Power-user is a PowerPoint add on that provides lots of little features every regular PowerPoint user has had day dreams about. I’m going to take you through a few of the features that I’ve found most helpful, and some that will be more helpful to those who haven’t been able to devote as much time to getting well versed in PowerPoint. Let's begin!
There’s an astounding number of PowerPoint alternatives out there claiming to be the solution to your most pressing presentation problems. But it can be tricky to see through the pretty branding and weigh up the functionality that lies beneath. Luckily for you, BrightCarbon is here to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the decent presentation programs from the rubbish PowerPoint knock-offs.
What is a PowerPoint alternative?
For the sake of this article, a PowerPoint alternative is software you can access from your computer or tablet that allows you to create presentations from beginning to end.
Why use PowerPoint Alternatives?
The number of PowerPoint alternatives available shows that people are willing to invest time and money in creating effective, attractive presentations and it’s clear that PowerPoint is not everyone’s first choice.
We at BrightCarbon think PowerPoint is great and use it for loads of incredible creation projects – check out our portfolio for examples. We also have lots of free resources to help you create gorgeous content in PowerPoint. However, we’re well aware of the horrors of “Death by PowerPoint” and are lucky enough to have a team of brilliant designers to help make our stuff look lovely. Maybe one of these PowerPoint alternatives is a better option if you don’t have a team of PowerPoint experts on hand. There are a lot of free PowerPoint alternatives here too – so if you’re looking to save some money you might be in luck!
Let’s see if the grass is greener over the proverbial fence. Feel free to skip ahead if you’re curious about one particular PowerPoint alternative.
What is Beautiful.ai?
Beautiful.ai is an online presentation tool that automatically enforces presentation design ‘best practices’ using artificial intelligence.
Pro ($12/month): All Basic features plus unlimited slides, no Beautiful.ai branding, analytics, revision history, PowerPoint export.
Organization (Coming soon): All Pro features and shared slide and asset library, single sign-on, brand control.
Beautiful.ai looks good and it was easy to get started. Compared to other PowerPoint alternatives, Beautiful.ai has a smaller selection of templates/themes to choose from. Though they may look plain, things improve once you start adding content!
Once you’ve chosen a theme, you can edit the style by selecting a font, setting a colour palette, adding a logo and/or footer, and adding slide numbers. You can select how you want decorative elements, like headers and icons, to look and this is automatically applied to every slide in your deck meaning everything is consistent and you don’t have to edit each slide individually.
Within each theme a bunch of slide layouts are available, including charts, visualisations, and image-based slides. Once you’ve chosen a layout, clicking Variations brings up other design options for that layout.
The AI element comes in when you add or change elements – other parts of the slide automatically adjust. For example, if you change the background colour the text colour will automatically change so it remains visible.
There are no alignment tools, which would usually be a disaster because they help make sure all the objects on your slides are lined up properly. However, with Beautiful.ai, the AI does it all for you. You can easily switch elements around on a slide e.g. if you’ve got three icons and the labels are in the wrong place you can just drag and drop the text boxes and they will snap into place. In fact, it’s almost impossible to mess up (famous last words!).
There’s a decent library of images and icons, but you can also import images from your computer or pull from other presentations you’ve created with Beautiful.ai. When you add an image, you can customise it in a few ways, such as adjusting the zoom, setting filters, and adding blur. You can also add audio from your own computer.
Text editing is limited. Because of the AI capabilities, increasing the font size in one text box changes the font size of every text box on the slide.
There are surprisingly detailed animation options for a program that does the design work for you – no complaints here! If you don’t want to deal with animations, Beautiful.ai will add simple transitions for you. However if you want to go further, you can set each object to appear on a click – great for live presenting – and you can change animation order and animation speed, as well as set the timings (overlapping, simultaneous or sequential).
You can’t choose what the animation effects (e.g. wipe, fade, fly in) actually are, they seem to be pre-set. Most objects animate in on a simple fade, although some graphs have specific animations.
- The AI doesn’t always get the design right. Sometimes objects are pushed too close to the edge of the slide and look odd.
- Widows and orphans are common and there’s no control over text wrapping.
If you have simple content, not much time, and want something that looks good then Beautiful.ai might be right up your street. It’s pleasant to use once you give up any idea of creative control and, if you know what you want on each slide, you can quickly pull together a deck that looks professional and modern.
