PROS / PowerPoint offers what seems like an unlimited selection of tools for creating presentation projects.
CONS / You have to buy the entire Microsoft Office Suite; PowerPoint isn’t sold individually.
VERDICT / This is an excellent software choice for those who want the convenience of a familiar product that is easy to use.
Microsoft’s PowerPoint is undoubtedly a powerful piece of presentation software, and one that is well worth consideration. It is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to collaborate or share presentations seamlessly with other users, thanks to Microsoft’s new collaboration features. PowerPoint’s outstanding feature set, nearly unlimited creative control and stellar help and support options combine to make this software our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winner.
The 2010 version of PowerPoint offers a few features that are so rare, very few competitors offer them. Most notable is its collaboration and file sharing web app, which allows you to post, access and share files from any computer with an internet connection. You can even broadcast your presentations via this app. Real-time, simultaneous collaboration and co-authoring is another great new feature, and no other presentation software we reviewed offers this option. There’s even a mobile app for Windows 7 phones that allows you to edit and view slideshow presentations on the go.
Further sharing options include the one-click email feature, which saves your presentation and opens your computer’s default mail client to let you easily send the file to a friend or colleague. And if you want to put the file on a flash drive or other small storage device, you can choose the “Reduce File Size” option from the File menu to make sharing even easier.
In addition to these great sharing and collaborating features, PowerPoint offers an extensive list of standard and above-average presentation features. The new, streamlined backstage view makes use of “ribbons,” rather than the standard drop-down menus, for navigation. These ribbons are divided into tasks and each holds a number of task-specific tools.
This presentation software offers one of the most extensive libraries of visual effects we found in our review process. You can choose one of the 40-plus presentation templates, each of which has its own set of master slides, for an innumerable number of total master slides. And each of the themes has its own set of color schemes that you can customize further.
There are over 30 slide transitions, and you can customize each one to include sound or to specify the direction the transition moves. Additionally, the object animations – more than 50 in all – are divided into categories like entrance, emphasis, exit and motions across the slide, and each one is also customizable. Some of the slide transitions have 3D effects to them, allowing your presentation to really pop out of the screen in more ways than one.
PowerPoint also has the most extensive clip art library, with more than 500 images, as well as nearly 200 cookie-cutter shapes and over 70 charts and diagrams in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional views. This is also only one of just a few presentation software applications we reviewed that offers Word Art – graphic renderings of any word you type. Of course, you can still add your own media, like photos, videos and audio, to a slideshow presentation.
Furthermore, PowerPoint offers excellent editing tools for your media. You can retouch photos to correct color, add filters or remove backgrounds with the click of a button. The standard time-clipping options for video and audio are available, of course. And the software boasts video editing tools beyond the standard length trimming and audio editing; in fact, you can recolor or even apply a style to your clips. Our favorite photo effect from PowerPoint slides an object of your choosing out of the photo and into the blank space next to it. The best part is that this high-quality, professional-looking effect is a breeze to achieve, and this feature is completely unique to this presentation software application.
For even more flair, you can add object effects to any of your slide elements. These include standard drop shadows and beautiful reflection effects, as well as glow, 3D or bevel effects. Bevel and 3D effects look similar in some applications, but there are drastic differences when the tools are applied to certain objects, so having both options – as opposed to just the bevel tool, as in many other slideshow applications – is highly convenient. Of course, your options for all of these are completely customizable as well. Just pick the effect and tweak as needed.
PowerPoint also offers a number of great organizational tools. You can group slides into collapsible sections, which is great for larger presentations. Objects snap to alignment guides when you have them turned on, ensuring precise placement each time. And in the presentation mode, you can call up a pen tool (in a variety of colors, no less) and draw directly on the slide to emphasize a point to your audience. This presentation software makes practicing your presentation a snap, thanks to timed slide progression and rehearsal modes, not to mention the audio recording option.
PowerPoint's word processing tools include the ability to add comments within the presentation edit mode. This feature allows the presenter to see the notes, while the audience sees only the presentation material. There is also a unique track changes option, useful for those who work with more than one person to create a presentation. You can add bulleted text to a slide, and you can even use the built-in dictionary and thesaurus to help with the word choice in your presentation.
Because PowerPoint is arguably the most frequently used presentation software on the market, file compatibility is rarely an issue. You can save your work in the standard PPT file extension, which some other presentation software applications can open as well. If you know your presentation will be viewed on a computer that doesn’t have PowerPoint, you can save your work as a MOV file that can be opened by QuickTime or a similar application. And you can export your slides as a PDF or as image files like JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP or TIFF, just in case. Of course, PowerPoint can also format a file in a web-ready format to make uploading a snap.
Ease of Use
If you grew up using older versions of PowerPoint, the interface will be immediately recognizable. The ribbon organization we mentioned earlier is drastically different from previous versions of PowerPoint, but the ribbon headers are quite recognizable, and it’s easy to guess where a given tool or command will be located.
Microsoft has designed this presentation software to be incredibly intuitive and simple to navigate, even for those who have never used PowerPoint – or any presentation software, for that matter. You can drag items from your desktop to the slide, or from one slide to another. A variety of slide views – from slide editing to an outline view that shows the text for each slide – help even the newest users stay organized and familiar with their work.
Help & Support
Larger software companies often rely on impersonal help and support features to avoid an enormous influx of user quandaries, but Microsoft is not such a company. It scored nearly perfectly on our review checklist for customer support, falling behind only in that it does not offer a PDF user manual and because some services, like directly contacting support staff, require site membership.
However, we think it’s unlikely that you’d ever need to contact technical support directly, given that there is a plethora of tutorials, troubleshooting guides, FAQs and how-to’s in the online knowledge base. And the Help menu that comes with the software is also quite useful; you can even look up items in the index for quick reference or perform a search if you’re really pressed for time. You can also turn to the online user forum for additional feedback from others who own the product, if needed.
In all, PowerPoint is almost everything that presentation software should be, with only the occasional drawback here or there. It’s especially useful if you’re new to the slideshow maker scene, if you are interested in co-authoring or collaborating to create your presentations, or if you’re creating a slideshow presentation that will be shown on a computer that doesn’t have any presentation software installed on it.