20 Steps To Maximize ProPresenter On Your Mac


14 Jan 2015

In today’s guest post, we get to hear from the legendary Joel Smith from ChurchMedia.Pro:

When I was a tech director, I had a love/arrrgh relationship with ProPresenter. While it was 98% love (seriously, Renewed Vision has done an amazing job with this software), every once in a while I would discover new quirks about the software or the Mac. Everything in this list was implemented on our system and taken from my 13 years of experience with Macs and 7 years of experience with ProPresenter. That system ran solid week in and week out for 3 years with only one crash (sigh, nearly perfect).

This is a simple guide to help you get the most out of the software and system you have. It is not absolute and things will differ for every situation. I also don’t claim to be “the man” when it comes to ProPresenter or Macs. While I’m pulling from personal experience, I’m constantly learning and definitely not perfect. I encourage you to take this list and apply it in your own context to what works for you and your system. Without any further ado, let’s get started:

1. Use A Dedicated Computer

While this might be a no-brainer, it needs to be stated. Using a dedicated system is the best way to keep it running at its peak. If your daily computer or some multi-purpose production computer is also used for ProPresenter, the odds of issues happening go way up. Keeping a lean system is key to assuring everything runs smooth. It’s also easier to troubleshoot when things do go wrong.

2. Use A Solid State Hard Drive (SSD)

The cost of SSDs has dropped enough for it to become a fairly cheap way to boost performance in a computer. Now, this is not an “SSDs are better than spinning drives” argument. I recommend finding whatever works reliably for you. If you have a spinning drive that works great for you, keep using it. However, I have had great success using SSDs for system drives, especially in older systems. If you don’t have budget for a new system but want a performance boost, try installing an SSD. I recommend the Samsung EVO Pro series of drives or the OWC SSD drives from MacSales.

3. Use A Separate Hard Drive For Media/Content

Using a separate hard drive for all media/content can save you a ton of time and headaches if/when your system drive crashes. It will also save time when you need to do a clean install or re-install of the operating system. I used a 250GB SSD for the system drive (operating system only) and a high-performance 1 TB drive for content/media (videos, images, audio, ProPresenter library, backups of fonts and necessary system files). If you’re using a laptop for ProPresenter, a separate media/content drive is not necessary. You can run everything just fine off one drive, but having 2 drives makes system maintenance and upgrades more flexible.

4. Use A Solid Black Desktop Background

This way, if ProPresenter happens to crash the audience won’t see a pic of your family vacation or a galaxy on the screens.

5. Turn OFF Screen Savers

You don’t want the dictionary word of the day accidentally showing up an hour into an event or service.

6. Turn OFF Mission Control Settings

This includes hot keys and hot corners. This removes the chance of an operator accidentally bringing up Spaces or the Dashboard when running the software.

7. Turn OFF Notifications

This is just a way to eliminate distractions for operators. Notifications technically won’t hurt anything, but they could possibly get in the way of some button or slide.

8. Turn Display Off After NEVER

You don’t want the monitor to shut off during anything important. You can always physically turn monitors off when you leave (this is a good habit to have).

9. Turn OFF “Put hard drives to sleep when possible”

You don’t want your operator falling asleep, it’s the same for your hard drives.

10. Turn OFF Mouse Gestures

Not everyone uses the same gestures or mouse setup. Keep it simple by using only a standard left-click and right-click mouse setup. This means turning off multi-touch gestures and zooming. Also, I recommend the old school scroll down for down and scroll up for up.

11. Alert Volume OFF (0%)

It’s everyone’s luck that a duck quack alert will go off during a prayer or quiet moment. Disabling these alerts puts the odds in your favor.

12. Turn OFF “Play user interface sound effects”

This setting is key to avoiding any random sounds developed by your Mac. It also goes a long way to turn off “Play feedback when volume is changed” in your audio settings.

13. Turn OFF All System/Software Updates

You want to control what is updated and when it is updated. The last thing you need right before a service or event is OS X to update and something in that update break your system or cause issues. If it’s working, you shouldn’t have to update that often or at all.

