Software

Want to ditch PowerPoint? Here are 3 alternative tools for creating presentations

Ludus, Beautiful.AI, and Paste each bring a distinctly different point of view to the world of presentation software

Three of the most well-known presentation apps — Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Apple Keynote — work similarly: You add a slide, insert content, then show the slides in sequence. All three of these software solutions work on all three of the major platforms: Web, Android, and iOS.

All three companies also continue to offer new features. Google added the ability to link slides, so that a change to a slide in one deck also allows you to update a linked slide elsewhere. Apple added the ability to record audio within Keynote. Microsoft added the option for people to dictate, instead of type, to add text in PowerPoint slides.

But new companies bring new ideas. Like the well-known presentation apps, the following three upstart vendors offer apps that allow you to add slides, insert content, show slides, collaborate, and present. Each of these developers brings a distinctly different perspective to the world of presentation software.

1. Ludus: Connected slides for creators

Ludus lets you bring a bunch of content from different sources together to present it in a series of slides. You can search-then-insert all sorts of image, video, and 3D files, along with other content, too, such as code, maps, and more. Ludus also lets you insert SVG images, add blends (e.g., multiply, screen, or overlay modes), and allows you to upload fonts (OTF and TTF) to use in your presentation.

SEE: Software usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

Ludus will work in most browsers, as long as they're big enough: I could edit slides in Safari on an iPad, for example, but not an iPhone, due to the screen size. You can create up to 20 presentations in Ludus for free in either the Solo or Team edition before you upgrade to a paid version for $99 per member per year.

Screenshot of a new blank slide in Ludus.

Ludus spotlights the ability to search — and insert content created elsewhere—with a splash of color surrounding the magnifying glass icon.

2. Beautiful.AI: Elegant designs for non-designers

Beautiful.AI makes it easy to create slides that look clean, balanced, and consistent. It includes a large library of slide templates for all sorts of content, including titles, photos, charts, timelines, images, video, diagrams, contact information, screenshots, and logos. And you can apply several different variations and layouts to each slide, which results in an even greater variety of images, text, and grid patterns. The system guides you toward design choices that give your presentations a consistent appearance.

You'll need a desktop browser to create or edit slides with Beautiful.AI, although you can view presentations from mobile device browsers. As of mid-June 2018, Beautiful.AI remains free, although the pricing page indicates that a paid Pro tier is "coming soon."

Screenshot of a new blank slide in Beautiful.AI. Access the slide template library by selecting the + to the right of a slide.

Beautiful.AI guides non-designers toward clean and balanced designs with a large library of templates (with variations) and theme choices.

3. Paste: Fast slides for discussions

Paste by FiftyThree feels more like digital version of a graphic designer's meeting room wall: It gives you a way to quickly add (or, um, paste... get it?) photos, files, GIFs, links, and, of course, sketches from the companion iOS drawing app, Paper by FiftyThree. (Both Paper and Paste are available for iOS.)

From a browser, you can insert content from all sorts of sources, such as social media sites, design tools, cloud storage services, among others. In Paste, each slide focuses on an image and a bit of text, with only a few layout and color options.

Paste gives collaborators the ability to comment (with text or with one of five emoji-like icons), and integrates with Slack—so conversations about slides can continue beyond the comments. You can use Paste for free or choose to upgrade to remove Paste branding, obtain priority support, and more. FiftyThree offers both individual ($8 per month) and team plans ($360 annually for a team of 25).

Screenshot of a blank deck — with nine gridded box areas into which you can drag and drop images, files, and more.

Paste by FiftyThree lets you gather images, documents, links — and more — quickly, then comment on each item or chat about the deck in Slack.

Your preferred presentation tools?

Of course, there are plenty of other presentation tools available. A Zapier post from mid-June 2018 features "The 13 Best Presentation Apps in 2018," covering PowerPoint, Slides, and Keynote, but not the three innovative apps listed above. I look forward to seeing how all of these presentation apps evolve to incorporate new ideas and features.

Have you tried any of the three systems above? If so, let me know what your experience has been. What do you think is the most interesting new presentation software available? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@awolber).

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About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Albuquerque, NM with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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