A presentation (set of slides) is represented in Elsie with the SlideDeck class. The most important parameters of the presentation is the width and height of the resulting PDF pages, which also affects the resulting aspect ratio. The default size if 1024x768, which corresponds to aspect ratio 4:3.

Here is an example of creating a new presentation:

import elsie

slides = elsie.SlideDeck(width=1024, height=768)

Once you have a SlideDeck object, you can create new slides from it.


Elsie needs a Backend to render slides to PDF. Currently, two backends are implemented:

  • InkscapeBackend is the default backend. This backend uses Inkscape to convert slides to PDF, which means that you need to have Inkscape installed on your computer.
  • CairoBackend is an experimental backend that uses the Cairo library to render slides. It supports most of Elsie features, it should produce very similar output to the Inkscape backend and most importantly, you do not need Inkscape installed for it to work. However, it is currently experimental and not tested as thoroughly as the Inkscape backend.

Both backends should produce very similar visual output, but this is not guaranteed, although differences are usually pretty small and mostly only in text rendering. We suggest you to stick to a single backend.

To use a specific backend, simply pass it to SlideDeck using the backend parameter:

import elsie
from elsie.render.backends import CairoBackend

slides = elsie.SlideDeck(backend=CairoBackend())

Creating slides#

You can create new slides in two ways, either using the new_slide method or via a decorator. The new_slide method will create a new slide, but for convenience, it will not return the slide itself, but its root box, so that you can use the returned object immediately for adding things to the slide. Except for some advanced usage, you shouldn't ever need to deal with the Slide instance itself.

slide = slides.new_slide(bg_color="blue")

Once you have a slide, you can add content to it, for example text, images, shapes or source code.


A more convenient way of creating a slide is using the slide decorator. If you apply it to a function, it will create a new slide and pass its root box as a parameter to the function. It will also set the name of the slide according to the name of the decorated function.

def slide1(slide: elsie.Box):"Hello")

With this approach, the slide will be added to the slide deck immediately when you use the decorator. Therefore, you should not call the decorated function manually. The order of the slides will be the same as in the source code:

def slide1(slide):
    slide.text("Slide 1")

def slide2(slide):
    slide.text("Slide 2")

You can also combine the decorator and new_slide, although this is mostly discouraged, as it get be confusing to follow the order of the slides.

Both slide and new_slide have parameters that allow you to change the background color and SVG viewbox of the slide (see example usage here). You can also choose its name (see below) or enable debug draw mode.

Rendering slides#

After you have created all of your desired slides and filled them with content, you can render your presentation using the render method. There are several useful parameters of this method:

  • output: Change the output filename of the rendered PDF (default is slides.pdf).
  • slide_postprocessing: Apply some postprocessing function to all slides. See an example here.
  • select_slides: Render only a selected subset of slides.
  • return_units: Return a list of SVG slides without rendering them. This can be useful if you just want to build your slides using Elsie, but render them in a another way.
  • slider_per_page(x, y): Group several slides into a single page. Each page will contain a grid of slides with x rows and y columns. This can be useful e.g. for creating presentation previews.

Elsie uses caching to speed-up the rendering. The cache will be created in a directory named elsie-cache.

Name policy#

If you create slides in an interactive Python session (for example in IPython or Jupyter), you might inadvertedly create new slides after modifying and re-executing a piece of code.

For example, if this code was inside a Jupyter notebook cell:

def slide1(slide):"Hello")

Each time you would execute the cell, a new slide would be added to the presentation, which is probably not what you want.

To solve this issue, Elsie uses a so-called name policy, which decides how to react to the situation where a slide with the same name is created multiple times. The name of a slide is either determined automatically if the decorator is used, or you can pass it explicitly to the new_slide function.

The SlideDeck instance has one of the following name policies, which decides what to do when a new slide is created:

  • unique: Creating two slides with the same name will result in an error. This is to stop you from creating multiple instances of the same slide inadvertedly. Note that when a name of a slide is unset (it is None), the slide will be allowed to be created.
  • replace: When a slide with the same name already exists, the previous slide will be removed, and the new slide will be placed at the end of the slide list.
  • ignore: The name of slides will not be checked, essentially turns off name policy.
  • auto (the default): Uses replace when running inside Jupyter, otherwise uses ignore.

Since Jupyter automatically sets a name policy which is most probably the one that you want in an interactive environment (replace), you will not have to deal with name policy most of the time.