Contrary to popular belief, PowerPoint isn’t the only slide show creation application in town. There are other apps available, some that live in the cloud, and some that are free to use. PowerPoint is arguably the most powerful app with the most features, but it’s not necessarily the best tool for every job. Furthermore, most of these other apps allow you to “save as” to other formats, making it easy to port your presentation from one app to another with minimal compatibility issues. Here’s a roundup of popular PowerPoint alternatives!
(1) Keynote – Part of the Apple iWork suite of applications, Keynote is Apple-only (including a version for the iPad). Keynote offers an attractive set of themes, animations and graphic formatting options that make it easy to create attractive, elegant presentations. Keynote handles embedded media and graphics very well. Garr Reynolds, author of the Presentation Zen blog and books, swears by it. Keynote can be purchased from the Apple App Store.
(2) Prezi – Born in Budapest, Prezi is a unique cloud-based application that takes a different approach to presentation design. Instead of building a linear slide show, Prezi allows you to create a large canvas of grouped topics, and then flow in and out of each freely when presenting. This approach allows the presenter to show context, as you can zoom out to see the entire presentation. Prezi offers a free upgraded “Enjoy” account to educators. Paid versions of Prezi offer some additional storage space and the ability to run the application locally. To see Prezi in action, check out their Explore page.
(3) Google Presentations – Part of the Google Docs suite, Presentations is a cloud-based application. It is not as powerful as a local application like Keynote or PowerPoint, but it’s extremely useful for teams who are collaborating virtually to build a presentation, because it offers “character-by-character collaboration” (team members can make edits live, at the same time). The new version of Presentations has added animation effects, transitions and drawing tools. You can easily import from and export to a variety of file types, like PowerPoint. Google Presentations is free to use; all you need is a Google account.
(4) Sliderocket – Sliderocket is an intriguing alternative because it offer a rich set of features for design along with the advantages of cloud-based applications like Google Docs. The one draw back is that you need to subscribe (a.k.a. pay $$) to take advantage of many of its features, although you can sign up for a free trial and continue to use a basic/free account after that. Some highlights include the ability to access your presentations from anywhere, including a smart phone, collaboration tools, high-quality design templates, and “plug-ins” that can dynamically display content from other websites such as Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. To learn more about their features, visit the Sliderocket product and gallery pages.
(5) OpenOffice Impress – OpenOffice is a free, cross-platform, open-source productivity suite that offers applications similar to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The presentation design app is called Impress, and works just like PowerPoint. You will not find all of the bells and whistles that you will in recent versions of PowerPoint or Keynote, but Impress is a fully-functional (did we mention free?) app that gets the job done. PowerPoint is among the many file formats that Impress will open and save to. OpenOffice has been around for many years, and is stable. Visit their download page to try it out.
Summary: Keynote is elegant and simple, yet powerful enough to compete with PowerPoint’s feature set. If you’re looking to shake things up and think outside the box, Prezi is the obvious choice, though it does have some limitations. Google Presentations is very basic, but flexible and probably the easiest tool of the bunch to use when you need to collaborating with a team. Sliderocket is very slick, and offers a number of cool features that the other tools do not, but you have to pay to use its best features. OpenOffice is great for users who do not have access to Microsoft Office or iWork, and are looking for a free tool.
The important thing to keep in mind, is that these are just tools. Your content and experiences are the most important part of your presentation!
Have you used any of these other applications? Do you have any likes or dislikes? Do you have any recommendations of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!