With PowerPoint 2013 somewhat underwhelming on its recent arrival, we’ve been asking ourselves what would we like to see in the next version of PowerPoint? What would make it worth the upgrade? We’ve put our heads together and come up with our wish list for the next PowerPoint instalment.
Here are our top 14 feature requests – nay, demands – for the next iteration of PowerPoint:
1. 3D animations
There are some great tools in PowerPoint (2007 onwards) to give you 3D shapes. You can make almost anything, make it 3D with depth, bevels, and 3D rotation, but then no way to animate these in a 3D way when in slide show mode. It would be brilliant if PowerPoint made a major leap and gave us a new animation set that allowed 3D manipulation of objects. Animation functions haven’t changed in over a decade, so there’s definitely need for something new to keep up with what other programmes allow you to do.
2. Animation timeline
Being able to view animations as a true ‘editing suite-style’ timeline rather than a list would really help in putting together more complicated sequences. The list view at the moment is fine, but its cumbersome to use, especially when you are dealing with dozens of smaller objects. Also, being able to copy and paste animations that retain their place in the timeline would be great. Currently pasting animations or duplicating objects copies the new animations to the end of the sequence, which is pretty much useless. Within the new timeline, or even within the existing model, it would be very useful to be able to equally distribute multiple animation events, in the same way as distributing shapes along a horizontal axis, to make it quicker to sequence a long list of ‘with previous’ effects. Normally they have to be calculated and moved into place manually on the timeline. In addition to this, a really useful feature would be the ability to move a multi-selection of animation events around the timeline all at once – by Shift-selecting a group of elements on the timeline and dragging them as a group, instead of having to manually adjust each one if the click sequence needs to change.
3. Motion path improvements
Motion paths should be able to be tweaked numerically – by manually typing in a distance (measured in pixels, CMs, whatever it might be). This would allow you to accurately replicate the same path for multiple objects. Also, there needs to be more guidance on their positioning. While the ghosting effect in 2013 is helpful, motion paths should jump to logical end points, in the same way that connecting lines do. The end points should also be sticky, so when you move an object, the end of the motion path stays where it is. Keynote uses something called Magic Move, which I like. You place a ‘before’ shape and an ‘after’ shape, and then Keynote works out the animations needed to get from one shape to the next. Very efficient.
4. Parallax scrolling
PowerPoint uses layers, but there should be a way to highlight multiple layers and apply realistic motion to them automatically, so they each move relative to one another. The effect is known as parallax, whereby the objects closer to you move at a different rate to those behind, giving you the illusion of 3D space in a 2D environment. You can do it manually at the moment, but it’s a pain.
5. Animation omissions and additions
We need more options when it comes to animation effects, and these need to be standardised across all animations. For example, choosing a path along which the wipe animation works. Also, being able to stipulate at what point and in which direction the wheel animation begins. For some reason, you can have an object fly in from eight directions, but only have it wipe in from four, and float in from two. An object can grow and turn anticlockwise, but not clockwise, and it can contract away vertically but not horizontally. Standardising the animation effects (where possible) and allowing for both pre-set and manual options in each would really help maximise our ability to use animations to get our messages across. A cool addition would be a ‘morph’ animation – even something as simple as using the ‘Edit Shape > Change shape’ function– to morph/spin/ resize a shape into another shape with one operation.
6. Dynamic transitions
Please stop a default bounce at the end of the pan transition. It would be great if you could choose specific elements to stay on a slide while the rest transition off. This is possible using the master, but doesn’t offer complete control.
7. Custom preset shape formats
Where PowerPoint has a menu of preset shape styles in the Format tab on the ribbon (and many of them are quite nice), it would be useful to have the option of creating your own palette of shape styles to populate this quick access menu. So you could have a range of shape formats, text formats, and photo formats to choose from quickly. This would be especially useful for images, where some properties (like Artistic Effects settings) cannot be picked up and pasted with the eyedropper function.
8. Improved perspective tools
Applying perspective to images in PowerPoint doesn’t work as smoothly as it could. The mechanics are frustrating and the results are patchy. Microsoft should take a leap out of GIMP’s book - a free image manipulation programme. Transforming the perspective applied to an object is as simple as dragging the corners to wherever you want them to be – the distortion to the image is handled automatically and look great. Also, there’s none of the ridiculous lighting effects that PowerPoint applies. Yuk.
9. Image transform
Taking a(nother) leaf out of Photoshop’s book, in addition to the Artistic Effects filters available for images, it would be useful to include the same type of Transform features that are found in most image manipulation packages. This would allow users to easily stretch, skew and warp images to create realistic 3D-style wraps and curved surfaces without having to carry out lengthy trial-and-error exercises with the 3D rotation settings by eye.
10. Live trace option
Illustrator has an option that allows designers to transform images into vector graphics. Then, these vector graphics can be transformed or animated in various ways within PowerPoint. Replicating this sort of live trace functionality – perhaps in a streamlined way – would enable PowerPoint power-users to more easily manipulate graphics without having to resort to using Adobe’s Creative Suite (or similar) first.
Two things here: first, PowerPoint should be able to handle zooming into shapes and images without completely pixelating the objects beyond use. Whether this comes from a shift to vectors or from some ability to automatically duplicate and switch to a higher resolution image, I’m not sure. Secondly, there should be some way to preserve a 2D canvas, and move around it, without having to animate individual objects. This is the approach Prezi takes, and it makes a lot of sense for certain types of slides. I don’t think PowerPoint should replicate how Prezi works, but the idea of having a larger canvas that you move through the slide along (almost as a camera films a scene) is a good one.
12. Advanced image tools
There are tools in image manipulation programmes that have been around for years and would be extremely useful to have in PowerPoint. I won’t name all of them, but for a start: a blur brush, an eraser, a fill tool, a magic selection tool, a resolution tool. These would prevent advanced users having to jump between applications to do pretty basic image editing. The ‘Remove Background’ tool could also be improved, perhaps along the lines of an ‘extraction’ process whereby the user can outline the area to be cut, and adjust the sensitivity to get a perfect straight edge when contrast levels are low.
13. Touch Interactive Slide Show
Apps like Explain Everything allow you to manipulate objects on your slide live, while in slide show mode. PowerPoint would be transformed with the ability to change things as you went. Imagine the audience interaction you could have if you were able to pick up and move objects, and sketch or annotate over slide content on a decent tablet, or touch screen device. Co-create the presentation with your audience, and evolve it based on the responses that you have with them. That really would be presenting.
14. Dedicated Mobile/Tablet Viewer
So many sales presentations are now delivered on iPads given that they are nice and easy to use, turn on instantly, and are generally more convenient. Microsoft seems to think that PowerPoint 2013 on a Microsoft Surface is fine, but it still takes a while to load, is quite cumbersome to navigate to slide show mode, and doesn’t allow you to jump around the presentation, or a series of presentations very easily, because you’ve got a full PowerPoint experience, without the full toolset (of a clicker, mouse, or keyboard). A dedicated mobile or tablet viewer that focuses purely on excellent playback with presenter support functions such as easy navigation, hyperlinking, and annotation would be great. To be honest, this already exists in the form of SlideShark, so whether it is worth developing given the rate of progress at SlideShark, and the head start that they have, remains to be seen, but it would be nice if Microsoft actually catered properly for tablet users, rather than just making desktop software available for devices that really weren’t designed to make use of it.
Do you agree? What would you like to see in the next PowerPoint? Let us know in the comments!