Fantastic Voyage (of Sorts)

Here’s a little bit of nerdery: last week at Behavior, we had to quickly generate lots of potential names for a branding project. To get the widest possible array of names, everyone in the office was invited to submit their ideas, and we ended up with over a hundred submissions. The problem was that they were all trapped in many different email messages, and I needed to get them into a nice, clean PowerPoint presentation.

At first I was thinking that I would have to manually retype them all in order to get them into the presentation in alphabetical order. Then I started thinking that if I could get the list of names out of the emails quickly, I’d be able to use a series of applications to create an XML version of the list that would be readable by Apple’s alternative to PowerPoint, the beautifully-designed Keynote.

From Email to Excel

So, the first thing I did was copy the text of all the email messages and then dump them into a single note in Hog Bay Notebook. This got them all in one place, so I could easily fix missing capitalizations. Then I selected all of that text, hit copy, and pasted the text into a new spreadsheet in Excel, which nicely separated each name into its own cell. Using Excel’s sort feature, I was able to very easily and quickly alphabetize all 100-plus names, after which I exported the file as a tab-delimited text file.

From Excel to XML… and Beyond!

This gave me a clean file of all the names in a kind of raw format. What I needed next was to translate it into some sort of XML version easily. Using the Omni Group’s OmniOutliner, I imported that tab-delimited text file into a new document. Not only is this handy little outlining program XML-savvy, but it can export its data in Keynote format, which I was able to do effortlessly.

From Mail to Keynote

The result was a perfectly serviceable Keynote presentation formatted in one of the program’s default templates. In theory, I could have used that file in our meeting with the client, but of course we wanted to add our own branding. So I copied all 100-plus slides into a new presentation based on a Behavior template that we’ve used in the past, and applied the style to those slides.

In total, I estimate this process took about 5 minutes — far shorter than it would have had I decided to manually re-type all of the names. Granted, it may not have taken me all day to type even a hundred or so names, but I got a kick out of steering the data from one format to another. Okay, end nerdery.


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