I’ve been playing for a while with alternatives to PowerPoint (or Keynote, which is what I use). Some of my clients have been asking for something more convenient, more innovative and more, well, fun…
Well if you’ve got the right set-up and the online connections you need, their Office 365 route might be a good starting point for the ‘convenient’ thing, as you no longer need to worry about taking your slide deck with you or that you might get to the venue to discover that the computer you’re offered won’t read your sexy new PowerPoint format. It hardly suffices for ‘innovative’ though.
The obvious starting point is prezi.com. Recently the ‘wild boy’ newcommer, and now a bit old hat in some ways. It’s less of a one trick pony now, as features have been added, so you can build some PowerPoint slides into the flow of how Prezi works. In theory it should be the best of both worlds. In practice it’s all a bit too clunky. And slow.
It’s slow to work with, often and slow to load. Of course that’s not an issue once it is loaded, I know. I don’t pretend to be an expert in Prezi so the demo above isn’t the best in the world but it’s at least perfectly competent and illustrates a couple of the advanced features, like fading things in without moving. So you know, it took about an hour and half of work, starting from not knowing Prezi at all. How does that compare with making a presentation from absolute scratch in PowerPoint? Probably better, I think – but I can’t remember the day I didn’t know PowerPoint…
For me, though, I’ve never really liked Prezi. There’s nothing wrong with it, and it may just be that I’m biased because when I was first asked to review it, it was bloody awful and that left me feeling it was still awful, even though I know it’s improved a lot. So, if you want to see how good it can be, check this beauty. There’s nothing there I’ve not done in my work-a-day offering, but it’s just done sooooooo much better!
I’m not pretending the list below is comprehensive. I’m not even pretending my claims about the software are comprehensive. What I am claiming is that this scamper through these options gives me an idea of where I want to invest my time. After all, I’m busy, and if I can make a quick decision that something isn’t worth my time and effort before I invest in learning it, so much the better.
So what are the alternatives?
Start off with the big guns – Canva
Well for a start their’s canva. Canva has been around for a few years now, and allows you to create everything from presentations to posters and infographics. For things like a Facebook header, it’s ideal as it’s already got templates at the right size and so on. The point is that you pick what you want to create, and then just drag and drop layouts, background graphics and text into your template, from a menu on the left of your screen. You can be up and running in, literally, less time than it took me to log in using my Google ID (to be fair, my internet connection was running painfully slowly ;) )
For presentations specifically though, you run into a few more problems. The first is that using templates has all the problems from a previous blog post. For example, when I pulled a template in to test, just now, with the head of “effective marketing” some of the text was only 14 Pts. Admittedly it wasn’t important text, but still…
This kind of thing is despite what is otherwise some excellent advice from their Canva school ;) For example, there’s a great article on slide design here.
Oh, and annoyingly, although Canva itself markets itself as free, many of the individual items you’d want to use aren’t. Each one is reasonably priced, just like one coffee at Starbucks isn’t expensive, but you can develop an expensive habit pretty quickly!
But for me, the killer lies in the fact that at its core, Canva isn’t intended to make presentations. Sure, you can add slides easily (just click on ‘add slide’) but the functionality is limited. And by limited I mean limited to zero. There’ no option, for example (as far as I can see) for fading in text – or even making an elegant transition from one slide to the next.
Watching a slide deck from Canva is a bit like riding on a car with square wheels. You thump forward in a set of bone-jarring thuds.
The solution I found out easily enough – just download your deck. That’s easy. Then import it to PowerPoint and work on it there. You use Canva as a quick way of creating what can be very attractive slides. The problem is that if that was what I wanted, I could have done that more quickly working from PowerPoint directly.
Don’t get me wrong, for static images, Canva is the bee’s knees (does anyone other than the UK have that phrase?). But for something more sophisticated it’s sadly lacking.