14. Turn Time Machine OFF

If you need Time Machine, at least use a Time Machine scheduler to schedule around your event/service times. I used a scheduler to only allow backups between midnight and 6 AM. I also made a point to do manual backups of content and ProPresenter files every few months. This can be done by simply copying those files to an external hard drive.

15. System Volume At 100%

This should always stay the same. This ensures audio to your console/mixer is always the same. This also removes any guesswork when you need to troubleshoot audio issues. I’ve also found this lessens noise in trouble consoles when outputting from the headphone jack of the computer.

16. Close All Applications When Leaving The Computer

When I was on staff at the church, there were a few guys (ahem, student ministers) that were notorious for leaving ProPresenter open after their events. On a number of occasions I would notice, sometimes days later, that ProPresenter had locked up (as in frozen) because of this. One of my mantras was “leave it like you found it”. That meant closing all applications and restarting the computer when you were done. This way you were leaving the system ready for whoever came in next.

17. Be A Religious Restarter

I got made fun of when I was on staff at the church for always restarting computers. One thing I did with all production computers was leave them running 24/7 (running, never sleeping). This is not necessary but something I believe helps Macs run solid. Here’s the reason why I chose to leave them running. Restarting is an easy way to know the computer is running fresh before you begin. Since you may not know who was on the computer before you or what was done on it last, it’s always good to restart the computer before a rehearsal or event. Note: Be sure to deselect the “Reopen windows when logging back in” checkbox before restarting. If you’re on a laptop, I recommend shutting down after use and storage. It also wouldn’t hurt to leave the laptop plugged in and running overnight every few weeks.

18. Do Not Install Non-Essential Applications

This will hurt someone’s feelings, but I’m going to say it anyway. DO NOT INSTALL MICROSOFT OFFICE ON YOUR PROPRESENTER COMPUTER. In fact, don’t install any applications, preference panes or software that is not essential to running ProPresenter. If someone insists on sending you Microsoft Word .DOC files for notes or lyrics, either ask them to start sending PDFs or convert it on another computer. One of the great thing about Macs is that they can read most filetypes without running the necessary software.

19. Run ONLY ProPresenter During “Show Time”

A lot of people, especially those that don’t use Macs on a regular basis, tend to leave applications running on Mac and don’t realize they’re doing so. They think clicking the red X button in the top left of the app’s window quits the application, when in fact it just closes the window. They also may not understand what happens when an application is open or runs in the background. Make it a habit to close all apps on the computer before things get started. Better yet, make it a policy that no apps except ProPresenter can run on that computer at all times. This was more of an issue a few years ago when it was pushing even the sturdiest of systems to run ProPresenter. Now it’s not as big of a deal if you have a newer system, but it is still a good habit to practice.

20. Reinstall The OS Every 12–18 Months

Even the best of systems need a refresh every year or so. Cache files, missing file links and corrupt files build up over time and can cause the system to slow down. I made it priority to reinstall a fresh (no Time Machine backups) installation of OS X every year or so. It may seem overkill or too much work, but if it saves one major crash it’s worth it.

Bonus Tips/Tricks

• Create a custom desktop background for the main monitor with the computer’s title. That way anyone walking in knows what the computer does. It also helps to recognize easily what computer you’re on if you screen share often.

• Schedule the computer to restart automatically on a schedule. I set our system to restart every Sunday morning at 6:00 AM so it was fresh for rehearsal at 7:45.

• Use a wired keyboard and mouse. Nothing worse than batteries dying at the worst time.

What other things do you do to keep your system running snappy?

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Joel Smith

Joel is the owner of ChurchMedia.Pro and its network sites Motions.Pro and Triplewide.Pro. He has over 15 years of international and broadcast video experience and is passionate about equipping churches with beautiful content to help tell the gospel story. He is married to Sarah and they have 2 rambunctious boys, Canon and Sayer.

Comments

  1. Great Tips Joel.
    I have always found it helpful to set either the Church Logo or Sermon Title Slide as the ProPre output screen background. That way instead of black there is purposeful content output (as you scramble to see what happened.)

    • Mike, that’s actually a great idea. Depending on where the failure happens, the congregation might not know any better. A black screen tells them that something went wrong. Though if ProPresenter crashes or you have to restart it, it’ll go black when it starts up again.

