PowerPoint 2013 has been around for a few months now, and as you would expect, we’ve been trying it at BrightCarbon to find out whether we can break it and see what wows us. There are some good bits to the new version, but also quite a few problems.
Always start with a positive, what are the good bits? There are essentially four new things that I like and think will be useful for presenters of sales presentations or training materials. This low number is somewhat shocking given the pretty hefty price tag for the change and three years of development.
1. 16:9 Widescreen
PowerPoint 2013 gives you a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio by default, meaning that those big black tramlines on your widescreen PC, laptop, TV, or projector will now be filled with your slide content. Widescreen computers have been mainstream since about 2006, so it’s good that your slides can now match. There is also a handy tool that helps you easily change your existing presentations from 4:3 fullscreen into widescreen, which will save hours, although backgrounds will need to be changed manually to avoid distortion.
2. Slide Show Zoom Function
This rather neat little tool, found either in the presenter view (which I don’t recommend you use), by right clicking in slide show, or by using the presenter tools in the bottom left of the slide show screen, allows you to choose a place on the slide to zoom into, and then pan around the slide using a mouse to drag and move, or the arrow keys on your keyboard. Ideally your slides won’t feature things that are too small for your audience to see, but if you have a complex diagram to look at, then this could be just the thing, giving you the opportunity to discuss the slide content in more detail.
3. Easy Access Boolean Tools
The Boolean shape tools in PowerPoint 2010 allow you to create new, interesting, and complex shapes easily from standard shapes by creating a union, combining them, taking the intersect, or subtracting one from the other. The problem is that these really useful tools were hidden deep in PowerPoint and were only accessible by customising the Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar. Now in PowerPoint 2013, these functions are all in the Format tab of the ribbon, so you can access them more easily. It’s very minor, but hopefully means that more presenters will be aware of them. You also get a new ‘Fragment’ function available, allowing you to split up all elements of overlapping shapes, which while nice isn’t essential as it is possible to do the same thing in PowerPoint 2010 with a combination of effects.
4. Colour Select Eyedropper
There is now an eyedropper colour select tool native to PowerPoint, which means that you can accurately copy specific colours, such as your company branding or logo colours, or match colours to an imported image. However, there are plenty of very good free colour tools already available (Pixie or Color Cop), so if you’ve ever needed to do this, you will probably already have one.
So is it any Good?
And that’s it. There are a few more changes, but none that really seem to add anything to your PowerPoint experience, or your audience’s experience of your next sales presentation or training session. That seems a bit rubbish to me – very little improvement given the upgrade cost. The problem is, that far from being an expensive update, I actually think that PowerPoint 2013 is WORSE than PowerPoint 2010, and here’s why.
1. Sloooooow Performance
New technology should be faster. Versions of Moore’s Law should be true for many aspects of technology, not just processors, and yet PowerPoint 2013 is quite a cumbersome program compared with 2010 (this seems to go for the other main Office 2013 programs too). It takes far too long to load up when opening for the first time and it crashes reasonably frequently, particularly when editing large files.
The most irritating thing about the performance though is the speed at which it responds to mouse clicks when creating new content. While not always the case, I have found on many occasions that the response is slightly behind me, in that I have to wait for perhaps half a second for an object to be selected, or for something to happen. When you’re trying to do something quickly, it’s quite infuriating and you feel that you are being slowed down.
Another irritating element of performance is the way in which every transition or change of view in Office 2013 now uses a bounce back effect similar to many smartphones. It might look nice on a touch screen device, but when working with a serious business tool, you find that you end up clicking on something because you think that it hasn’t registered, only for the transition to then happen, meaning that you click on the wrong thing. It’s just not necessary and again, slows you down.
2. Compromised for Mouse/Keyboard & Touch
Microsoft is clearly trying to penetrate the tablet market and wants Windows 8 and Office 2013 to be a big part of it. Much like Windows 8, Office 2013 has been ‘optimised’ for tablets, and much like Windows 8, what that means is ‘compromised’. There have been very minor changes to the interface to try to get it to work on a tablet – things like spacing the icons further apart so that they are easier to hit with your finger, or needing to confirm everything with a tap or mouse click.
The problem is that it simply doesn’t work on a tablet and trying to do anything more complicated than just writing out bullet points is far too time consuming, or downright impossible. I’ve tried on a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet and it’s really impractical. If you try to create anything visual or animated (i.e. a good slide), you are probably better off going into a business lounge, using a desktop PC, and then travelling back again – it will probably be quicker. It really needs a major overhaul to work well on a tablet, much like the huge difference between the desktop and tile interfaces in Windows 8 (and they probably shouldn’t be mashed together like Windows 8 either).
It’s not just that it doesn’t work on a tablet, the spacing of icons now means that you can’t fit as many icons onto your PC as before, so the Quick Access Toolbar (and to a minor extent the Ribbons) now contain less, meaning that you have to click into more sub-menus to get what you want, which is time consuming and irritating.
3. Reduced Productivity
Finally, the changes really don’t help your productivity. For example, when adding an animation or an effect to a shape, previously you could click or double click on the effect you wanted to confirm it. But now, with the compromise for tablets, everything needs to be confirmed using the OK button somewhere else on the screen. I know it sounds minor, but it could take an extra few seconds to navigate your mouse to the button, and over an entire presentation, that could take perhaps 15-20 minutes through a day of solid presentation creation.
What’s more, where previously all of the formatting options windows used to be pop-up windows, but are now panes on the side of your screen, taking up huge amount of room. I know that this is simply going back to a PowerPoint 2003 layout (oh the happy memories), but in PowerPoint 2003, you could move the panes and turn them into Windows. Now, you might need to have the Animation pane, Format pane, and Selection pane all open at once, meaning that they take up a huge amount of room. I realise that this might not be common, but it is feasible and results in over half of the screen width being panes. It is indeed a pain (sorry, couldn’t resist). The biggest issue though is the Format pane, which is broken down into a matrix series of sub-menus and I just can’t understand why. You have Shape and Text options, then Fill & Line, Effects, and Size & Properties next, and then under each of those, a series of yet more sub-menus for all of the different options. It just seems like it is one or two clicks too many, and while I know that having an extra click or two might sound trivial, add that up over a day creating slides and it adds up quite a lot.
Sadly, there really is nothing new that is worth considering in PowerPoint 2013 that PowerPoint 2010 doesn’t have, or can’t do very easily. I do like the zoom function, but can’t imagine many people using it, and if you’re desperate, it could also be achieved using the magnify function in Control Panel > Mouse if needed. The issues far outweigh the upgrades, and there are also lots of traps to try to make unnecessary ‘flashy’ presentations with some new crazy transition effects that are cringe-worthy.
My advice is to stick with PowerPoint 2010 and wait until the next version of PowerPoint. Just like all things Microsoft, every other version seems to be really good, and the middle ones are poor. Office 97, 2002/3/XP, and 2010 were all good, while Office 2000, 2007, and 2013 were all disappointing.
If you’re a large organisation, save thousands and don’t ‘upgrade’ your software. And now that you’ve saved all that money, why not give BrightCarbon a go to help upgrade your sales presentations or training material? Worth a try!