PowerPoint vs competition & Flash?

Subject: PowerPoint vs competition & Flash?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "'Diana Barnum'" <dbarnum -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2000 08:53:48 -0400

Diana Barnum wonders <<What alternatives are there to PowerPoint? What
advantages does PP have over these other means of visual presentation?>>

I haven't kept up with the competition since we were forcibly moved to adopt
MS Office a few years ago, so I can't really compare the pros and cons of
each package. PC Magazine periodically performs comparative reviews of the
main productivity packages, so you can hit their Web site (www.pcmag.com)
and search under "office suites" for their latest review (about a year ago);
if memory serves, there was a rundown of the main points of each component
of the office suites, including the presentation software, and a sidebar on
the alternatives.

What I like about PowerPoint (PP, Office 97 version):
- it includes a surprising amount of power (e.g., the ability to prepare
self-running, hypertext interactive presentations) once you dig deep to find
out what you can do
- it's ubiquitous (most business computers come with MS Office nowadays, and
thus have access to PP); the popularity of this software means that it's
easy to find someone who can help you resolve problems.
- it does some things very well (running slide projectors, transitions,
"builds", templates)
- it integrates reasonably well with the rest of Office
- on the whole, it lets us produce decent presentations quickly, with
minimal fuss and bother.

What I really dislike about PP (ditto):
- text editing is primitive (no named paragraph styles, the outliner only
displays and lets you edit text that follows the template, so you have to
resort to slide view to edit text you've added outside the template, such as
labels on illustrations)
- integration with the rest of Office isn't nearly as good as you'd expect
- file sizes can be huge
- many things are much more difficult to accomplish than comparable actions
in Word (in particular, there aren't enough keyboard shortcuts for my taste,
and because several keyboard controls don't work exactly the same way they
do in Word, my main tool, I have to reconfigure my fingers each time I move
into PP)

<<It's been said that Flash is superior to using PowerPoint and saving as
html (with animations). Could someone describe this a little - the
correlation between PowerPoint and Flash?>>

PP is intended to produce desktop presentations (e.g., driving a slide
projector) or to produce actual film slides (using a film recorder); it is
***not*** a tool for Web presentations, and will not be for some time yet
(if ever). Furthermore, MicroSoft has a lousy reputation for producing
quality HTML code, and the fact that you can do so from Word and PP doesn't
mean you'll be doing a good job. If you have a lot of presentations already
in PP, you may be forced to try its HTML export features, but you're almost
certainly going to have problems with the resulting HTML (large file sizes,
lots of garbage tags, poor image quality). If you're fortunate enough to be
starting from scratch, you're better to stick with a tool designed and
optimized specifically for the Web--Flash. MacroMedia, unlike Microsoft, has
a reputation for producing "best of breed" Web tools and responding to
feedback from their clients. You'll end up with much better results, just as
you'll end up with better results if you use a proper desktop publishing
tool rather than Word.

Don't get me wrong: as noted above, I like working with PP despite its
annoyances, and find it a productive tool. And I've yet to encounter a _word
processor_ that makes me as productive as Word. But both programs have
limitations based on what they were originally designed to do, and making
them work beyond those limits isn't the most efficient or effective way to
proceed.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer




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