    • That’s a great idea, Mike. We actually had our logo as the desktop when our ProPresenter system ran through our video switcher. When it was connected directly to projectors, I made the desktop black. Either way is better than the stock background that comes with the computer. :-)

      The logo is also great to have so nobody accidentally leaves the projectors on.

      Thanks for the tip!

    • I just bought Presenter…..I am frustrated. I for the life of me get the little screens on th right to show up on main video screen. Need help!!
      natserog@aol.com

  2. This is a really great list. I wasn’t going by a checklist when we set up our new sanctuary computers, but I did just about everything on this list, even including setting a startup time. I went into System Preferences simultaneously on each machine and through through what each individual preference should be set to. Having this put in a list form here is even better!!!

  3. We’ve done almost everything on this list, plus one other thing.

    Because we’re a church with 3 locations, we sync all of our computers with Dropbox so that each week our media is all easily accessible.

    Just in case, on Sunday morning, we copy and paste all of that week’s media to the desktop to make sure that our wifi does not affect the playback or loading times. (Learned this option the hard way…)

    • Hey Chelsey!

      That’s a great tip. We actually did the same thing between our 2 campuses. I would also render or export videos directly to a Dropbox folder so they were ready on the ProPresenter systems when I made the setlist for each weekend.

      Copying the files locally is important, as you stated. Dropbox has been known to lose folders/files so it’s always good to have a local copy.

      Thanks for the comment.

  4. I just want to echo the religious restarter note. It seems like a hassle, but so is doing the dishes and going to the gym, but the results are worth it.

  5. Brian Michael : January 15, 2015 at 8:49 am

    #18 states that you should never install Microsoft Office. We convert PowerPoint files to Presentations. Do you not have to have PowerPoint installed for this function to work? That’s the only Office program I have on the production computer.

    • Hey Brian,

      Thanks for the comment and question.

      You are correct. PowerPoint must be installed on the system to import PPT files. However, I always recommend installing Office on another computer if you can. I had ProPresenter and Office installed on my office computer and would do my import/conversion there. Then I would save that to a ProPresenter file on Dropbox and import that into the main ProPresenter station.

      Office is notorious for being buggy on Mac. I’m not totally sure about now, but for the longest time Office was not optimized for memory management on Mac. Therefore, it would take way more RAM and processor than needed. Best practice is to keep your system lean and mean, that’s why I suggested #18.

      • Hi Joel,

        Thanks for the tip. Pardon my silly question but re: Power Point file, what file do you convert it to? Currently I am using Power Point for slides and have to import it to Keynote and then add it to ProPresenter which I found not very efficient and double-tasking. Do you have any suggestion on how to reduce these steps? The thing is not everyone uses Mac and therefore we have to use Power Point to prepare the slides and import it to the church Mac.

        Thanks in advance!

  6. Great tips!
    One I’ve found useful is the safeboot restart.
    It’s an old trick used by most people in design, media and audio.
    Instead of restarting, shut the Mac down completely. Hit the power button to start up again, and hold down the shift key until the grey screen appears with a status bar.
    Once you’re at the login screen, hit the restart button and carry on as normal.
    It’s supposedly a way of “re-indexing” all the loose files on the hard drive. Keeps things running smooth.
    I noticed a gain in performance when I started doing it, so I’ve kept doing it once a week.