Something designed for presentations – Haikudeck
Haikudeck’s name, at least, implies it gets over this problem with Canva – the word “deck” suggests it’s going to allow some more sophistication.
The interface looks pretty similar to Canva. And it works more or less the same way, too, with a few subtle differences that you’d probably not notice unless you were trying to do a comparison.
One big plus (for me) of Canva compared to this app is that Haikudeck is only private if you pay for it – the free version means your half-arsed working versions are available for anyone to see, including the competition. Canva allows that to be turned on but is set off by default, so you can publish when you’re ready. Haikudeck’s solution is to send you a selling email a few days after you sign up to the free version pointing out you need to pay for this. I know they’ve got to earn a living but it felt a bit dirty, to me. :)
Let’s start off with the good stuff.
- Haikudeck is beautifully easy to use (very similar to Canva); you can create slides very quickly indeed and they generally look pretty good
- editing your slides is a piece of cake
- there are reasonable options for sharing
- It’s got some really nice templates that allow you to do some very sexy stuff
- There are a few slide layout options you can pick from
And now the bad news.
- Exporting and other useful features is pro-only: that means you can’t really use Haikudeck without paying the necessary £10/month It’s not a lot, just annoying that there’s no real free option (unless you count signing up for a free trial, doing your work and then cancelling, but that’s a bit mean!)
- There’s no sophistication about transitions or even what you can do on the slide itself (see above for Canva!): what you get is a set of static image slides
- They’re all the bloody same!
Let me unpack that last issue ;)
Although I said there were a few different layouts, there really are only a few… and they’re all variations on the same theme, to be honest. That theme is ‘graphic background with a little bit of text over it’. It’s better than the default PowerPoint of a zillion bullet points that make you want to die – or better, kill the presenter – but it gets very ‘samey’ very quickly. This screen grab of Haikudeck’s only gallery of examples should give you the idea…
As with Canva, what you get is a quick way to create some attractive image-based slides that you can download and then edit, but as with Canva, what’s the point?!
What about something you’ve never heard of? – Visme
I have to confess I’d never heard of Visme, until they got in touch. It’s still in beta mode, so perhaps I shouldn’t kick myself too hard, though.
I shouldn’t be impressed with pretty websites, but I’m only human, and Visme wins here…
… and in terms of the functionality of the slides you create it’s a winner too. You may not like some of the ways you can, for example, bring text in but at least you can
bring text in. There aren’t nearly as many options for working with your side’s content as there are in PowerPoint but at least there are some. Similarly, there’s a limited range of transitions between slides, but at least there are some.
Export functions work on the free version too, which is a big plus. That means you can do the usual create-download-edit that you can for the other two, but what looks like the ‘key’ way of presenting for Visme is more like Prezi than PowerPoint. You deliver the presentation from ‘within’ Visme. There are options to embed your Visme etc just like you can embed your Prezi.
In fact the whole way of editing your slide feels a bit Prezi-like too, once you’ve done the drag-and-drop that creates the slide from scratch, just like the other apps. You’ve also go much better options for embedding things onto your slide, too, such as video and audio – a function missing from some competitors and from the free options of others.
I particularly liked the way I could move things on my slide forward and back to sit in front of each other (or not). To be honest, I found this easier here, than with PowerPoint!
There’s not much to add, really. Well, of course there is but it’s quicker to try it than to read about it.
So then, Simon, what do you recommend?
To be brutally honest, none of these options is going to replace PowerPoint in the short term, at least for me. They give me the option of creating my slides in a new and different way, online for convenience, but at the expense of much greater limitation of slide design and function.
That said, of the three, I’m putting my money on Visme and I’m going to be trying it out in more detail over the next few weeks to see how it stacks up. I really like the feel of it – and if it’s as good as it looks at first blush it’s going to be handy! It might take me a week or so, because I’m going to try it out on non-critical slide decks only at first… and because I’m spending far too much time travelling this week. (Cue awww sounds?)