When Microsoft first announced PowerPoint 2013, it made great play of several key features. It spent ages expounding upon the virtues of the presenter mode, also mentioning merge shapes and master guides along the way. What it didn’t mention was that none of these features is completely new – they already existed in PowerPoint before.
What Microsoft appeared to be doing was cynically attempting to make this latest edition of PowerPoint look more ground-breaking than it actually was. It was unnecessary spin, because there are plenty of other features Microsoft could have highlighted. PowerPoint 2013 is packed with smaller, less glitzy changes that make a big difference.
The online video and picture search tools, for example, are brilliant and make it easy to add extra whizz to your slides. They’re the same tools you’ll find in Word, Excel and Outlook, but no less valuable for it. We like the thumbnail previews that appear when you click File | New – they make the process of choosing an appropriate style for your slides far less painful than before.
Presenter View may not be new, meanwhile, but it has been refined. The dark colour scheme, for one, is more appropriate for presenting in darkened meeting rooms or lecture theatres – it won’t cast an eerie white glow over the presenter’s face. There’s also now the facility to smoothly zoom in and highlight an area of interest on slides, and the laser pointer gives presenters another slick tool for drawing the attention of the audience to bullet points, graphs or tables. It’s good to see the laser pointer now working smoothly with touch in the RTM version – previously, it stuttered a little as you dragged your finger across the screen.
And with PowerPoint 2013 now introducing touch support, those with a Windows 8 tablet need no longer worry about fiddling with a touchpad in the dark or finding room for a mouse on the lectern during a presentation – they can simply swipe, pinch and tap as they go.
Other small improvements include the ability to output presentations as MP4 files as well as WMVs, to play music in the background across multiple slides – which wasn’t possible in 2010 – and to use an eyedropper tool to select colours for graphics from other elements on a slide. The addition of widescreen versions of the core templates, meanwhile, will help workers with widescreen laptops to make better use of the equipment at hand.
The user interface has changed for the better, too, and not only in terms of look and feel. Properties and parameters have been shifted from dialog boxes into a pane to the right of the working slide. We were sceptical about this at first – it isn’t consistent with other Office 2013 applications – but it works here. The properties of design elements in particular (the drop shadow or reflection on a shape, for example) may be adjusted far more quickly and intuitively. It’s also nice not to have to drag the dialog box out of the way to see what’s happening underneath.
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