PowerPoint's scalability problem

Summary:PowerPoint may be the go-to presentation tool for professional presenters and educators. But if you have a ton of slides, Microsoft does very little to help out — except remove a few helpful features.

To most people, PowerPoint is a necessary evil. But to some people and organizations who do a lot of presenting and teaching, PowerPoint is a core resource. Unfortunately, while PowerPoint is still the reigning champion of presentation tools, it has one very serious problem: it doesn't scale well.

By scalability, I mean the ability to manage a large amount of slides and presentations. I produce a few thousands slides a year across many different presentations. When you just have a few presentations, or just the main corporate deck, it's no problem. But when you want to find an image or graphic you constructed using PowerPoint's excellent shape tools, you have to open all those files and scan through them.

The same problem occurs if you want to pull a certain sets of slides and reuse them, or reapply them with a different layout or style. You have to open old presentations, dig through them, find the slides, and move them into the new presentation.

It gets old.

There are a few commercial tools for managing PowerPoint slides, but they either require an appointment with a salesperson (nope, not happenin') or they seem pretty scruffy, as if they were built back in 2004 using Visual Basic and just updated once in a while.

Speaking personally, I'm not going to invest days of my time to pump all my slides and graphics into what is likely to be an unsupported Visual Basic project where I might not be able to get them back out.

Now, the astute reader might note that PowerPoint is part of Office and Office is part of the Office 365 offering from Microsoft , which also includes things like OneDrive, OneNote and SharePoint. Therefore, the astute reader might think that there would certainly be some sort of sophisticated slide collaboration and management service provided by Microsoft for such a high-profile application as PowerPoint.

You'd think so. And you'd be right. If you lived in the last decade. No longer.

It turns out that SharePoint had a feature called the SharePoint Slide Library. It was discontinued after SharePoint 2010. Why? It's another one of those many Microsoft mysteries we're always discussing. All evidence seems to imply it was a pretty useful feature. You might also recall the image library feature that PowerPoint once had. Yeah, that's gone, too.

So there you go. That's PowerPoint's scalability problem. Right now, I've jammed all of my presentations into one whoppingly-huge PPTX file and sometimes it actually opens (and I have bus flash storage and 32GB of RAM). It is a way of sometimes flipping through my slides to find one I need, but it's far from reliable or pleasant.

Isn't it high time that Microsoft release a supported, reliable PowerPoint library function that had granularity down to the shapes and SmartArt level? I'd like to see something we could rely on and share enterprise-wide, but is also accessible to lone creative professionals.

What do you think? Do you have big slide libraries that could use some help?

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

Topics: Microsoft

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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