What is Canva?
Canva is an online content creation powerhouse enabling you to create everything from WhatsApp and Instagram stories, to Facebook covers, to presentations, to letters, flyers, invitations and more. We’re just testing out the presentation creation capabilities.
Pro ($9.95 per month): Access to photo and element library, fonts, and priority support. Use unlimited folders, the brand kit, and create animations and GIFs.
Enterprise (~$30 per team member per month or custom): All previous and storage, multiple brand kits, single sign-on, team folders, comments, templates, account manager.
With Canva you get access to a huge amount of assets: 2 million photos, 500,000 illustrations and icons, 20,000+ templates, 500+ fonts and so on. It’s a bit overwhelming!
Canva is template-based and there are lots of different styles to choose from. Each template contains a selection of slide layouts which you add to your deck using + Add a new page. You can also add blank slides to a presentation.
Editing these layouts is easy. Clicking on an element brings up a toolbar at the top of the screen showing the options for that object. The left-hand side menu shows the types of content you can add, this includes images, icons and shapes, and text. You can drag and drop content into your layout: when you do this with images, they are automatically resized and edited to fit the layout.
Smart guides help position elements accurately but there are also alignment tools if you want to get really precise. You can group objects which is handy for arranging and rearranging slides. There’s a bunch of grid layouts for adding photography, but you can’t overlay a grid on the slide. Read our grids and guides blog post to see why grids are so important to good design.
Like many PowerPoint alternatives, Canva is template-based which could be restrictive but these templates are very editable. If you have brand guidelines to follow you can create something on-brand by uploading custom fonts and logos and saving colour palettes and templates.
There are good text editing options – line spacing, letter spacing, font, font size – as well as pre-designed text templates you can pop right into your deck. Canva also has basic image editing options and swapping out images is super easy with the drag and drop function. However, graph editing is limited. For example, you can’t get rid of graph labels, titles etc. If you’re determined to jazz up your graphs there’s probably a workaround, but it’s not ideal.
Animation is available with Canva Animator – this is part of the Canva Pro option. The animations available are Rise, Bounce, Slide, and Fade. They are tricky to find; you have to start the process of downloading your presentation and then choose to download it as an Animation (MP4/GIF). You then get the option to add animations.
If you do animate your presentation you can only download it as a GIF or video file, not a click-through presentation. The animations are basic and inflexible and once you’ve chosen Bounce or Rise, that animation is applied to every slide – this gets very repetitive.
The animation options feel like they’re not designed for full length presentations but for bringing an essentially static web or social media graphic to life.
- Collaborative working features
- Plenty of attractive charts
- Huge selection of background images, but not always very high quality
- Icon/illustration styles are mixed together, so achieving visual consistency is difficult. It would be great to filter by style.
- Slow to download – a four-slide presentation took seven or eight minutes!
We say you can use PowerPoint to create different types of content, and you definitely can, but if you’re not a designer and want to create party invitations, business cards or flyers – then Canva is your best bet. In terms of presentation creation, though Canva’s templates are attractive and editable, the lack of control over animation means Canva presentations are not viable for live presenting.
What is Custom Show?
Custom Show claims to be the only sales and marketing software that combines both slide storing and sharing options with a design-focused presentation builder. It’s a cloud app specifically designed for organizations of 10 or more employees and allows you to make instant companywide updates to your slide library, collaborate in real time, and present in person, on the web, or on an iPad. Custom Show offer training and support and will help design, organize, pilot and roll out content across your organisation.
Full disclosure – we haven’t had the opportunity to test out Custom Show. However, as it’s specifically aimed at the corporate community, whereas many PowerPoint alternatives are set up for individual users, we thought it should be included. If you’re looking for a presentation creation solution that’s specifically designed for businesses, it might be worth requesting a demo.
decktopus is an online presentation tool that claims to help users create great looking decks ‘in the shortest time’. Articles on the decktopus blog talk about simplicity as a key tenet of all good presentations. To help their users create simple slides, they provide a rapid creation tool with ‘restrictions that bring perfection’.
There are three decktopus pricing tiers.
Basic (free): 2 deck limit, pre-built editable decks to choose from, 10 design options, image/GIF/icon library, quote library.
