If you make presentations to genealogy audiences or to anyone else, you are probably familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint, available for both Windows and Macintosh. It has been the leading slide show presentation program for many years. However, PowerPoint hasn’t had a significant update in years, and the price is not what we expect of modern software: it is far too expensive!
Actually, Microsoft usually sells PowerPoint in a bundle that includes Word, Excel, and perhaps some other programs as well. The prices of the various bundles range from about $120 for a single-user version of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2016 to $360 or more for “Professional” versions that include OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher. Those prices seem excessive when compared to the competition. For instance, LibreOffice does almost all the same functions and is FREE. However, LibreOffice’s presentation program is not as powerful as PowerPoint.
Microsoft has recently added a new, free offering called Office.com, also known as Office Online. It is a cloud-based offering that works well although the feature set is limited. Office Online does not have all the features of Office 365 and does not include OneNote, Outlook, Access, or Publisher. Its online version of PowerPoint is also stripped down. However, the basics of document editing, spreadsheet formulas, and presentation options are all covered. You can check out Office Online at no cost at https://www.office.com.
A New Option Called Slides
I have been experimenting with Slides, a new cloud-based program that lets you create, present, and share slide show presentations in a web browser. Unlike traditional presentation software like PowerPoint, there’s no need to download anything. All of your work is stored securely on slide.com’s servers, accessible wherever you are. You can create your presentation and display it to an audience with most any device that has a web browser: Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Android, iPad, iPhone, and most “smart” cell phones.
Slides runs “in the cloud.” That is, there is no software to install in your computer. You simply open a web browser, go to http://www.slides.com, and start using the program. When you’re ready to give your presentation, you can either run it from the same web site or, for off-line access, download it to your device with a couple mouse clicks. You also can embed a presentation inside of your web site or blog. To share slides with your audience, you can export your slide show as a PDF file that you can print.
One feature that I really like with Slides is that you can “broadcast” your completed presentations to an audience of any size, even audiences on the other side of the world. Viewers can follow along in real-time from any device. This is a great feature for use in online webinars.
When working with an in-person audience, presentations can be even be remote controlled from any touch-enabled mobile device. Simply tap your phone’s screen to advance the presentation to the next slide on the big screen. You can also go backwards, such as when an audience member asks a question about a previous slide.
Slide presentation pages, called “card decks,” are stored as HTML documents, so you can always edit the markup of your slides and customize them to meet your needs.
Speaker notes (short chunks of plain text that are visible only to yourself while presenting) are also supported. When presenting, you’ll see your notes appear inside of the speaker view when their corresponding slide is visible. You can also see your notes on a mobile device through the remote control.
Slides is available in four version: Free, $5 a month, $10 a month, and a Pro version for $20 a month.
The free version is completely free; you don’t even need a credit card. However, the free version is limited to 250 megabytes of storage space and has no capability to share slides with others. Free user accounts on Slides can only create public decks.
I suspect that anyone who likes the free version and decides to keep using Slides will probably want to sign up for either the $5/month or $10/month version.
The paid versions have very modest prices of either $5 or $10 per month if billed annually ($7 or $14 a month if billed month-by-month). The differences are in available storage space and some advanced features such as sharing slides with others, automatic synching with Dropbox, and more. If you are paying customer, your decks will be private by default. Even though a deck is private, you can still share it with a select audience by using a secret link or password protection.
I am presently using the $5 per month version but probably will upgrade to the $10 permonth version so that I can have unlimited online storage space.
At $20 a month, the “Pro version” appeals primarily to corporate users who work in teams. I doubt if an individual working at home would be interested in the $20/month Pro version.
Complete pricing information may be found at: https://slides.com/pricing.
Very Easy to Use
I found that using Slides is intuitive for anyone who is an experienced PowerPoint user. Anyone who is new to making presentation slides and has never used PowerPoint or any other presentation program probably can learn Slide’s intuitive interface a lot faster than learning PowerPoint’s rather complex methods of accomplishing the same thing.
I found it easy to rotate elements in the editor, draw directional lines and arrows, import PDF and PowerPoint documents as image slides, and export slides in a ZIP file.
On the downside, Slide does not have all the options found in PowerPoint. For instance, I found no method of having text spiral into the slide (which I always thought was a bit gaudy). The “motion commands” in PowerPoint do not appear in Slides. In addition, Slides is missing some of the slide creation features found in PowerPoint: text that fades in or out or perhaps makes a dramatic entrance, embedded videos, and more. Also, there is no support (yet) for importing videos although the company has promised to add that in the future.
For some examples of slide shows made with Slides.com, look at the examples below or find more at https://slides.com/explore.
Is Slides a complete replacement for PowerPoint? I would have to say “No.” Even so, I find it to be a useful and cost-effective program. Indeed, it is more than “good enough” for most of my presentations.
In some ways, Slides is better than PowerPoint. It certainly is better at working on a variety of hardware (iPad, Android, and other mobile devices), it is very attractive, is easier to share slides, is better at remote presentations, and it is better than PowerPoint in ease of use. The price tag of free to perhaps $10 a month is also very attractive.
An example of Slides.com: