use your mouse during your presentation (see our "Avoiding a Common Presentation Problem" at the bottom of this article for a common but very easily fixed problem), you will be able to freely advance and reverse your Monitor 2 slides and your Normal view on the laptop will stay synchronized (magic!) with your Slide Show view on Monitor 2. (PS: To get synchronization, your Normal view on the laptop may also need to be in full screen display mode (click the two little overlapping boxes next to the Close Box ("X") in the upper right corner of your PowerPoint window on your laptop).

Here are the main advantages of using Normal view on your reading monitor/laptop, while displaying in Dual Monitor Mode:

• In Normal view, you can drag your Notes window dividers as high and as wide as you want, letting you see and refer to an extensive set of notes for each slide. You now have space for a speech, supporting data, quotes, etc., usually without having to scroll, while still having room for a thumbnail of each slide above the notes, as well as thumbnails of the slides coming after it appearing in the vertical window to the left.

• Another advantage is that you can now boldface your notes to make them readable while you are standing at the podium. Boldface is nice, but some speakers will want their notes even bigger. You can't change the notes point size or font style, but you can change their display size (How Unintutive!!!). Here's how to do it: In Normal view, first click inside the notes window, then go up to the Zoom box near the center of the taskbar at the top of the window. The default setting will be 100%. Now change it to 150%. Great, isn't it? You can click inside all three of the Normal view "windowpanes" and set the Zoom level for each pane to whatever you want. I prefer 25% for my top slide window (the minimum is 21%), 50% for my left vertical slides window, and 150% for my notes window, with notes in boldface. If you don't know your slides that well, try 35% for your top slide window, which lets you read off of them (though reading directly off your slides is not the best idea for presentations). That still leaves a lot of room for notes. Your settings will vary depending on the size of your laptop screen (or desktop main screen if you are using a dual monitor desktop setup). The bigger and higher resolution your laptop screen, the more notes you can see below each slide while also being able to see the slide as you give your presentation. Its as simple as that.

• You can now use your wireless clicker to advance the slides, which frees you to walk around the room whenever you don't need your notes. My favorite wireless clicker is the $50 Kensington Wireless Pocket Presenter with Laser Pointer, pictured right. It feels good in the hand and the coin battery will take you through many months of presentations and fails gracefully (nevertheless, you might buy and carry a backup)

• If you are a good multitasker, you can even run other things on your laptop screen/main screen in Dual Monitor Mode, in open windows next to your PowerPoint window. You might run a stopwatch or countdown timer, but I prefer using my digital watch, which has the advantage of going around the room with me (there are also wireless clickers with timers if you don't wear a watch). You might also run an internet window, a chat window, or Excel. The choices are endless!

How to set up Dual Monitor Mode (DMM)

Below are my own nontechnical directions for 1) Basic Setup and 2) Advanced Setup of Dual Monitor Mode, based on Windows XP and PowerPoint 2003, in my case. If you have any interest in automating the process of setting up a second screen, OR if you ever run into display problems when you hook up your laptop to a second monitor using the Basic Setup, I strongly recommend learning the Advanced Setup. For some problems, Advanced Setup is the only solution, and it is very handy once you've learned it.

1. Basic Setup of Dual Monitor Mode: The Display Properties > Settings Dialog Box

For the quick and dirty solution, hook up Monitor 2 to the VGA port on your laptop (Monitor 2 is the audience monitor or your second monitor at home, if you want to test the setup). Right click your laptop screen and select Properties, which brings up your Display Properties dialog box. Click the Settings tab at the top right, and you'll see Monitor 1 and 2 icons. Monitor 1 should be your laptop screen, and Monitor 2 your audience display screen.

If you are using a dual screen desktop (where the second screen is a projector) click the "Identify" button if you aren't sure which is which. Using your mouse, drag the second monitor to whichever side of Monitor 1 you prefer, so that surfing your cursor between the two screens is intuitive. Now check the box in the lower right that reads "Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor." Click "OK."

Now you've created an extended screen that includes both monitors. If the "Extend my Windows desktop.." option is greyed out, go to the "Display" box and see if you can select your secondary monitor. As soon as you do that, the option will no longer be grey.

