Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rotating molecules in PowerPoint

Long-time MolModBasics reader/commenter NUChem posted the following question:

"One thing that I've been wondering for a while is creating movie files of optimized structures for presentations. Would it be possible for you to have a screen cast of how to take an optimized structure of cyclohexane and make a movie of the molecule rotating. Basically I have a few polycyclic molecules that I've optimized and I want to be able to have them rotating in my powerpoint presentation so my audience can see the whole molecule. Is there anyway to do this?"

I know of two ways of doing this that are relatively easy. One is to create an animated gif file using the Polyview3D web server, and inserting the file as a movie in Powerpoint. Here is a screencast of how to do this.

Another option is to set the molecule spinning in, for example, Avogadro and then simply record part of the screen using a screencasting program. Unfortunately, it looks as though you have to buy software to do this. There is a free screencasting program called Jing, but you can only save the movie file in the .swf file format, which Powerpoint can't read (and I haven't been able to find a free .swf to .mpeg converter). However, with JingPro ($15/year) you can save the file in the .mpeg format, which should work with Powerpoint, but I haven't tried it myself. I use ScreenFlow ($99) and really like it, but that only works on Macs.

UPDATE: Screencast-o-matic is free, and can make mp4 files, which can be included in Powerpoint.  See this new post for more information.

Of course, with the screencast option you can add animations to Powerpoint of anything, such as vibrations, IRCs, etc. in addition to rotation. However, for more complicated animations I usually switch between Powerpoint and Jmol (more precisely a browser showing an html file with Jmol embedded) during the presentation, ever since I found out I don't have to quit the Powerpoint presentation to switch to another program.
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