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ShowOff Presentation Software

ShowOff is a Sinatra web app that reads simple configuration files for a presentation. It is sort of like a Keynote web app engine - think S5 + Slidedown. I am using it to do all my talks in 2010, because I have a deep hatred in my heart for Keynote and yet it is by far the best in the field.

The idea is that you setup your markdown slide files in section subdirectories and then startup the showoff server in that directory. It will read in your showoff.json file for which sections go in which order and then will give you a URL to present from.

It can:

  • show simple text

  • show images

  • show syntax highlighted code

  • bullets with incremental advancing

  • re-enact command line interactions

  • call up a menu of sections/slides at any time to jump around

  • execute javascript or ruby live and display results

  • do simple transitions (instant, fade, slide in)

It might will can:

  • show a timer - elapsed / remaining

  • perform simple animations of images moving between keyframes

  • show syncronized, hidden notes on another browser (like an iphone)

  • show audience questions / comments (twitter or direct)

  • let audience members go back / catch up as you talk

  • let audience members vote on sections (?)

  • broadcast itself on Bonjour

  • let audience members download slides, code samples or other supplementary material

Some of the nice things are that you can easily version control it, you can easily move sections between presentations, and you can rearrange or remove sections easily.


ShowOff is meant to be run in a ShowOff formatted repository - that means that it has a showoff.json file and a number of sections (subdirectories) with markdown files for the slides you're presenting.

$ gem install showoff
$ git clone (showoff-repo)
$ cd (showoff-repo)
$ showoff serve

If you run 'showoff' in the ShowOff directory itself, it will show an example presentation from the 'example' subdirectory, so you can see what it's like.

Slide Format

You can break your slides up into sections of however many subdirectories deep you need. ShowOff will recursively check all the directories mentioned in your showoff.json file for any markdown files (.md). Each markdown file can have any number of slides in it, seperating each slide with the '!SLIDE' keyword and optional slide styles.

For example, if you run 'showoff create my_new_pres' it will create a new starter presentation for you with one .md file at one/ which will have the following contents:


# My Presentation #

!SLIDE bullets incremental transition=fade

# Bullet Points #

* first point
* second point
* third point

That represents two slides, the first contains just a large title, and the second is faded into view showing the title and three bullets that are then incrementally shown. In order for ShowOff to see those slides, your showoff.json file needs to look something like this:


If you have multiple sections in your talk, you can make this json array include all the sections you want to show in which order you want to show them.

Some useful styles for each slide are:

  • center - centers images on a slide

  • full-page - allows an image to take up the whole slide

  • bullets - sizes and seperates bullets properly (fits up to 5, generally)

  • smbullets - sizes and seperates more bullets (smaller, closer together)

  • subsection - creates a different background for titles

  • command - monospaces h1 title slides

  • commandline - for pasted commandline sections (needs leading '$' for commands, then output on subsequent lines)

  • code - monospaces everything on the slide

  • incremental - can be used with 'bullets' and 'commandline' styles, will incrementally update elements on arrow key rather than switch slides

  • small - make all slide text 80%

  • smaller - make all slide text 70%

  • execute - on js highlighted code slides, you can click on the code to execute it and display the results on the slide

Check out the example directory included to see examples of most of these.

Transitions can be supplied through the use of transition=tname on the !SLIDE definition, where tname is one of the following supported transitions:

  • blindX

  • blindY

  • blindZ

  • cover

  • curtainX

  • curtainY

  • fade

  • fadeZoom

  • growX

  • growY

  • none (this is the default)

  • scrollUp

  • scrollDown

  • scrollLeft

  • scrollRight

  • scrollHorz

  • scrollVert

  • shuffle

  • slideX

  • slideY

  • toss

  • turnUp

  • turnDown

  • turnLeft

  • turnRight

  • uncover

  • wipe

  • zoom

The transitions are provided by jQuery Cycle plugin. See to view the effects and for how to add custom effects.

You can manage the presentation with the following keys:

  • space, cursor right: next slide

  • cursor left: previous slide

  • d: debug mode

  • c: table of contents (vi)

  • f: toggle footer

  • z: toggle help

Editor integration

The “add slide” feature can allow you to add the necessary boilerplate from your editor. If you are using vim, you can

!showoff add -t code Check This Code

And your buffer will get

# Check This Code #
    @@@ Ruby

added where your cursor was. Binding this to a keybinding can allow you to add new slides quickly.

Command Line Interface

showoff command_name [command-specific options] [--] arguments...
  • Use the command help to get a summary of commands

  • Use the command help command_name to get a help for command_name

  • Use -- to stop command line argument processing; useful if your arguments have dashes in them



Add a new slide at the end in a given dir


Create new showoff presentation


Shows list of commands or help for one command


Setup your presentation to serve on Heroku


Serves the showoff presentation in the current directory

add [title]

Add a new slide at the end in a given dir


  • new

Outputs or creates a new slide. With -d and -n, a new slide is created in the given dir, numbered to appear as the last slide in that dir (use -u to avoid numbering). Without those, outputs the slide markdown to stdout (useful for shelling out from your editor). You may also specify a source file to use for a code slide


These options are specified after the command.

-d, --dir=dir

Slide dir (where to put a new slide file)

-n, --name=basename

Slide name (name of the new slide file)

-s, --source=path to file

Include code from the given file as the slide body

-t, --style, --type=valid showoff style/type

Slide Type/Style ( default: title)

-u, --nonumber

Dont number the slide, use the given name verbatim

create dir_name

Create new showoff presentation


  • init

This command helps start a new showoff presentation by setting up the proper directory structure for you. It takes the directory name you would like showoff to create for you.


These options are specified after the command.

-d, --slidedir=arg

sample slide directory name ( default: one)

-n, --nosamples

Dont create sample slides

help [command]

Shows list of commands or help for one command

heroku heroku_name

Setup your presentation to serve on Heroku


Serves the showoff presentation in the current directory


These options are specified after the command.

-p, --port=arg

Port on which to run ( default: 9090)

Real World Usage

So far, ShowOff has been used in the following presentations:

If you use it for something, please let me know so I can add it.

Future Plans

I really want this to evolve into a dynamic presentation software server, that gives the audience a lot of interaction into the presentation - helping them decide dynamically what the content of the presentation is, ask questions without interupting the presenter, etc. I want the audience to be able to download a dynamically generated PDF of either the actual talk that was given, or all the available slides, plus supplementary material. And I want the presenter (me) to be able to push each presentation to Heroku or GitHub pages for archiving super easily.

Why Not S5 or Slidy or Slidedown?

S5 and Slidy are really cool, and I was going to use them, but mainly I wanted something more dynamic. I wanted Slidy + Slidedown, where I could write my slideshows in a structured format in sections, where the sections could easily be moved around and between presentations and could be written in Markdown. I also like the idea of having interactive presentation system and didn't need half the features of S5/Slidy (style based print view, auto-scaling, themes, etc).


  • Ruby (duh)

  • Sinatra (and thus Rack)

  • BlueCloth

  • Nokogiri

  • json

  • GLI gem

  • Firefox or Chrome to present