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How to save a PowerPoint or Impress presentation as a PDF with slide notes from the command line using the descendants of StarOffice; OpenOffice, LibreOffice, soffice


tl;dr: The magic incantation you need is:

soffice --headless --convert-to pdf:"impress_pdf_Export:ExportNotesPages=True"  'My presentation.pptx'

Where 'My presentation.pptx' is the path to, you know, your presentation. It can be in Powerpoint or OpenDocument presentation format (.odp).

It's possible to turn presentations into PDF and many other formats using the command line, but most of the flags you need to change the behaviour of the various converters are completely undocumented at both OpenOffice and the forked project LibreOffice. I had a very hard time figuring out how to save a presentation as PDF with slide notes, hence this post to help others.

NOTE ALSO: the result of saving a presentation as PDF with slide notes in StarOffice derivatives is a bit odd - you get twice as many pages of PDF as you have slides. For presentations with p pages the first p slides are the slides without notes and the second p have both the slide and the notes (unless the notes are too long in which case they are cut off). This doesn't bother me, I don't actually want the PDF as such, I am working on a script to turn the PDF into a series of images, extract the slide and notes text and wrap them in a markdown document so I can publish presentations here. I'll put that up on github soon. If anyone knows other flags with better behaviour, then please let me know. A complete list of conversion flags would be great, like for example how to trigger all the HTML export options. Ta.

The key, hard to find part of this is the flag: "impress_pdf_Export:ExportNotesPages=True".

NOTE: on some platforms the binary might be libreoffice or some other variant rather than soffice.

To get set up OS X so you can just type soffice

There's a handy tool that wraps the soffice binary called unoconv (installable with brew install unoconv) that provides an abstracted interface with a few extra features over typing soffice but at the moment it doesn't work on OS X with recent versions of LibreOffice.