Pro (£6.60/mo): all Basic features plus unlimited deck creation, 100s of design alternatives, slide footer, export and share presentation option, add collaborators, presentation rehearsal, body language tips.
Corporate: (contact for pricing) 50+ users all previous features plus unspecified special features.
Decktopus has a similar set up to many PowerPoint alternatives I’ve tried out, you select a template from a bunch of predesigned options or start from scratch by picking a design style, then adding layouts.
There aren’t endless options to pick from, but that’s no bad thing as decktopus is all about streamlining the presentation creation process.
In the main editing view, you can see all the slides in your deck. To edit a slide, you click on the ‘card’ (a preview of the slide plus an editor section), then edit the text and/or graphics. The changes are immediately reflected in the preview.
Decktopus auto-adjusts the size and placement of text as you edit. There are a limited number of components and text permitted on each slide to ensure users don’t stuff the slides with content.
To get a better view of the slide preview, you can enter Focus Mode.
You can upload images from your computer or search the free stock image sites Unsplash and Pixabay from within decktopus. You can also insert GIFs from Giphy, though I found this feature a tad glitchy, the GIFs worked in some layouts and not in others.
As you can see in the video clip below, it’s really easy to swap the icons out, you simply search the bank and all the relevant icons pop up. All the icons are in the same design style which is great for making sure your slides stay consistent.
To create a new slide, you click Add Slide then select a slide layout. There are a couple of more visual slide layouts including a timeline, icons, and a statement number slide. However, it would be great to see a few more options available, like diagrams, charts and graphs, tables etc.
You can drag and drop slides to rearrange the order of your deck and you can also drag and drop slide content in the editor section to change the order of icons or text points.
As decktopus takes care of the slide design, there are no formatting tools available.
The customisation options in decktopus are pretty limited as the tool purposefully imposes restrictions to help users create well-designed decks. However, there are a few things you can play around with. With the Pro plan, you can add a footer note and footer logo and select different colour palettes and fonts for your deck. If you want to upload a brand font or colour palette, this is available with the Corporate plan.
When you’re editing a slide, you can swipe left or right on the card to view alternative layouts and click Swap Colours to see alternative colour options within that design style. There isn’t a huge amount of variation on offer, but it helps to mix up the style of your slides a little.
I did come across a glitch in the change layout feature. My title was too long and overlapped with the icons in one specific layout. Of course, I could just switch back, but I would expect the text limit or the auto-adjustment of text size to prevent this from happening.
With the Pro plan you can add voice over to your slides. Recordings are only available when you present online or share your presentation as a link, PDF is the sole download format.
There’s no image editing, but you can zoom in and out of an image and select which bit to show which is a useful feature.
Sadly, there are no animation options in decktopus!
- The slide layouts have very little text and lots of white space, encouraging users to create easily digestible slides.
- You can view, play and create presentations on mobile.
- The rehearse feature allows you to practise your presentation with a timer, you can also add speaker notes.
- There’s a bank of videos on presenting ideal for nervous presenters.
- Undoing actions is not intuitive. You have to go to History and revert the action.
- A lot of features – e.g., voiceover recording, fonts, colours etc. are only available in the Pro version and you can’t try before you buy.
Decktopus is all about helping people create decks really quickly, without producing a messy, poorly designed collection of slides. On one hand, you can’t create custom visuals and the lack of animation reduces presentability. On the other, it’s intuitive and, if you already have your content planned out, you really could produce a deck in a matter of minutes. decktopus are actively developing their offering, so it’s likely you won’t come across some of the glitches I mention. There are some exciting features in the works such as PowerPoint export, hyperlinking, the ability to embed your deck on a web page and more.
What is eMaze?
eMaze is an online, template-based tool that helps users create presentations, websites, e-cards, blogs and more. It has 3D presentation building capabilities. There are 75 templates to choose from, collaboration options, and advanced editing tools.
There’s a confusing number of pricing options. Here are a few of them…
Pro Plan ($13 per month): Premium templates, multiple download options, custom effects, branding tools.
Edu Class ($40 per month for max 30 users): All Pro features plus lesson templates, custom templates, collaboration, control privacy settings.
