Pixie. (presentation software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by William D. Harrel
A problem with high-end business presentation programs like Aldus Persuasion, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Micrografx Charisma is that they're expensive and somewhat difficult to use. If you, like most of us, aren't a professional presenter, you may have neither the time nor the inclination to spend hours and $500 or $600 on software that prepares transparencies and slides. But if you need to do an occasional slide show or presentation, perhaps Zenographics' Pixie is right for you--if you're running or planning to run Windows, that is.
Unlike the more sophisticated packages, Pixie doesn't require you to create your charts and graphs in obscure, complicated forms. Instead, you start with a basic chart template onscreen and modify it. This ease of use is unsurpassed by few (if any) graphics packages. Almost every function is performed with the click or drag of a mouse. If, for example, you want to increase the value of a bar in a bar chart, just select the bar and enlarge it. As you stretch the bar, a small dialog box displays your progress--the new values in numbers. When you finish, simply release the mouse button.
You can also create charts from spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel. Dynamic Data Links (DDE) can be established between Pixie and Windows spreadsheets so that charts and graphs can be updated automatically as data in linked spreadsheets changes.
Pixie supports a number of chart types, including word, bullet, table, bar, line, stacked bar, error bar, scatter, area, and a few others. You can use the fonts that come with the package or a Windows type manager, such as ATM or TrueType. There is a spelling checker, and you can import several different graphics formats. Popular bitmaps such as TIFF and PCX files are not supported, however. And file exports are limited to three or four formats. Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) files cannot be exported, which is somewhat limiting for printing and compatibility with other programs, such as desktop publishing, draw, and word processing. The Windows Metafile and other formats Pixie exports are often not as versatile as EPS. The Windows Clipboard is supported. But so far, anyway, this is a less-than-perfect means of importing graphics from one application to another--especially EPS images.
For those of us who aren't colorwise, the program comes with a number of color palettes containing complementing combinations. Or you can create your own from Windows' palette of more than 16 million colors. Three-dimensional options are available for text and charts. The sizes and angles are very limited, however, as are background fill options, which toggle between "plain" and "fancy." Fancy is nothing more than a linear fill. But Pixie is bundled with several clip art images and a library with 325 full-color graphics and backgrounds to enhance your slides.
In general, Pixie is an intuitive, easy-to-use presentation package. Considering its limitations, it might be slightly overpriced at $295. The price is suggested, though; if you shop around, you can find it for considerably less.