  7. How does all this info work on a Windows machine?

  8. Joel,
    Brilliant. Wish I would have read this years ago. I have about 17 years IT background with 8 on Mac. I admin 3 mobile regions for our church, we do almost the exact same except for a couple of differences.
    1. Media is all stored on Dropbox, but not backed up locally, Dropbox has it’s own built in backup system, at least for a month anyway. Each region has there own location for songs, but the media is all shared.
    2. I do not use TimeMachine. I use Carbon Copy Cloner with a weekly reminder and auto backup to an SD card. So for portable computers the backups are always done and no bulky drives to carry around.
    3. DO NOT USE Google Drive with ProPresenter – it causes all kinds of issues.
    4. All 3 systems use Team Viewer for remote help sessions, it works at really any speed connections. All 3 systems are built on the same OS image.
    5. The best thing you can do for Mac or Windows is setup automatic drive maintenance after every bootup. This goes with the bootup mentality but also has been known to fix many many bugs. Easy on Windows, a bit more work on Mac.
    6. We have a 256gb / 512gb and 1tb video on our Macs. Always go with the 1tb video size if it is an option. If not and you see slowness on your system, trying cutting the speed of your videos in half. It helps to always monitor CPU usage. I use istat Menu’s on the Macs. If a video starts and you suddenly jump to 100% on CPU, try clearing ProPresenter, cut the video speed in half, wait for the CPU to calm down and try the video again. This works 100% of the time for us.
    7. We have found that with roaming locations that sometimes the audio recordings have issues. We use Wire Tap Studio for recordings ( 1 button start, 1 button stop, always on top ). There is a Live Preview button that, with a time delay, lets you hear exactly what is being recorded. I use a Belkin RockStar between the Mac and the soundboard and have a noise cancelling headset to listen to the recordings live. Just make sure the sound board has muted your channel.
    8. Rather than adjusting all the sleep settings, we use Caffeine, free from the App Store. It keeps the system awake regardless. I use default of 5 hours and auto start after bootup. No sleep, no screen savers no nothing gets in the way of the service.
    9. App Store!! In managing multiple locations always try and get your software through the App Store. You can install on up to 5 Macs ( maybe more ) using the same App Store id. Really helps when rebuilding.
    10. I use a special partition on my personal Mac to test any new software or updates or new OS’s. This way the church equipment does not go down due to bad software. Sometimes this is inevitable but mostly this covers new software issues.
    11. El Capitan. I like to use multiple desktops as it keeps things cleaner. We often have to run Power Point or Keynote in conjunction with ProPresenter. I have not found a way to import all the nuances of the programs into ProPresenter yet. Doing this I USED TO lock specific applications to specific screens. But it took me a week to figure out that with El Capitan it locks the application down to the exact screen, not the attached project and the desktop, but only the screen that it was setup on. It drove me crazy trying to figure out why ProPresenter would not show on the Projectors.

    Really appreciate all the advice on this website! Would love to contribute.

  9. […] 20 Steps To Maximize ProPresenter On Your Mac […]

  10. These are great tips! I’ve only been using ProPresenter for about 8 months and have been in the tech role at my church the same amount of time. I’m getting ready to transition out of this role because I’m moving out of the area and am currently developing a training session to pass the torch. This is helpful information to include!

  11. Deacon Don Maxwell : March 5, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Have you ever had a permission problem with propresenter6.when closing out of program it says these item were not saved about ten items. Help

    • Kendall Conner : April 12, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Sorry, Don. I haven’t experienced this.

    • After a couple of years with ProPresenter on Windows, I am happily moving to the Mac. During initial setup, I did experience this issue, resulting from my attempt to set up the library and support files to a shared location, and then setting up a separate account for my volunteer media team members. I spoke to Renewed Vision support, and they just acknowledged that it was messy to set up ProPresenter in OS X to run with multiple users. Being new to the mac, I’m not going to attempt to add complexity, and will just run it as a single-user machine. If anyone has a nice write-up, on successfully running it with multiple mac users, I’d still like to do this in the future.

    • Jason Antwi-Appah : July 18, 2016 at 10:48 pm

      Well, I don’t think it’s a permission thing. I guess it’s to do with ProP6’s new AutoSave. I have had similar issues on Windows. Hardly ever saves. Wish there was a way to force saves.

  12. What type of Mac would you buy to use with ProPresenter today? Our dedicated Windows PC for ProPresenter was hit by lightning, and we need a new computer for this ASAP and are looking to switch to Mac. Thoughts????

    • Kendall Conner : April 12, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      An iMac, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, and Mac Mini would all work great. Hope that helps!

      • Mark Harris : May 14, 2016 at 5:06 pm

        We are looking at a dedicated Mac to replace the shared Mac we have been using. I have been a user for a long time and we have always used dedicated video cards. The new iMacs only have the built-in Intel Iris Pro 6200. Is that going to be good enough to run the presentation screen at 1080p and a confidence monitor at 1080p?

  13. Question about an external drive for PP content. Will it run well through usb 2.0? I have a 3.0 flash drive, but my old laptop is usb 2.0.

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