First look: Google’s PowerPoint rival

Having already rattled Microsoft with its online word processor and spreadsheet software, Google has upped the ante with the launch of its own PowerPoint-style presentation package.

But while it’s easy to see the benefits of creating and sharing documents online, does the same hold true for presentations?

In theory, Google’s presentation software is an easy way to share slides with colleagues. As with its word processor and spreadsheet applications, you can import Microsoft files easily. Files upload and convert without any problems, but any features available in PowerPoint, but not Google Docs, will be duly ignored.

Slide transitions, for example, aren’t supported (to the delight of anyone who’s been forced to sit through 40 consecutive checkerboard wipes), and are simply stripped out. There’s also no spellchecker, nor any way to embed sound or video files; given Google’s investment in YouTube, this seems like a glaring omission.

If you’re starting a presentation from scratch, there’s a selection of pre-made themes to choose from, but they’re quite basic and may not be appropriate for formal presentations. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if it wasn’t for the fact you can’t create your own, which could be a deal-breaker if your company uses a standard template for all its presentations.

The selection of six fonts is desperately thin, but images are easily imported and re-ordering slides is painless. The same can’t be said for data handling: even though Google Docs has a spreadsheet application, any graphs will have to be imported as images because there’s no cross-document data sharing as in Microsoft Office. This makes last-minute figure changes a real pain, and indicates less-than-perfect integration between Google’s “suite” of utilities.

Sharing your slideshow

Unfortunately, once you have created or imported a presentation, the only way to export it is as a zip file containing an HTML version. The results from this were far from impressive – text isn’t formatted quite right, images aren’t always carried across – and aren’t easily editable. It also means that once you’ve started to use Docs to edit files, you’re locked into using it.

One advantage that Docs has over Office, however, is the ability to share your presentation online. By simply sending someone a link you can invite them to view the presentation, and a chat-sidebar lets you communicate with anyone watching.

Making a presentation

So what about actually standing up in front of a crowd and presenting your slides? Google’s software does offer the full-screen presentation mode, but with the limited formatting options and lack of transitions, slideshows will naturally lack the polish of a PowerPoint presentation.

And if the boardroom or hall you’re presenting in doesn’t have a reliable internet connection, then not only do you not have your slideshow, you don’t have your programs either. That’s an annoyance if you’re trying to get some work done on the train, but a major embarrassment when standing in front of an expectant crowd.

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