Software

Five top alternatives to PowerPoint

Not a PowerPoint fan? You still have some good presentation options -- including several Web-based apps.

If you have Office, you have PowerPoint, presentation software that's easy to use and cause for debate among users and experts alike. You love it or you hate it. But if you hate it or you just don't want to purchase Office, you're not stuck. There are alternatives and most of them will get the job done just fine.

Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.

1: Impress

OpenOffice.org Impress is part of the free OpenOffice.org suite of business software. The user interface, shown in Figure A, is amazingly similar to PowerPoint 2003. If you can use PowerPoint, you'll be up and running with Impress in minutes. Like PowerPoint, Impress offers master slides, layout options, object inspection via right-clicking, animation, transitions, and plenty of toys.

Figure A

OpenOffice.org Impress is similar to PowerPoint 2003.

Technically, it's free (and open source). If you use it, consider a donation to help support and maintain the community.

2: Prezi

If you're looking for a cloud-based presentation app, take a look at Prezi.com. It uses Adobe Flash to quickly create edgy animated presentations. There are no slides. Instead, you store everything on a huge canvas and then choreograph the show. To create a new Prezi, supply a name and description, as shown in Figure B. Then, choose a blank Prezi or a template. (The first time you use Prezi, you'll have the opportunity to view a short tutorial.) Figure C shows a blank Prezi, ready for text and graphics. You can even convert PowerPoint slides to a Prezi.

Figure B

All Prezis start here.

Figure C

Add presentation text and graphics to this blank canvas.

Although Prezi is easy to learn, it's different enough that it might intimidate you just a bit. Prezi's zooming nature gives it a bit of a contemporary edge, but it won't be right for every presentation. When it is right, it'll be just the right tool.

You can play in the cloud free, but all your Prezis are public. You can, however, download them and present offline. A private subscription is $59 a year, and for $159 a year, you can add full support to your subscription.

3: Google Presentation

If you haven't tried Google Docs Presentation in a while, take another look. Google recently revamped the app and it's got a lot more to offer than before. Just pull up Google.com and choose Documents from the More menu. If you don't have an account, you'll need to create one. Once you're in, click Create and choose Presentation. Work through the tutorial to the user interface shown in Figure D. This Web-based app requires a recent version of Internet Explorer or Chrome to tap into its newest features. Google Docs is free, but you're working in the cloud.

Figure D

Google Docs Presentation interface is utilitarian but effective.

4: SlideRocket

Another Web-based presentation app, SlideRocket, offers some impressive and advanced animations and transitions. It's a good choice for creating a Web presentation. Searching for and adding Web content requires just a few clicks. (The interface might seem unfamiliar at first, so take the short tutorial.) You'll spend most of your time working in the Editing window, shown in Figure E. It's probably the most comprehensive alternative, when compared to PowerPoint. But the free version lets you publish only as a Web URL -- you can't view your work offline. For $24 a month (per user), you can download your presentation as a PowerPoint or PDF file.

Figure E

Manipulate slides in the Editing window.

5: Flair

Wildform's Flair is a desktop app that produces Flash-based presentations, but you don't have to know Flash to benefit from its pizazz. That's Flair's biggest plus. And even at a pricey $199, it's still cheaper than Flash, so it's probably worth it to the right buyers. For the most part, Flair is straightforward to use. Its strength lies in its built-in video and audio recording capabilities, making it a reasonable option for e-learning products. It also converts PowerPoint files to Flash. The Edit User interface, shown in Figure F, is familiar enough to get you started. There's a ton of online training and a ton of templates.

Figure F

You'll use edit mode to create and modify slides.

For the price, you'd expect a free trial, but there isn't one. You can download a demo, but they don't make it easy.

What presentation software do you use?

Have you used any of the apps listed here? Or do you just stick with PowerPoint for creating and delivering your slide shows?

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

31 comments
kirkkenneth
kirkkenneth

With Ezvid, you can even make a video slideshow out of the slides you made on Ezvid. Then upload it to YouTube immediately. Try it. Ezvid is very easy to use and great tool for YouTube videos to create gameplay videos, how-to tutorials, and promoting products using video slideshows. Go get Ezvid free at http://ezvid.com

sperry532
sperry532

I fully agree with those who said, it's not the software, it's the user's ability and understanding with and of the software. 'Tis a poor workman that blames his tools and all that. Our firm uses PowerPoint because 1) it's what our people are used to, and 2) it came with the MS Office Suite. We're stuck using the MS products because it works with all of our other systems, including document management, time and billing, and redlining (version comparison) products. Personally, I prefer Keynote. I've tried Prezi and Impress and found them to be OK. I'll give the others a look-see, but unless and until they work and play well with our diverse systems, changing over is probably a no-go. .

neb
neb

I agree, not including Keynote software is an oversight. Our business uses it a lot. It has some great transitions and some super features on the tutorials found on the Apple website. I don't normally say wow when looking at a tutorial but these are more than worth a visit if you are serious about winning business through the means of presentation or you need to visualise your talk.