If you don't see your desktop wallpaper on Monitor 2 as well as 1, you may need to restart your computer and try again. Again, make sure Monitor 1 is your notebook (or main desktop screen if you are using a desktop) and Monitor 2 is your secondary display. In the very unlikely case that your main screen identifies as "2", you will need to click the Advanced button, then the Graphics Media Accelerating Driver tab, then the Graphics Properties button, then click the setting for Extended Desktop and make sure your Primary Device is set to "Notebook" and Secondary Device is set to "Monitor."

Once you have two monitors on an extended screen, the next step is to set up PowerPoint on your computer so that your slide show will display on two monitors. Open PowerPoint or any PowerPoint file, go to the Slide Show menu, and drag down to "Set Up Show." The following Dialog Box will open:

In the Multiple Monitors box, notice that the default will be to display your slide show on "Primary Monitor". Click the down arrow and drag down to select "Secondary Monitor" or "Monitor 2 Plug and Play Monitor." Click OK. You can leave this setting as a default, and whenever your laptop is hooked up to a secondary monitor, it will use that as the display. When it isn't, it will simply use your laptop screen as the display.

From this point forward (until you change this preference back on this laptop) whenever you select View > Slide Show (or click on the tiny Slide Show icon in the lower left corner of your PowerPoint window, just above the "Draw" feature) your slide show will appear on Monitor 2, and you can display whatever you want on Monitor 1. In your taskbar, you'll see two PowerPoint tabs (or two icons under one tab). The first, "Microsoft PowerPoint," drives your laptop display of PowerPoint. The second, "PowerPoint Slide Show," drives your Monitor 2 display of the Slide Show. Your mouse cursor is now able to float between two screens, your laptop (Monitor 1) and your audience display (Monitor 2).

Now comes the fun part!

When you set up PowerPoint to display in the View > Normal mode, and ONLY in this view, whenever you are driving the Slide Show (your cursor is clicked on Monitor 2, or on the "PowerPoint Slide Show" tab), your laptop view will stay synchronized with what you see on the screen.

Oh thank Bill Gates! (Or maybe not.) You can now finally have readable onscreen digital notes to go with each of your slides in your presentations! Note that this synchronization won't work in the "Notes Page" view, which would have been a nice option for folks with small primary/laptop monitors. It works ONLY in the "Normal" view. Furthermore, "Normal" view on the laptop may also need to be in full screen display mode (click the two little overlapping boxes next to the Close Box ("X") in the upper right corner of your PowerPoint window on your laptop).

Also, note that you can easily mess this synchronization up during your presentation (see "Avoiding a Common Presentation Problem" below), so you need to able to recognize and guard against that during an important talk.

Read that section and you're done with this article! If you want more optional technobabble, you can also read the "Advanced Setup" stuff below as well, but I don't recommend it on the first go-round.


2. Advanced Setup of Dual Monitor Mode: IGMADM Dialog Box and the Saving of Your Display Schemes

Does your notebook or monitor display sometimes change to a funny size when you hook the two up? Would you like to stop that silliness? Would you like to make your notebook smarter, so that it can automatically detect the presence or absence of your second monitor, and you don't have to think about these graphic issues again? You know, the way these should have been designed in the first place?

If you have a newer Windows/Intel notebook computer with Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver for Mobile (which we will refer to from here on out by the lovely IGMADM acronym, for short) you can bypass the Basic Setup instructions and graduate right to the head of the class. If you don't have this (we will find out shortly), go ask a techie and maybe they'll give you another solution.

As mentioned, sometimes when you hook up your computer to an external monitor or LCD projector, and then push the "Fn" and "F7" keys, you will discover to your irritation that your laptop and/or audience screen has resized itself to a smaller proportion. To make things worse, the images on one or both of these screens may now be squished horizontally, so you and/or your audience can't easily read the words anymore. This happens when the screen on your laptop is a different size than the default screen on your monitor, and Windows gets confused. If this ever happens to you, or if you want to prevent it from happening, we need to bring out the heavy guns, your Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver for Mobile dialog box.

