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Thursday, 29 August 2013

'Hoover is only one brand of vacuum cleaners' - some alternatives to Powerpoint

Some products have become so ubiquitous that their name has morphed into a generic noun.  I still find myself referring to 'Hoovers' years after their dominance in the world of vacuum clears has subsided (all hail the Dyson!).  And I still talk quite freely about 'Durex' as a catch-all term for contraceptives, despite learning to my cost (and embarrassment and potential injury) that the word means sticky tape in Australia).

Some trademarks and brands have become completely absorbed into everyday language.  You might be surprised to learn (as I was) that 'Aspirin' is not the name of a drug, but actually a proprietorial brand.  And the same is true of Astroturf, Bubble Wrap, Hula Hoop, Frisbee, Ping Pong, and Jacuzzi.

Microsoft's Powerpoint is another case in point.  In most Universities and schools, 'powerpoint' simply means presentation.  And it is the most commonly used software, to the extent that departing from the norm can prove inconvenient or even impossible in many institutions.  In fact, so all-pervasive is Powerpoint that not using presentation software at all - whether or not it is appropriate - is seen as the behaviour of a Luddite!

But there are good reasons to consider alternatives.  The first is a political one: I suggest to you that conformity and obedience should be resisted as a matter of principle. It is our duty as free men and women (apologies to readers in North Korea).  Breaking free of the heavy hand of Microsoft in schools and universities can be a daily dose of "anarchist callisthenics", that exercise the freethinking muscles!

A more fundamental reason to resist is that Powerpoint, like any software is a tool, and all tools have their inherent limitations.  Use only kind of software and weaknesses quickly become acceptable, then normal, then inevitable.  Introduce another type of software and choice suddenly becomes an option.

Powerpoint contains a remarkably comprehensive range of functions, but it is not as intuitive or pretty as Apple's Keynote (although you would also need to swap your PC for a Mac ... which is another great reason).  It is also not non-linear nor as flexible as the online program Prezi.  Nor is it free like Google's Drive presentation, PowToon, and 280 Slides.

If the intention is to do the same sort of thing as Powerpoint, but with a different look or feel, it is worth considering Sliderocket.  If multimedia is your thing, then the new SlideSnack is excellent.

I'm not going to offer a proper review here.  Nor will I dissect the virtues and vices of the different systems.  My aim is to make a simple point: there is more to presentation software than Powerpoint, and it is well worth taking a little time to check out some of the alternatives.

In the era of web-based and cloud-based programs, the horny old 'PC versus Mac' question becomes somewhat redundant (the answer's Mac, by the way!).  And many programs are offered free of charged, or at greatly reduced prices, so money is less of an obstacle that it once was.

So don't do it for me.  Do it for your colleagues and friends who have had to suffer through countless hours of tediously similar slides and effects!  Do it for those poor souls for whom the sight of a clever transition or animation no longer brings shrills of anticipation; just the deadening certainly that another bloody slide is coming along.  Do it for those who still think that being told 'but we always do it this way' is reason enough to do something else!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Powerpoint make students work easier whether they have to make presentation, it contains all the major functions which we need for a presenatation.