Gone are the days when presentations are limited to poster boards you can haul into the conference room, and you've also got more options than the de facto office suite provides. Here's a look five of the most popular presentation creation tools.
Prezi (Web-Based/Windows/Mac/Linux; Basic: Free; Pro: From $US59/year)
Prezi appeared on the scene early last year and dazzled with web-built presentations that were actually interesting to watch. Prezi offers dynamic transitions and non-linear presenting that blow the Slide1, Slide2, Slide3... presentation-style we're all so used to right out of the water. A free public account grants you the ability to create Prezis, offline presentation, and 100MB of web-based storage. Upgrading to a $US59 per-year account removes the Prezi watermark, makes the contents of your presentation private, and increases storage. The top-tier account ($159/year) gives you more storage and an offline desktop client so you can compose Prezis without their web site. The screenshot above is from a public presentation "Math Is Not Linear", available for viewing here.
PowerPoint (Windows: $209; Mac: $229)
Nearly ubiquitous on corporate computers, PowerPoint is one of the most widely used presentation creation tools in the world. Although much maligned for the numerous boring slideshows created with it and inflicted upon legions of workers, PowerPoint is packed with features. (Don't blame PowerPoint—blame the people who made boring presentations.) PowerPoint is tightly integrated with the Microsoft Office Suite (which also comes with the price tag), supports a wide range of file embedding and compression options (to reduce overall file size), presentation sharing with your slides displayed at multiple networked locations, co-authoring through Windows Live, and integration with Windows Mobile phones via PowerPoint Mobile.
Google Presentations (Web-Based, Free)
Google Presentations isn't the most feature packed or whiz-bang presentation creation tool around. It is, however, completely serviceable, web-based, free, and offers the same dependable cloud-based backup and work-anywhere convenience that you've come to expect from Google products. You can share your work, collaborate, work on it from any web browser, and pull from the thousands of templates available in Google's vast public templates pool. The template used in the above screenshot is available here.
Keynote (Mac; $129)
Keynote is Apple's own presentation app, bundled in their iWork suite (the $129 price tag includes Pages and Numbers, too). Apple put their signature ease-of-use and polish all over Keynote. It's simple to create presentations with great looking themes, polished graphics, and high quality animations and transitions. Keynote has tight integration with, iOS so you can turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a wireless presentation tool that not only lets you control the progression of your presentation but view it on your mobile device, too.
Beamer (LaTeX) (Windows/Mac/Linux; Free)
Beamer is the presentation language class of the popular document markup language LaTeX. Beamer is the antithesis, in the presentation world, of tools like Keynote and PowerPoint. You don't sit down and drag and drop components in a What You See Is What You Get interface; instead you create your presentation using document markup language just like you would create a website from raw HTML code. Beamer has a steeper learning curve than WYSIWYG editors, but it offers unprecedented control over your presentation and is heavily favoured by engineers, scientists, and programmers who already use LaTeX in some capacity for their work. The screenshot above is from a presentation about Beamer, available here.
Have a favourite tool that didn't get a nod? A tip or trick for creating a great presentation? Let's hear about it in the comments.