maxiep
maxiep

I've tried adding music to both a Power Point and Impress slide show, but failed on both. I know it can be done. I add the music OK but it stps as soon as I move on to the next slide, I want the same piece of music to continue right through the slide show. Can anyone suggest what I am doing wrong?

konfuzed
konfuzed

With all the popularity of the iOS, and the fact that Keynote is so very simple and powerful, I'm very surprised to see a list of Powerpoint "contenders" without keynote there. In my opinion keynote is superior to Powerpoint and the fact that you can have a portable version that you can then plug into a monitor or projector makes it an outright winner.

danbi
danbi

I too, use Impress, because I can use Open Office in Windows, UNIX and MacOS (I use UNIX and MacOS daily and Windows when there is no other option from time to time). The MS Office suite is too bloated for my computing taste as well. Tools must be simple. Then, I convert my slides to PDF for presentation.

Han CNX
Han CNX

I use Word, landscape the page in a sane ratio for the projector, then PDF it. Never really understood why 'presentation software' even became 'a thing'. If you're fiddling with form more than content then you're doing it wrong. Unless you're in Marketing/Advertising, or some other purple-pants profession.

boucaria
boucaria

I have seen great presentations done on Powerpoint, as well as terrible. I have also seen great presentations done on Open Office and they were totally compatible with the MS Office Powerpoint in the Office; Open Office was used simply because the office would not pay for the staff person to have their own copy of Powerpoint. At one extreme I have seen superb Presentations done by Speakers from Georgetown Uni and the guy was great, he was an employee of Symantec and also taught at Georgetown. Some people can present info easily , some people need the script written by someone else( it would seem). I have seen plenty of material written against Powerpoint mainly because it is glitz and gloss at many core components. Perhaps, if people had less options, they would be forced to try different methods, but I doubt it. Like some commentators have said, if you have 3 points per slide and you have 30 slides, thats a lot of info to absorb ( or maybe, TRY, to be absorb).

africord
africord

First, we didn't need the MS Office hijack, or all the effort focused on the reality that 80% of any group only uses 20% of a relatively robust application suite. The focus should be on presentations. The options presented are primarily PowerPoint look alikes for the simple reason that PowerPoint is pretty easy way to pull simple presentations together. Prezi is the outlier and a really new way to present an interesting presentation. Particularly so for presentations that have multiple levels of linkage. Its worth your time to explore this, particularly for companies that appreciate creative approaches to presentations.

ronacook
ronacook

Most of the presentations I do are in Keynote. Simple, powerful and very high quality.

jdaughtry
jdaughtry

Less expensive than MS-Office "home and student" and legal to use for business. They just released a new version that includes the eM mail client. I've been using this for two years in a MS-Office shop and so far no one has noticed the difference.

markjstanley
markjstanley

Seriously. Powerpoint, and all the alternatives are just tools for creating presentations. Great presentations, like great anythings come from great craftsmen, not great tools. If you don't put the effort in to develop the craft, your presentations will look like a half-arsed secondary school design & technology project. ...but don't worry, we've all created really duff presentations (and probably still do) - stop blaming your tools and start developing your skills instead.

cjbarnard
cjbarnard

If you search for pptplx you will come across a plug in for PowerPoint that offers PPT users the feel of Prezi, being able to zoom in and out and alter the path through the presentation, without having to learn very much new material or techniques. Best of both worlds?

cjbarnard
cjbarnard

I teach in a secondary (high) school in the UK and we deliver Office Specialist courses to our students from age 13 upwards. I would suggest that many of my 13 year olds use more of the facilities in office than the average user. Thats because they KNOW that they are there to be used. The key issue around ALL software is the training. Every application is useless / underused if you don't put in the preparation.

jdm12
jdm12

Years ago I learned photography. When I did so, I also learned that people constantly bought new and more expensive cameras in the belief that the camera took the photograph. The manufacturers had the marketplace completely bamboozled. The argument shouldn't be which slide program to use, but rather to understand the purpose of the individual slides. None of the programs listed will transform poor presenters into good ones, and most of the people who take the stage only make their own presentations even worse with their poorly made slides. For the most part, slide presentations exist for the speaker to use as a devise to hide from his/her audience or simply to confuse the audience.

avana
avana

Nowhere it's mentioned it is about WindowsOS only. O.K. However even in Windows there are other dedicated Presentation tools-- Latex-oriented ones. LIke Beamer in particular. Its templates are great.

