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PowerPoint 2010

PowerPoint is often the punch line of jokes, but “death by PowerPoint” has little to do with PowerPoint and much to with the inadequacies of those that present them. Nonetheless, anything that can make PowerPoint smoother, more stylish and easier to use can only be a good thing, particularly if it means people use it better. There’s plenty in PowerPoint 2010 to encourage.

To start with, unlike Word and Excel, PowerPoint wasn’t given the ribbon treatment in Office 2007. Using PowerPoint 2010 feels quite different as result, and it’s a significant and powerful improvement. Where the ribbon is particularly effective is in making it easier for novice users to create attractive presentations. There are plenty of themes to get people on their way, while the live preview effects seen throughout Office 2010 are present in PowerPoint and prove particularly useful in previewing transitions and animations before applying them. Those transitions and animations are slicker than ever, though they’re still not quite a match for Apple’s Keynote and there’s no response to its classy Magic Moves feature.

However, while Keynote can still boast more eye-candy, PowerPoint is no ugly duckling and surges ahead in other areas. Most salient are its video integration features, allowing for embedding of both locally stored videos and videos from online services such as YouTube and Vimeo. Both work very well, though where possible we’d encourage you to use locally stored videos as your options are far more varied. You can apply many of the same tweaks as offered by the image editing tools, such as adjusting contrast and adding artistic effects, as well as edit your videos to present just the segment you actually want to use – something that’s not possible with online videos.

Where PowerPoint really excels, however, is in its numerous options for sharing your efforts. If you have to present remotely but don’t have access to, or don’t want to use, any of the numerous remote conferencing services out there, PowerPoint’s new Broadcast Slide Show feature is for you. A public service that requires a Windows Live ID, it will produce a link that you can send to people via email. This link will then open in any web browser and display a live version of your presentation, ready for you to proceed. Its only issue is that, unless you have a second screen to hand, you can’t present and have your notes up at the same time.

Returning to the topic of video, another way to share your presentations is to convert them to video. Accessed via ‘Save & Send’ in Backstage View, ‘Create a Video’ supports recorded narrations and timings. Videos can be outputted at three settings: 960 x 720 for computers and projectors; 640 x 480 for DVDs and online video services; and 320 x 240 for portable media devices.

Verdict

PowerPoint 2010 is another success for the Office 2010 suite. Though it still can’t match Keynote for slickness, it’s a massive improvement over 2007 and the ribbon interface is well-utilised to make creating presentations much easier for all concerned. Video integration is the headline feature, though, while the ability to quickly and easily setup remote presentations and export to video are very welcome.

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