First off, let’s start with a definition of the word “Hack”. Contrary to the popular connotation, the term “hack” really means something along the lines of “make something work the way you want and or need it to.” Keep that definition in mind as you read this post.
As some of you may know, I had the opportunity to run projection at a conference this past weekend. It was quite the exciting venture- I run projection at our church about 4 out of 5 Sundays, but I’d never before been the primary operator at a large-scale conference. Needless to say, it was a very fun experience. Thankfully, there were no errors either- but that’s not to say they didn’t try to appear.
At our church, we use the software EasyWorship for projecting our lyrics and sermon notes. It’s a great piece of software, though it does have its quirks (Can you tell I want support for .png?). However, one of the hardest things to combat is EasyWorship’s auto-resizing text feature. I know there’s an option in the preferences, but I’ve never found it to work in the way I want. As I had received instruction from my pastor saying that we wanted everything to be as distraction-free as possible, I set about my mission: hacking EasyWorship.
The sheer simplicity of the hack makes it very easy to implement. That is, provided you have the right font. Font?! I thought this was a hack, not a font change! Oh, but it is- and the hack is provided in the font.
Here’s the dilemma: We had one song that had very short lines in the lyrics. EasyWorship likes to fill the screen with as much text as possible, so it goes about that by blowing the text up to a huge size. However, since our screen was on the ground, this would not be a helpful thing- I find that the really tall people tend to sit in the front. This prevents other people from seeing words that are not at the very top the screen. So that’s one reason not to use a large font size- you won’t be able to see part of the verse from the back.
The second reason goes along with the distraction-free memo mentioned above- the very next song had really long lines. To make sure that the entire line was displayed on, well, one line, EasyWorship did some more auto-resizing- this time, the text was very small. However, this size also made the text all appear at the top of the screen; exactly what I wanted it to do. And the text was still very readable- this song was good to go. The next step was to make the other song follow this pattern.
I returned to the previous song. The huge text stood there, grinning in what appeared to be apparent victory. In the past, I’d been able to bump text up to the top by making a new verse and filling it with gibberish until the song was moved to the place I wanted it. I would then make that gibberish a black color, preventing it from showing up if the slide was accidentally projected. Unfortunately, this solution would not work at the conference- we were using a textured green background. EasyWorship does not support transparencies in text coloring- but even if it did, an outline would still appear around the letters. A new solution must be found. And find it I did- in a cheap, downloaded font.
NeoTech to the rescue!
NeoTech is a free font I encountered through the world of iPhone theming. A nice looking face, I had downloaded it to create some graphics for my iPhone. Sadly, I found it would not work for all that I needed it to- it did not support characters other than the alphabet, numbers, and the period and comma. Oh well- it was a cool font anyway. I kept it around.
Therein was my solution found.
When you have a font that does not support a certain character, you are usually presented with one of two errors- you either get a rectangular box, or else you get nothing at all. NeoTech displayed the latter of the two- an apostrophe typed in the font did not register as anything at all. But EasyWorship saw any character typed as a character- whether it could be displayed or not. And if you stack enough invisible characters… you can dictate the size of the text for the rest of the song. Here was my solution.
I typed up all the songs in Myriad Pro font. It displayed nicely and was a very clean font overall. If a song’s text was too big, I employed the hack. I created a new slide, put an apostrophe on one line, hit return, and repeated the process until there was usually a list of about 8 apostrophes or the song’s text had shrunk to the size I wanted. Myriad Pro was happy enough to display these apostrophes, should I want it to. But NeoTech would throw up the denial flag. I highlighted this dummy slide, and changed the font to NeoTech. Instantly, all the apostrophes disappeared from the preview. I had won.
So there you have it. It was a beautiful hack- you’d never guess there was any hacking involved unless you were in on the story. Which you now are. I myself fully intend to use this hack whenever necessary.