TNT
TNT

I've used 3 out 5 of these and am generally pleased with their capabilities. As a public speaker a PowerPoint behind you is expected, and sometimes there are issues getting everything running right. Sometimes its issues with fonts, or versions, or just a general lack of knowledge on the part of the person running the slides. For this reason cloud-based presentations appealed to me, but most venue's aren't familiar with running such presentations so... Hello square one, nice to see you again. My only contention with the list is Prezi. Though I've never used it, if it is Flash-based it has a very limited shelf life (Adobe is moving away from Flash on everything except desktops, and I think that's only a matter of time). I would hate for someone to spend a lot of time developing a great presentation that they cannot use down the road.

andrew
andrew

Real Time Collaboration = Google Presentation

mkhangan07
mkhangan07

I think the MS powerpoint has come up with lot of new features which make easy for me to create my official presentations. From starting I am using MS powerpoint and I think it is better and easy than all presentation softwares today.

vayda
vayda

Keynote is better than all of these options and it wasn't even mentioned.

open_source_user_01
open_source_user_01

Whoever brings this big cluster into the Enterprise should be fired. Why does a company needs to spend tens of thousands of dollars for someone to create a (.doc) and/or any other Office suite file. Plus, Outlook the biggest conglomeration of bugs on earth, when companies realize they can invest money in infrastructure like Network/Storage/Server/Virtualization ect. We have implemented Open Office and saved thousands of dollars and people say it is easier to use than MS Office.

ssharkins
ssharkins

That's good to know, thank you for sharing that.

Beezix
Beezix

People tend to jump from app to app hoping to get a certain result. This result, of course, could be that could be done if the person puts some work and some effort into learning. One of the great things about PowerPoint is that there's an existing ecosystem of trainers, reference materials and websites that provide help.

OccultusErfordensis
OccultusErfordensis

I'm an educated teacher and if you see how most presentation are done, then you will get grey hairs. Because most of the persons haven't any knowledge about methods and didactics. I've seen a lot of presentation even from big companies. And some presentations are more awful then awesome. And these persons wouldn't do better with any another presentation program. As it is with the photographer. You can't take good pictures if you don't have a sense for pictures even if you use the most expensive camera.

JulesLt
JulesLt

I don't have anything against OpenOffice, and at home I primarily use iWork. However . . . I don't see any problem with businesses buying MS Office, or other paid software, if it pays for itself in staff productivity. Impress, on the other hand, is really poor. (Actually the main thing I have against OpenOffice is that it's largely based on Office 97/2003).

FAST!!!
FAST!!!

Not that I do not disagree with your statement about creating a .doc but stating that someone should be fired for bringing Office into an enterprise is absolutely ridiculous. Open source (as your username states) is great for some but not everyone. You really should be more open minded.

Bogdan Peste
Bogdan Peste

It depends on the infrastructure, obviously. If your mail server is Exchange, there is no better e-mail client than Outlook. Is you are also using Lync, it's nice to have Conversation History, availability status, etc. directly in your Outlook screen. If you want to use RMS, the microsoft office files offer greater integration. Or if you use Sharepoint and want to make use of Infopath forms to automate some processes. Integration is key. Sure, you can integrate among Open-Source software as well, but Microsoft makes this process damn easy. If the company want to integrate 3rd party software, you need both people to do it and people to provide tech support for perhaps a non-supported design.

dogknees
dogknees

You obviously don't have a use for a lot of the suite. Not all people are in the same situation, over the years I've used a large proportion of Word, Access and Excel. There are very few areas that I've never used and even less that no one in my organisation has used. |rant| There seem to be a lot of people who never look past what they know and how they work to see if there's a better way. Indeed, it seems to be a strange sort of pride that says, I know better than anyone how to do everything I do, no one can tell me how to do anything, and if they try, they're insulting me. Of course there are people that could do what you do more effectively and efficiently. Rather than take offence, try the suggestion, you might find something better. Rather than complain that all this functionality in the full suites is bloat, how about seeing if there is a better way to accomplish your ends. How about expending some effort to learn something. Rather than saying that those who bring MSOffice into a corporation should be fired, how about those who tell corporations they don't need this should be fired. They should be encouraging the effective use of technology, which they can only do if they do the work to find out what is possible today that wasn't yesterday and promote it's effective use. I'm over this whole let's go backwards rubbish. We are in an industry that is about moving forward, about doing more, doing things that we couldn't do last year. Enabling many people to do things only experts could previously. Why have we stopped? Why are we now retreating from the idea of multi-tasking? Of combining different tools to achieve the result we're after? If I was a conspiracy nut, I'd almost believe there is a concerted effort by "them" to stop us thinking to hard about anything. Trouble is, we seem to be pretty capable of stuffing things up by ourselves without needing a conspiracy to help things along. |/rant|

thegreenwizard1
thegreenwizard1

By experience, I don't know anybody who use MS Office more that a 20% of the capacity, business included. People buy MS Office, because of a lack of knowledge for competitive products. And certainly a vendor won't install OpenOffice or LibreOffice, there is not enough incentive. Even for schools, here in USA the IT department sell the software, in Switzerland they say: you need to download OpenOffice, and they give introduction seminar to the student. But this is in Switzerland where education is not a question of immediate profit.