Catch-up: MS-Office 2010 Powerpoint

“Death by Powerpoint!”

It’s a phrase that’s passed into common use. The trouble is that Powerpoint has made it so dashed easy to crank out a deck of slides, that’s exactly what millions of people inflict everyday.

The overuse of cheesy transitions, clipart and sound effects has done nothing to disguise the fact that most presentations are in fact garbage. Powerpoint works best when you don’t notice the tool and focus only on the content. So does the Office 2010 release of Powerpoint change the cheese-to-quality ratio…?

Powerpoint has the Ribbon interface, as is now the Microsoft standard, so if you didn’t get all the icons and toolbars before, be prepared to work twice as hard now.

New Transitions Tab
There are now two tabs that are entirely devoted to transitions and animations. Now that they are separated there is more detail provided for each. The transitions in Powerpoint now work in similar fashion to a video editor like iMovie or Windows Live Movie Maker. The gallery of transitions options including duration, sounds effects, and whether to apply the transitions to all slides at once. Transitions are now selected by a single click – no OK confirmation, just click and done.

Animation Painter
The Animations tab has yet more depth in Office 2010 and has the most new content. Animations like Motion Paths are now held in a gallery, making them much easier to use than before.

The best new features mostly consist of new ways to manipulate and replicate animations. The Animation Painter works like the Format Painter in Word and Excel enabling you to quickly copy an animation to multiple objects, by selecting an animated object, clicking the Animation Painter then the objects (single or multiple) to which to apply that animation. Hallelujah! We’ve been crying out for parity in Powerpoint for years.

The Animation Pane lets you change how animations play in your presentation. Selecting a slide with animations show the order in which the animations will appear. You can re-arrange them via drag-and-drop, or simultaneously, or specify precise timing by dragging the markers next to the text of each animation; this changes the start-end points and speed of the animation

Video Presentation
This will either fill you with joy or dread. Inserted video clips used to be handled really badly, looked terrible and often crashed the slide show.

You now can easily embed videos from local and – sources with a Video button on the Insert tab. Videos appear in the slide alongside a set of player controls. By default, it needs a click to start, but the Animation Pane also reappears in context and can be used to edit the timing of video playback.

Editing
The right-click options include Trim Video, which opens a small editing panel for clipping the length. You can also use the Format Video option to adjust brightness, crop the video, and make other adjustments.

Live Broadcasting
As if boring the pants off just one room full of people isn’t enough, there is now a streaming feature to broadcast your Powerpoint across the Internet.

Under the Slide Show tab, select Broadcast Slide Show option. This accesses the PowerPoint Broadcast Service for which you need a Windows Live ID (the same as Hotmail and SkyDrive file sharing).

On signing in, the Broadcast service gives you a link ID; anyone who has the link can view the slide show. Now anyone can run a webinar, live product launch, demo with visuals. However, your audience will need an audio link such as a conference call to be able to hear you droning on through your slide deck.

Verdict
A little bit slicker, with a few long-awaited tweaks and a few less clicks counting toward the usability score. Powerpoint comes of age in the era of Internet video. If we get Skype integration next version around, then, my friends, we have a whole conference platform. Just have a little consideration for your audience. Please. AJS

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