PowerPoint turned 29 a couple of weeks ago. Corporately, we missed it. We were too busy using it to make some pretty flash-looking slides to notice this pretty significant milestone in the life of our go-to piece of software. So, accept this article as a belated birthday present, paying tribute to the double-P-to-the-T.

I found out about PowerPoint’s birthday as I was sunning myself in a street-side café in Madrid. As I was sipping my café con leche I got an email from a friend, pointing me to a heart-warming article, celebrating PowerPoint, its many happy returns, and just what it’s managed to achieve in the world.

I recommend you read the article here just not yet. I’m not done.

This came about because, embarrassingly, amongst my friends, my name has become synonymous with PowerPoint geekiness: ‘I saw PowerPoint and thought of you…’. My phone recognises it as soon as I type in a capital P – and it knows I like to write it in camel case. I dream about PowerPoint. My colleagues and I exchange PowerPoint banter over Twitter. I’m that person.

But it wasn’t always like that.

The past

Before I started using PowerPoint every day I just thought it was a programme associated with awful group presentations at university, a butterfly template, and a boomerang animation. But the bad reputation it gets often comes from poor usage rather than a poorly executed programme.

Even from the beginning PowerPoint was always intended to be a tool that enhanced the way we communicated: something that made communication creative, that took the dreaded overhead projector out of conference rooms, that made business conversations dynamic.

Until PowerPoint, we never saw animated sales figures – we couldn’t tell the story without revealing the punchline first. Occasionally someone would try with a folded up piece of paper, but compare that to the finesse of a fly in with a smooth end (this is a pretty slick animation you can find out how to do in this tutorial) showing how in your third quarter you’ve seen unprecedented growth down to an experimental marketing effort.

The present

You see, PowerPoint has achieved a lot in its 29 years. I was curious and I Googled other things that are 29. There’s no doubt PowerPoint can make slides sexier than Zac Efron, can get your key points shouting louder than Maria Sharapova, and has been considered the best in the world far longer than Lionel Messi.

No-one comes close to PowerPoint: admittedly there are programmes that do similar things, but none are as prolific. Many see it as a necessary evil, but I guarantee in those cases it’s not being used to its full potential: interactivity, video export, photo editing, complex animations, 100% editable – not to mention a whole pile of bullet points, all in an intuitive interface.

Part of PowerPoint’s charm is its incredible versatility. We use it every day – we push it to its limits, we make it do what the average man on the street can’t even begin to understand. But then the average man on the street can open up his PowerPoint app and make some pretty nice slides without too much effort (especially if he’s read these tips).

PowerPoint is literally all things to all people.

The future

But recently PowerPoint has had a few more competitors than it might be comfortable with. Keynote is standing up as a credible contender in the fight for the world’s presentation software monopoly. It works well, and it doesn’t have a butterfly template.

Is the future bleak for our favourite?

In short. No. Just as you probably wouldn’t cast someone known as ‘Lil Poopy’ over Ellen Page (thanks Google), the world will choose the programme it knows and trusts. PowerPoint is far more established than Keynote, its functionality dwarfs that of the clean and simple Keynote, and it’s developing all the time.

The most exciting update to PowerPoint 2016 was the morph transition (you can find out just how it works and what the potential is here). It really opens the doors to beautiful design and dynamic transitions. Often we get clients asking for something that doesn’t look like PowerPoint, and this certainly ticks that box.

It’s been a good innings so far for PowerPoint. Not many programmes can say that changed the way people communicated, transformed business meetings forever, and became the go-to piece of software for the entire world.

So yeah, it annoys us all from time to time, but every now and then it’s good to take five minutes (while PowerPoint is not responding) to remember just what it’s achieved in its 29 years. Happy Birthday PowerPoint.

And don’t forget to read more on Wired.

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Hannah Brownlow

Managing consultant

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