The Wild West Bonanza of Presentation Programs
The Wild West Bonanza of Presentation Programs
  • Chun Go-eun
  • 승인 2011.06.21 15:25
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Presentation programs on personal computers are designed to do one thing - give information to other people. For a long time, the best way to give information to large groups of other people was seen as presenting hundreds of different slides, one after another, while speaking and adding more detail.  This paradigm is still very much alive, and many different programs across many different operating systems use it. However, there are also newer programs that offer alternatives to the traditional way of doing things, and they present compelling arguments for their use.  We will explore both traditional and new-wave program offerings over the span of this article.

 

Dynastic PowerPoint

Microsoft has been very effective in pushing their suite of programs on an unsuspecting world mostly because of their popular operating system.  The programs have had a long reign of tradition in the computer world.  The number of computers that come with Microsoft Windows pre-installed dwarfs that of any other operating system, and the number of users that simply fall into the habit of using Microsoft's other programs does as well.  PowerPoint is the path of least resistance, and the majority of computer users in the world have used it at least once.  PowerPoint is by no means a terrible piece of software, and has a solid set of features that most computer users need.

Microsoft PowerPoint makes a good baseline for comparing presentation programs.

One of the major features of PowerPoint that many people use is the ability to select themes.  Themes unify the look and feel of a presentation, giving your rough outline a more polished look than it otherwise would have had.  Several themes are bundled with the program, and more can be downloaded via an interface within PowerPoint itself.  They have often saved the boring white-and-black look of some presentations with flashy colors and layouts.

Another notable feature of PowerPoint, introduced in the 2007 version, is the SmartArt.  This feature is a wizard which allows the creation of complex organizational charts based on a simple outline.  Different words and phrases can be associated with each other using bubbles, arrows, boxes, pyramids, circular drawings, and many other types of shapes that one needs to easily diagram complex ideas.  In the hands of an imaginative person a presentation full of complex relationships can be enhanced with SmartArt.

Of course, one of PowerPoint's long-standing strengths is still available in the 2010 version, which is close integration with Microsoft Word and Excel.  Importing a complex table from Excel to PowerPoint is very easy, and aids in the creation of complex and yet easy-to-understand tables and graphs.  Data can be entered using a familiar Excel interface, and then displayed in an eye-pleasing PowerPoint slide.  Text and graphics can also be imported from Microsoft Word with minimal fuss.

In PowerPoint 2010 a new feature was introduced, the Equation Editor, which allows those of us who need them, to input complex mathematical equations right on the PowerPoint slide.

Finally, the last major feature of the PowerPoint presentation software is rights restrictions.  The original creator of a document can restrict any number of features of a document, from using only a certain number of styles, to only allowing a certain type of editing.  Although these are not the only features it has, they make PowerPoint a good baseline with which to compare other presentation software, simply because it is so easily available.

Microsoft PowerPoint

There are some drawbacks to using PowerPoint, however.  At $500.00 US, the software does not come cheap.  Also, there are so many options at the top that they can confuse a newer user and slow down the process of making a presentation.  The biggest problem however, is that after using the software awhile, you can find that individual slides begin to behave in strange ways that do not coincide with the way previous or future slides behave, preventing you from creating a completely consistent presentation and filling users with doubt about the program.  Also, there are serious issues with cross-computer compatibility with PowerPoint files.  The program depends on the fonts and preferences of the computer it is on to display the content, and if some other computer has different fonts or other configuration options set, the presentation can look different because words are crowded out or too small for one slide.  This leads to further frustrations for people who depend on PowerPoint for their livelihood.

 

Pros

Cons

* Themes make presentations look better

* SmartArt helps present difficult ideas simply

* Complex table import

* Mathematical Equation support

* Part of a $500 suite of office applications

* Overcomplicates simple tasks

* Strange, unrepeatable quirks destroy user trust

* Inconsistency between different computers

 

 

Apple's Always Alternative

 

Apple on the other hand, has always been Microsoft's rival, and while it is possible to buy Microsoft Office for MacOS, it is also possible to use Apple's own office software suite, iWork.  The iWork software suite contains equivalent programs to the Microsoft Office software suite, but with slicker interfaces and more catchy names, as Apple is known for doing.  The suite includes the programs Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, which are word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs respectively.

You never knew how badly you needed your charts to be wood-grain until you made one in iWork Keynote.

