Poor Microsoft PowerPoint, it's in a branding hell. The business tool looks to be the goat for much of the troubles of the world. Even Microsoft admits that it may not be the best tool for every job; the company is now pushing better practices to PowerPoint users.
On Microsoft's Mac Business Unit blog late last week, Nadyne Richmond, user experience researcher, admitted that there are good presentations and bad ones.The article was titled: PowerPoint is not the right tool for every job
And then there are the ones that the military generates.
Elizabeth Bumiller in a New York Times article, recently ran down the practice of presentations in military briefings
. She spoke with Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, said the program "stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making."
“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”
So true. Still, that's often what the marketing department, or in this case, the Defense Dept., is getting paid for.
Microsoft's Richmond points to a number of articles on what makes a good presentation and a bad one. Many of these have good ideas for improving presentations, on the screen and off. For example, no audio, no cheap illustrations, no animations, no transitions, etc.
At the same time, Mac users should take many of these rules with a large dash of salt — they are based on PowerPoint's toolset and a user base unaccustomed to manipulating high-res, quality images.
The Mac standard for presentations is Apple's Keynote '09
. Its transition tools are powerful, but more importantly, the text handling and object animation tools can generate excellent effects and help users tell their story.
Whenever I mention this software to Windows-using buddies preparing a pitch, they always retort, "but that is on the Mac." Right! The quality of the Mac offers the best chance for your presentation, whether it's being viewed on a MacBook Pro across the table or shown via a projector or on an HDTV. My Mac always seems to work with projectors at meetings when the PCs are having trouble.
In addition, there are plenty of third-party templates. I was looking last week at some new themes at KeynoteZone
released last month. They have some very reasonably priced collections. Beautiful.