Using a Separate Account for Presentations

I’ve created a separate account on my laptop that I use for giving presentations. This makes it easy to run a presentation from my laptop without inadvertently exposing to the audience proprietary data and notifications that may be visible from my normal account.

OS X has a couple standard features that make this easy and I don’t think enough people know about them. First, every user on OS X is provided with a folder named Public in the home directory. Any files you drop into this folder will be readable by other users on the machine. Second, there is a special folder in Public called Drop Box. Other users on the machine have write access to this directory and they can drop files in there to share them with you.

So I have two accounts on my laptop, mcculley and presenter. The presenter account has a password of presenter. There’s no need to give it a secure password as I only put public documents and presentations in that account and presenter is easy to remember. When I’m done editing a presentation on my normal account, I drop it into the Public folder and use the fast user switching feature of OS X to switch over to the presenter account. I keep a shortcut to the mcculley Public folder on the desktop of presenter. From there I can easily drag the presentation onto presenter‘s desktop or run it straight from there. If I think I might make a change to the presentation while in the presenter account, I drag it onto the desktop of presenter, make the change, and then drag it into the Drop Box folder of mcculley‘s Public folder when I’m done.

This also makes it zero risk to hand my laptop off to other presenters who may need to use it. They can just copy their presentation onto the desktop of presenter and when done, I can copy them into Drop Box if I want to keep them.

Older versions of OS X had a standard feature that made it easy to publish documents via the built in Apache web server by dropping them into the Sites folder in your home directory. This now requires that you buy the OS X Server option or that you start Apache up yourself. I have Apache running and serving up presenter‘s Sites folder and I often include a slide on the presentation that tells members of the audience how to download the presentation if they so desire.