Keynote is the presentation program, which is our focus.  The layout is similar to PowerPoint, with slides listed along the left in a column, and the current slide in the large window on the right.  Themes with preset layouts for titles, text, and photos look identical to PowerPoint as well.  Keynote spends more time and resources on presentation graphical effects and style, and presentations look more stylish when created on it.  This is Apple's consistent emphasis, on style and look, and nowhere does it shine through greater than in a program built for giving stylish presentations.  For instance, the default pie chart graphic in Keynote is created with different wood grains, giving your presentations an automatic homey, edgy, New England feel to them.  If you want to catch an audience's eye and make your presentations stand out from the crowd, then going with Keynote is the way.

iWork Keynote makes the simplest presentations look like they were designed by an artistic hipster.

However, all is not perfect in the land of Apple either.  As is the case with most of its software, compatibility between its proprietary software and the rest of the computer world is not ideal.  While Keynote can export its own presentation files to the more commonly-used PowerPoint format (.ppt), there might still be compatibility errors.  Also, in order to use Keynote you will have to buy an Apple computer, which by design, is more expensive and inflexible than any other computer hardware.  This is well-known, but what is not well-known is that Apple computers can cost 2 or even 3 times what their hardware and software should be valued.  It is definitely a luxury item.  In relieving contrast to this, the iWork software itself sells for about 10% of Microsoft Office, at $55 on Amazon.com.

 

Pros

Cons

* Looks better than other presentation suites

* Familiar interface to anyone used to PowerPoint

* Wood grain pie charts

* 10% of the cost of PowerPoint

* Requires extremely expensive Apple hardware

* Not entirely compatible with other computers

 

 

The Free Underdog

OpenOffice Impress has an interface that will be familiar to anyone who has used presentation software before

For the cost-conscious, there is actually a completely free-to-download set of office application software with all the bells and whistles of the expensive alternatives.  It is called OpenOffice, and is specifically designed by the OpenOffice Foundation to provide a free and comprehensive alternative to other office productivity software.  It has a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program as well.  The presentation program is called Impress.  This program has all the features that you would expect from a presentation program like the other two previously mentioned.  Not only that, but it can open up and work with files from any other type of presentation software, and then save those files in any type of format, including its own Open Document format.  One of Impress's most interesting features is the Presentation Wizard, a set of questions that pops up when a new file is created. The questions include the name of the company, address, purpose of the presentation, title, and a short description.  The program uses this information to brand the presentation theme with the company's information, giving a more professional feel to the presentation right off the bat.  Another one of OpenOffice's most interesting features is that you can export your presentation as a Flash movie, which makes it easy to put your presentation on the Internet.

OpenOffice Impress

However, there are some drawbacks to using OpenOffice Impress.  It is not as well-known as other software suites, and therefore may cause users to stumble while trying to learn a new program interface. Also, the free nature of the software makes some software users uneasy, because there is no support structure or explicit arrangement between a vendor and a software purchaser.  There is no one to blame or to demand a fix from if the software doesn't work correctly.  Also, while OpenOffice's mission to be available for free on every operating system is impressive, this vast scope sometimes causes unexpected bugs to pop up which may interfere with productivity as well.

 

Pros

Cons

* completely free

* comprehensive feature set

* works on MacOS, Windows, and even Linux

* Can open and save files from all other word processing suites

* Presentation wizard helps first-time users make professional presentations

* Export to Flash movie

* Not 100% compatible with other presentation program features such as SmartArt

* Some annoying bugs may occasionally pop up

* Free software comes without a warranty or support program

 

 

Zooming, Panning, and Rotating Alternative

Prezi the presentation editor can be found online.

The previously-mentioned presentation software suites basically approach the problem of presenting information to people in the same way.  They all have slides, they all use templates, they all expect lots of bullet points, and they are all hefty software suites that you download to your own computer.  However there is other software that approaches the problem of presenting information to people in radically different ways.

One of those is Prezi, which claims to give you the ability to create game-changing presentations online.  Prezi points out a problem with traditional slide-based presentations by saying that they are very boring and put your audience to sleep.  Prezi's style of presentation is all about movement.  Presentations made on their web site zoom left, zoom right, zoom in, and zoom out on a huge white space.  You can choose to zoom out so that you can present a larger picture of the presentation, and you can choose to zoom in to focus on one specific detail.  Bullet points and lists can be hidden deep within a large photo, so only by zooming in you can see them.  Conversely, large points that you are trying to make can be written in gigantic letters several hundred times larger than the rest of your presentation, which you can zoom far out in order to see.  The overall presentation gives the impression of movement, of leaning in to look at important details, and of stepping back to see the larger picture.  You can add in arrows, highlights, and drawings in order to make your presentations even more dynamic.  You can also add YouTube videos wherever you would like.

