I am currently working on the talk slides for my thesis proposal. My preferred presentation medium is LaTeX Beamer – a documentclass for generating slides. It gives you access to the usual selection of excellent LaTeX tools. Many argue that most of what LaTeX gives you is exactly what you do not want in a presentation:
- Ease of content generation without worrying about formatting
- Easy abuse of well-typeset math
- Lots of bullet points
While it is true that you can use these tools to make the standard Awful Beamer Presentation, you can also ignore those things and make good presentations. Currently, I do not actually have much text at all (and zero bullet points); instead, I mostly have diagrams and illustrations. I could have made all of the diagrams in TikZ, but that can be a little tedious. I have been using Inkscape, which is actually really good and a lot of fun.
That is not really the important point here, though. I also have many short source code listings in the presentation. For papers, I usually stick to the listings package. However, it is not very appealing for presentations because it is very painful to get properly syntax-highlighted code listings out of it. Instead, I much prefer minted, which uses the excellent pygments program to do the actual syntax highlighting. Both of these packages work very well, except for one small problem when combined with Beamer: the output of both tools is fragile. My understanding is that this means that the content cannot be moved freely. Beamer has provisions to work around this, though. A slide can optionally be marked as fragile, which changes the method LaTeX uses to process it.
This works and fragile content like code listings can be embedded as one would expect. However, there is a major restriction: fragile slides cannot have overlays. Overlays are the mechanism by which Beamer allows content in a single logical slide to be hidden or progressively revealed. They are a major workhorse of a Beamer presentation, so this restriction is unpleasant. I only found the solution yesterday in some presentation, and this post is mostly to make sure I remember it. The idea is to construct the fragile content outside of a slide, save it, and then use it in a slide as desired later.
Note that the slide is not marked as fragile and overlays will work as expected. Anyway, I thought it was pretty useful and very under-documented. One warning: be very careful to put the end tag for the fragile environment (listings, minted, etc) on its own line. In particular, the closing brace of the macro being defined to hold the fragile content should come on a separate line from the end of the environment. The terrifying things LaTeX does to construct some of these pieces of fragile content seems to depend on the end of the environment being on its own line. The error messages that it produces when this is not the case are, as always in LaTeX, completely useless.