When you need to create an interesting and engaging presentation for your boss, new clients or a job interview, you have plenty of options for tools to get the job done. Plus, even though it's the industry standard, you don't have to your Microsoft PowerPoint. Many people would argue there are better tools for the job. This week we're going to look at five of alternative presentation tools.
Title image remixed from Losevsky Pavel (Shutterstock).
Keynote (Mac: $20.99)
Apple's Keynote can be purchased as a stand-alone product, or as part of Apple's iWork productivity suite. It's probably one of the most intuitive, easy-to-use and template-heavy presentation applications I've ever used. It's very easy to create good-looking presentations with Keynote without spending time digging through menus, or looking for templates that haven't been used to death by everyone else. Keynote has great built-in graphic tools to edit and tweak the images going into your presentations, easily supports videos and movies on your slides or as part of your presentation, has non-hokey-looking animations and supports PowerPoint documents if you need to spice up someone else's presentation. It even lets you control your presentation from your iOS device or project the presentation via video out and look at your notes and the upcoming slides on your Mac's display.
Google Docs (Web: Free)
Google Docs' presentations module used to be fairly lacklustre, but they've updated it recently to make it more compatible with people coming over from Microsoft Office, or people who want a more robust presentations tool. Google Docs offers a wealth of templates and presentation creation tools that are easy to jump in and get started with, animations and slide transitions to make your presentation interesting to watch, and even collaborative presentation editing with other people on your team. You may miss some heavier features like video embedding in your slides (although you can embed YouTube or other web video), if you don't need the bells and whistles of a pricier app and just want a fast, free way to create good-looking slideshows on any system, this is it.
Beamer (LaTeX) (Windows/Mac/Linux: Free)
If you're a fan of LaTeX, or just remember having to apply it for your graduate thesis, you'll love Beamer. Where other presentation tools give you a GUI where you drag in elements you want to use like images and video and then tweak text boxes to include the information you want on screen, Beamer requires you to build your presentation in a custom markup language that works for just about any LaTeX document. If you're looking for fast and easy-to-use, this isn't it, but if you're already familiar with LaTeX and have used it in the past (it's extremely popular in academia and by technical folks who would rather write their own presentations and tweak every possible feature than give up control to a GUI), then it offers a level of granular control that other tools don't provide.
Prezi (Web/Win/Mac/Linux/iOS: Free, $US59/yr "Enjoy", $US159/yr Pro)
Prezi takes presentations in a different direction than static slides on a screen or projector with text on them. Even the animations and transitions available in other slideshow applications pale in comparison to Prezi's "zooming user interface", which puts entire slides in motion and focuses heavily on images, graphics and motion to draw attention to text. To some, it's all too overwhelming and distracting from the core message of the presentation, and some have called Prezi's flashy presentation templates unprofessional, but many more have noted that Prezi's tools make it easy to create presentations that are truly interesting and a world apart from the dull slideshows we're all used to. You can create an account for free and start building presentations on the web, up to a 100MB storage limit. if you need more space, $US59/year gets you a "Prezi Enjoy" account, 500MB and the ability to make your presentations private and remove the Prezi watermark. $US159/year will get you a Pro account, which bumps you up to 2GB of storage and access to Prezi Desktop, an Adobe AIR app that lets you work on your presentations outside of a browser.
LibreOffice/OpenOffice.org Impress (Windows/Mac/Linux: Free)
Without getting too deep into the divide between LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org, Impress is the presentation builder for both productivity suites. When LibreOffice split off as a fork of OpenOffice.org, it took Impress with it, and now both platforms use essentially the same tool for slideshows and presentations. Both version support PowerPoint presentations, and offer an easy-to-use drag-and-drop UI for building new presentations that you'll be familiar with if you've used any of the other tools listed here. In fact, Impress most closely matches PowerPoint in terms of UI and layout of any of the tools here, but extends its drawing and graphics capabilities a bit.