After you have arranged everything in the white space where you would like it to be, you add a camera tracking line.  A blue line that moves from bubbles numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on shows where the camera will travel during the presentation.  After you are satisfied, you can save the Prezi on their web site and access it anywhere that you can connect to the Internet later .

If you are not comfortable with making your presentations on a web site and having them readily available online, you can use Prezi Desktop, which is a desktop interface for the Prezi system built using Adobe Air.  Since Adobe Air is available on Windows, Apple, and Linux systems, Prezi desktop can be used on any type of computer system.  In order to use the desktop version, you need to set up a Pro account on their web site for $159 dollars per year.  However, if you are not sure about it, you can try a free version of their software for 30 days.

The Prezi desktop interface looks the same as their online interface, and incorporates lots of circles for tilting, zooming, and moving.

Some potential drawbacks of the Prezi way of making presentations are complete incompatibility with every other type of presentation software.  These aren't your normal slides, but instead a completely new interface for presentation, and are only accessible in their proprietary format.  Also, in order to create and view presentations on your own computer, you need to pay a yearly membership fee for their service.  Additionally, the interface is basically a cinematographically directional interface, and is completely different from anything used before.  It might be more difficult for people to learn.  However, there are a large number of tutorials available for Prezi presentations online, which might ease the transition a bit

 

Pros

Cons

* Completely new way of making presentations

* Can more accurately chart the relationships of ideas

* Can show visually the relative importance of presentation points

* Constant movement keeps audience interest

* Works on all computer systems

* Requires Internet connection to use

* Must buy yearly membership for software to work

* Unfamiliar interface can take a while to learn

* Weird name makes you uncomfortable

 

 

Stylized, Artificial Drawing

Balsamiq Mockups speeds up and polishes your drawing skill, allowing you to make any kind of diagram much cooler than you otherwise would be able to

Another alternative to the traditional slide presentation format harkens back to the days of scribbled diagrams on restaurant napkins and pieces of scrap paper.  Mockups, a software offering from Balsamiq, is another Adobe Air-built application.  It can be used on any operating system available as well, giving it perfect compatibility with your favorite workstation.  Additionally, it can be used online on the Balsmiq web site.  The program helps you to draw by giving a large number of pre-generated shapes, from simple things like arrows to large, complex shapes such as computer application windows.  The user is given a white area with a grid background in which to place shapes wherever they may desire.  The end result is a slick, stylized drawn diagram of whatever is on your mind.  The diagrams can be saved as PDF files or converted to PNG graphics, so they can be imported into another program.  They can also be exported as XML for importation into other drawing programs.  Presentations you can make with the program can be as simple as a few boxes connected by arrows, or as complex as a fully-functional prototype of a new computer program which you intend to build.  The program can go full-screen on your own computer system or on an overhead projector, and you can spend all the time you need to explain your drawing to your audience.  There are not separate slides, but there is an infinite whiteboard area which you can pack in with all of the information you need to make your presentation. Similar to Prezi, everything is contained on one area which will allow you to present without flipping slides at all.

The presentation mode of Balsamiq Mockups turns the computer cursor into a large, stylized blue arrow which you can use to point

This may not be the best format for presentations for everyone.  There may be too much information to fit onto one presentation area comfortably, so this may not work for every subject.  However, if the subject requires a lot of diagrams and information displayed visually, such as a complex set of chemical reactions or a new workflow paradigm for your company, this may be the best option.  It costs a one-time fee of $79 to use the program, which is better than Prezi's yearly membership fee.  It is more of a niche product than other presentation programs but it covers that niche extremely well.

 

Pros

Cons

* excellent stylized look and feel

* great for drawing complex charts and flows

* runs on every computer system

* can export to PNG or PDF format

* best suited to drawing complex shapes and computer program mockups

* $79 fee

* no slides, only one whiteboard area

 

Conclusion

It is a good year to be a computer user, with so many options old and new.  It doesn't matter what you need to do, you can find the best application to fit your  needs.  If you want something that most businessmen will be instantly familiar with, go with PowerPoint.  If you want to stand out from the crowd, then Keynote is for you.  The free alternative, OpenOffice, lets you do anything that the others do for much less cost.  If you want to completely redefine what it means to give a presentation, Prezi is what you need.  And, finally, if you long to draw out all your ideas and show them to your colleagues in minute detail, Balsamiq Mockups can really let you go full-out with stylish diagrams that are easy on the eyes.  Choose your weapon and make your presentation!


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