True story: my very first Presenter project was super-rushed, super-disorganized, and I gave precious little thought to how I managed my files. The result? A jumbled mess of folders and files that proved to be as chaotic as a battle scene from Braveheart, and only slightly less violent.
I've learned a thing or two since then, and while there's no single "right" way to manage files, the way you do it can have a big impact on your productivity (and your frustration level). Putting some thought into file management could save you the pain of sifting through a maddening hodgepodge of files and folders, or trying to recover something you thought you had saved, or trying to troubleshoot a publishing problem that could've easily been prevented.
Here we'll look at one approach. Many developers use a method like this one because it keeps things tidy and easy-to-find, while also making sure that Presenter has the files it needs to publish your presentation successfully. It also keeps all your files nicely organized so that it's easy to archive your finished project when you're all done.
Step 1: Establish Your Project Folder and Subfolders
- When I begin a new project, I start by creating a new project folder on my computer to house all the files related to that project:
- Within that new project folder, I create some sub-folders:
- Project History — Here's where I keep project-management-type stuff. These aren't the files that become part of my presentation; they're important project-related items I want to save for reference, like the contract or project agreement, my SMEs' review comments, copyright permissions, project meeting notes, or anything else that might be important down the road. Depending on how complex the project is, often I'll also include a file called readme.doc in which I document the files used in the project and any anomalies, in case someone other than me has to open and update the project in the future.
- Published Output —This is the location where I publish my presentation when I'm done building it.
- Source Files — This is where I keep my PowerPoint file, as well as any other original files I use for building my presentation.
Step 2: Create and Manage Your Files
- When it's time to start developing, I create and save my PowerPoint file in my Source Files folder. Presenter creates a .PPTA file to go along with it, like you see here: The .PPTA file contains data about anything you add to your presentation, such as audio, movies, web objects, attachments, your template information, and other important stuff needed for publishing. It's critical you keep your PowerPoint file and the related .PPTA in the same folder, because Presenter looks for the .PPTA when you publish. If the two files aren't together in the same folder, you won't be able to publish properly.
- Most of my presentations include images, movies, or audio that I import into Presenter. When I insert these into my presentation, Presenter embeds them and they become part of my .PPTA file. But if I need to edit something and re-insert it — or if I want to find a file later and re-use it somewhere else — I need the original. So I keep all these things in an Assets subfolder under Source Files. And if I have a lot of assets, I often subdivide things even further — in the right-hand column below you can see I've created separate subfolders under Assets for my audio, images, and video files:
- If I decide to use an Engage interaction or quiz in my presentation, I create subfolders for these too, under Source Files. When I'm building the interaction or quiz for this project, I make sure to save to this location.
Step 3: Publish
Once I've finished building my presentation and am ready to publish, here's what I do:
- Click Publish on the Articulate menu.
- Choose one of the publishing options from the left edge of the window.
- For the Publish Location, I choose the folder I created earlier called Published Output. (You can click the ellipses button next to the location field to browse to this location.)
- Click Publish.
Presenter creates my published presentation in the folder I specified. From there, I can move the published files to their final destination (such as a web server, network, or LMS).
How's This Different from Creating an Articulate Package?
When I'm done with my project and have made it available to my users, I usually zip the entire project folder and archive it. And speaking of archiving, you might be wondering how all this is different from creating an Articulate Package.
Glad you asked! The Articulate Package is indeed a good option for archiving or backup, if all you need to do in the future is open your presentation and republish. An Articulate package doesn't, however, contain other important things that you might need — such as originals of your assets — nor does it contain any of your project-management-type stuff that might be important to you, like SME review comments, project notes, and the like. Many developers opt to create an Articulate Package and bundle this with the rest of their project files. That's a good practice, as it allows you to quickly reopen the files needed for re-creating the published output, but if you need more than that, you still have access to your other project files too. I'd rather err on the side of archiving too much than not enough.
One More Tip
Once you create a file-management structure you like, you can save time by creating a boilerplate project folder and subfolders on your hard drive. Then, whenever you start a new project, just copy and rename the project folder to match your project.