Here's what to do: Right click your laptop screen and select Properties, which brings up your Display Properties dialog box. Click the Settings tab at the top right. Now, click the "Advanced" button in the lower left. On the next screen, look for a tab that reads Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver for Mobile (IGMADM). If you have this tab, great. If not, ask someone else for a solution, as I unfortunately can no longer help you.

Click the IGMADM tab, and when the screen opens, check the box at the bottom that says Show Tray Icon. That will put an icon for the IGMADM dialog box down in your Graphics Tray (lower right hand corner of your screen) so you can access it directly from there from now on, saving you multiple clicks in the future. Next, Click the Graphics Properties button. Congratulations, you have now left Windows and arrived at the inner sanctum, IGMADM, the master control center for your laptop's graphic display activity!

Next, click the Display Devices tab on the left side of the IGMADM box. On this page, make sure the button is set on Multiple Display, Extended Desktop (NOT Intel Dual Display Clone, and NIETHER of the Single Display settings). To do this, you'll need to click on the corrrect little white circle to make it black. In the Primary Device box to the right, make sure the setting reads Notebook. Change it if it doesn't. In the the Secondary Device box, make the setting read Monitor. Sometimes the settings in these two boxes will get reversed (they have a mind of their own), and you don't want that. Your Primary Monitor should always be your Notebook. That's easy to remember.

Now, click the Display Settings tab on the left side of the IGMADM box. This is a very powerful dialog box. It lets you tell your computer what resolution to use on both your Notebook and your Monitor screens. This will unsquish and resize both your screens, and thankfully, what you do here overrides everything else. Also, this is an intelligent box. It can tell whether or not you have an external monitor hooked up while you are using it. If you don't have one hooked up, the tab at the top of the box will read "Notebook and Monitor." If you do, you will see two tabs at the top of this box, one reading "Notebook" and one reading Monitor". If you don't have a second monitor or LCD projector hooked up to your laptop right now, you need to get one hooked up. There are two ways to do this. One, you can buy or borrow a second monitor for use with your laptop at home, which I recommend highly (buy a 19" LCD monitor for your desk), or two, you can arrive 20 minutes early to your presentation room, hook up to their LCD projector/monitor, and you can finish the steps below.

Hooked up to a second monitor? Now reopen the IGMADM box, and click to the Display Settings tab on the left. You should now see both a Notebook and a Monitor tab at the top. Click the Notebook tab, and set your Notebook's default settings. First set Color Quality. I set mine to 32 bit, though some laptops only work with 16 bit. You will see that 32 is prettier if your laptop supports it. Now set your Screen Resolution. My laptop has a rectangular screen, very wide but not very high, so my "native setting" is 1366 (pixels wide) x 768 (pixels high). Yours may be different (especially if your screen is "squarish" rather than rectangular), and more than one setting may work for you. Each will have different type size and resolution on your screen. Try a setting, then click the "Apply" button on the bottom right of the screen, and see what it looks like. Hit the "Cancel" button until you find one that fills your screen and is easy to read. Now set your Refresh Rate. Mine is set to 60 Hertz, and my Display Expansion button is set to Center Desktop. Now do the same thing with your Monitor tab, setting the default settings for the monitor display you are connected to. The settings I use for my Monitor/LCD projector are: Color Quality, 16 bit (32 bit isn't supported by some LCD projectors, so keep this on 16 bit). Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768. This is the standard 4:3 aspect ratio used on standard TVs and LCD projectors/big monitors. You could probably also use 800 x 600, but your display would look grainy and rough. Set it for the higher resolution instead. Refresh Rate: 60 Hertz. Display Expansion button: Maintain Aspect Ratio. Now click "Apply." Does the Monitor display look good? If so, click "Yes".

Now let's save these settings so you don't have to do all this again!

Click the "Scheme Options" button in the upper right corner. Name this scheme in the upper right box. I would call it "My Laptop Connected to a Typical Monitor". Click the "Save" button, then "OK" if necessary. Now, unhook the monitor from your laptop, close and reopen IGMADM, go to Display Settings tab, and see if your Notebook and Monitor settings are set to the ones you normally use on your Notebook. If not, change them and click "Apply". Once you get to what they should normally be, click the "Scheme Options" button, and name this scheme. I would call it "My Laptop Only". Click the "Save" button, then "OK" if necessary.

Congratulations! You now have your two most typical display schemes saved in your computer's memory. You have just made your laptop considerably smarter. Every time you hook up your laptop to an external monitor, either on your desk, or as an LCD projector, it will automatically detect it and use the external display. No more anxious fiddling with "Display Properties > Settings" just before your presentation again! When you unhook the display after your presentation, or whenever you take your laptop on the road, leaving your the second screen on the desk at home, again it will now automatically detect that you've gone back to the My Laptop Only setting. No more losing your cursor on an "Extended Desktop" setting you forgot to change back when you disconnected the second screen! You can access these schemes from your Graphics Tray (lower right laptop menu) now as well. Click on the little display icon down there, and you'll see a "Select Scheme" option. You can use that from now on to toggle back and forth between showing things on two screens or just on your laptop, even when your second screen is still hooked up to your computer (in other words, you can override the automatic detection). Go ahead, try it. Feels good to have control over this display voodoo finally, eh?

Couldn't figure out my directions? Try some other sources:

Dual Monitors and PowerPoint, Paul Lordanides, PPTools
Running Power Point Presentations on Two Monitors, Epson Presenters Online
Tips and Tricks: Double Monitor Display, Dr Nitin Paranjape, Express Computer
Dual Monitor Mode and Display Management on Dell Notebooks, Santa Clara U

Before we end, let's describe the solution to a common presentation problem using DMM. It's very easy to fix, but you'll want to know this in advance so you don't get in trouble during the big show.


Avoiding a Common Presentation Problem: Screen Freeze in Dual Monitor Mode

PowerPoint will keep both your laptop and screen slides will remain synchronized only if you remain in PowerPoint Slide Show mode during your presentation. If you accidentally move your cursor back to your laptop / primary monitor display at any point during your presentation and click anywhere, or alternatively, if you click on the "Microsoft PowerPoint" tab in the taskbar, your slides and notes will continue to advance in Normal view on your main screen/laptop screen, BUT your Monitor 2 slides (audience slides) will stay frozen at the point where you clicked away. Also, if you don't click on a picture element in your presentation BEFORE you select presentation mode, the two screens may not synchronize. Finally, if you hit F7 too early, the projector and laptop display may not synchronize. Depending on your content, speaking style, and audience awareness, it could be quite a while before you discover the problem.


Once you catch your mistake, you'll need to surf your cursor back to Monitor 2 and click on it anywhere OR click on the "PowerPoint Slide Show" tab in your taskbar. At this point your laptop slides will resynch with Monitor 2's (audience) slides, which will now display the next slide after the one previously displayed on Monitor 2. This is probably a safety feature, as it keeps the audience from skipping any slides. But it can be embarassing to talk for several minutes, with your slides advancing on your laptop but frozen on the audience monitor, then discover you've lost synch and have to backtrack. It might even blow your presentation if your timing is tight.

You can prevent this from happening by always being very conscious of what you do with your mouse, but if you want one easy way to stay out of trouble, once you have your presentation set up, just don't touch your mouse or touchpad at all during your talk.

Advance or reverse your slides using only the arrow keys on your laptop, or better yet, advance with a wireless clicker and laser pointer. The wireless clicker will free you from having to touch your computer at all, let you point at things on the screen with your laser, and free you to walk around the room and among your audience whenever you have slides that don't have notes you need to look at.

OK grasshopper, I have taught you all I know. You are now a Master of Display Disaster (MDD, for short). Spread your hard won wisdom far and wide...

Have fun, smile, and knock them out with your great presentations!

Omissions? Mistakes? Feedback? Reach me at johnsmart{at}accelerating{dot}org.
Thanks to Ed Pembleton and Thomas Schultz for helpful improvements to this article.