Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 135 / NOVEMBER 1991 / PAGE 126

Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows. (presentation graphics software package) (evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann

If you make repeated or important presentations such as speeches, seminars, or sales pitches, a presentation graphics package can prove indispensable. Windows 3.0 users who need such a package should consider Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows.

PowerPoint enables you to quickly and easily create dramatic, coordinated presentations. While the basic unit of a presentation remains the slide, "slides" include actual 35mm photographic slides (produced from your file by a service bureau), full-color or black-and-white overhead transparencies, color or standard printed pages, or a computer-screen slide show.

PowerPoint also creates speaker's notes with reduced-size copies of your slides at the top of each page and printed slides (one, two, or six to a page) to leave with your audience. Your slides, notes, and handouts reside in a single file, coordinated so that any changes you make are reflected in all parts of your presentation.

As your presentation takes shape, you view your slides on a simulated onscreen light table. You can change the order of the presentation by moving slides around with your mouse, making PowerPoint not just a presentation creator, but a presentation manager as well.

For the not really artistic (like me), PowerPoint's extensive built-in help can solve many graphics predicaments. Have you ever agonized over a color scheme? PowerPoint has over 5000 carefully crafted color schemes built in--your color choices need never clash.

Templates for many kinds of slides offer you proven choices of fonts, underlines, graphic frames and boxes, drop shadows, and so forth. Beautiful in their unity, the template sets coordinate well; four-item basic bullet charts carry on the visual theme of your title screen, your paragraph slides, and your three-column tables, for example. The templates range in mood from lighthearted to stuffed-shirt boardroom. PowerPoint even seperates sets of templates into 35mm slides, overheads, and PC screens, each optimized for the different aspect ratios of these media.

All presentation files include a slide master, on which you put items that appear on all slides. Borders, corporate logos, and other theme graphics go here.

Stunning slide presentations no longer require the attention of professional artists or graphics designers--bad news for the company graphics department. This power has its price, however. PowerPoint demands a PC outfitted for Windows 3.0. Depending on how many features you install, PowerPoint takes upwards of 8.5 megabytes of hard disk space, and learning to use the program takes some time.

Produced in cooperation with Genigraphics, PowerPoint certainly packs serious design muscle. The Genigraphics artists prepared the color schemes and provided the 400 fullcolor, resizable clip art images that come with the product. They provide overnight 35mm and color overhead transparency production services. You can take your file on disk to one of their offices (in many major cities) or send it by modem to the nearest office. You get five slides free as an introduction to the service; after that they run $10 to $20 per first slide of each image, depending on how quickly you want them. PowerPoint has a built-in modem communications program to call Genigraphics--it even knows all the phone numbers.

Creating your presentation requires some tools. The limited word processing function seems perfectly adequate to create whatever you may need for slides. If you know Word for Windows, you'll find this smaller look-alike familiar. It even has its own spelling checker to keep you from projecting misspelled words in glorious color for all the world to see.

Drawing functions, too, have specific limitations. Don't expect to do any free-hand drawing here; you choose from simple lines, rectangles, circles, and ellipses. Anything more complex requires creation in another paint program. PowerPoint imports PIC, GCM, TIFF, EPS, HPGL, WMF, and PCX file formats directly.

Always an important part of a business presentation, graphs take shape in a separate module, a near clone of the Excel graph module. You start with a separate data sheet (a small spreadsheet) that you see onscreen along with its graph. Basic graph types, including area, pie, bar, line, column, and scattered data points (including high-low-close) get support. Many competitive presentation packages offer greater flexibility and diversity of graphs; PowerPoint gives you a workmanlike set of normal graphs along with tools to customize them only a little. You can import graphs created in other Windows packages such as Wingz or 3-D Charts for Windows as images; you can import the data sheet from most spreadsheet programs.

Other packages outshine PowerPoint in screen-show features. PowerPoint displays the slides in order on a full screen waiting either for a timed advance or a click or keystroke. Slide shows run only from a full-scale copy of PowerPoint. Other packages provide a series of special effects such as fades, zooms, and wipes to add interest to the process of changing slide images. Some provide runtime capabilities, meaning that they create a self-executing slide show that does not require the parent program to run on other computers.

Strong in coordinating presentations through master slides, color schemes, and templates that tie everything together, PowerPoint certainly doesn't lack fine features. Its flexibility in working with other Windows applications further enhances its value. With this amazing tool, nonartists can create truly professional-looking presentations. A little well-deserved self-confidence about the quality of the visuals in a presentation can make the difference between success and failure for the whole event. Before you go before the board with slide carousel in hand, sample PowerPoint to make your points unforgettable.