September 12, 2011

A Hack to Run Beamer Presentations With Notes on Linux

Beamer is a class for making PDF presentations in LaTeX. It is supposed to have the ability to display notes for the presenter on a second monitor, but its strategy for doing this is just to create a double-width PDF, and hope that the PDF display program can fullscreen it to span the two displays. In modern linux desktop environments, this won't work, because the window manager will only allow the PDF reader to fullscreen to one monitor.

Here's a minimally hacky solution:

First, create a file called pres-xinit.sh in your home directory, containing the following two lines:

xrandr --output VGA1 --left-of LVDS1
acroread

Now log out of any graphical session you are in, and go to a virtual terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + F1. From the virtual terminal, stop your display manager. (The display manager is the program responsible for the graphical login screen.) On Debian and older versions of Ubuntu (and many other linux distributions) you can do this with the command:
sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop

On recent versions of Ubuntu the command is:
sudo service gdm stop

If you use KDE instead of Gnome or XFCE, then you may need to use 'kdm' instead of 'gdm' in the command.

Now run

xinit ./pres-xinit.sh

You should see an Adobe Acrobat window on one monitor, with no title bar or anything. You should be able to open files from the menu as usual. When you fullscreen the presentation, it should span both monitors. When you exit Adobe, it will drop you back down to your virtual terminal. You can get your graphical login screen back with:

sudo /etc/init.d/gdm start
or
sudo service gdm start

Posted by Kenny at September 12, 2011 9:37 PM
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