Enterprise Plan ($452 per year max 20 users): All other features plus premium templates, branding, support.
eMaze uses a drag-and-drop editor and navigating the dashboard is simple. However, once you start to work with a template, eMaze isn’t super intuitive. The interface is okay, but tools aren’t where you might expect. It can be difficult to tell how big the slides are and whether objects are hanging off the edge as you can see in this clip.
You select a template or a blank presentation to start, and then add slides that have the layouts you want to use. eMaze templates come in two forms, 3D and 2D. The 2D templates look and feel like PowerPoint templates but with slightly fresher design. There are plenty of options and each template has lots of different slide layouts with a good selection of charts, timelines etc. (though there’s also a lot of space for text encouraging “Death by eMaze”!).
The 3D templates place the slides in a 3D space e.g. a gallery. The 3D templates might look cool, but you have little control over the movement of the deck and the transitions might give you motion sickness.
There are a few positive points, including good object alignment tools and the ability to lock and unlock elements. Currently, you can only lock and unlock elements in PowerPoint with the help of an add-in like our free design and productivity add-in BrightSlide.
eMaze has good text effects, for example, you can make text scrollable. Though not useful for a live presentation, this is great for a kiosk-style deck. There’s also decent text formatting and you can hyperlink both within and outside of the presentation.
You can alter the opacity of image and shapes, add custom colours and custom fonts and, under Brand in Settings, you can set theme colours, font and font styles, and formatting for charts and tables. This last feature helps ensure consistency if yo are creating more than one deck with this PowerPoint alternative. eMaze presentations can be translated into over 100 languages.
The animation options allow you to have animations play on a click, loop, hover, or timed. There are some fun transitions depending which template you choose.
The animation options are hard to find and, oddly, are under the same Fx menu as other special effects, like shadow or 3D. The real issue with grouping animation options and other effects together is that you can’t apply multiple Fx options to the same object. So, if your line is dashed or your image blurred you can’t apply any animation effects to it. This is a real oversight. There’s also no animation pane, so it’s hard to see what you’ve got happening on a slide.
- Can present offline
- Well set up for sharing content online e.g. users can add SEO information
- A potentially cool feature, the ability to upload and eMaze-ify your PowerPoint files, didn’t work with the animated deck or the simple bullets point deck we tested.
Looking at the eMaze Shared tab, what’s being produced by other users looks very much like PowerPoint with just a hint of Prezi. Both PowerPoint and Prezi are easier to use than eMaze and if what you end up with looks no different, why you would you use eMaze?
What is Focusky?
Focusky is desktop presentation software with a free cloud hosting service. They apply mobile friendly HTML5 technologies to help you create animated presentations. Focusky provides you with an unlimited canvas to add frames to and zoom and pan around.
Standard ($9.90 per month): All free functionality plus 100G storage, no watermark, premium templates, 720P export, limited offline viewing, custom templates, publishing in multiple formats, premium animation editor.
Professional ($99 per year): All previous and unlimited storage and uploads, HD export, unlimited offline viewing, animated and vector resources, 2 users.
Enterprise ($399 permanent): All previous plus more backgrounds, animated and vector resources, 10 users.
Focusky has a clunky interface and many of the templates look old fashioned. Similar to eMaze, Focusky has a few 3D layouts with less traditional transitions. The interface has everything on show and was very busy compared to some of the more pared back PowerPoint alternatives.
Focusky has a mixed bag of templates, some dated, some modern, so do a bit of digging before settling on a style. Loading up themes and fonts can take a while; though the software is stored on your computer, the templates are online, so bear in mind that you need an internet connection to get started.
The way Focusky works is that each slide is ‘slide-sized’ but you can zoom round the canvas in a nonlinear way. There are different frame layouts to choose from or you can start from scratch.
Focusky has some useful tools for creating slides, such as a grid you can toggle on and off, a ruler, alignment tools and group tools. The layouts have a pretty 90s feel and the assets in general are not as modern or impressive as some PowerPoint alternatives. There’s a variety of chart and smart art options, as well as 5000+ online royalty-free vector resources.
The templates and slides are highly customisable, very similar to PowerPoint but with the added 3D/Prezi-like zoom and pan functionality. You can record narration, change the screen ratio, add videos, images, and audio. You can also add interactions, such as clickable objects, triggers, and hyperlinks using the interactions designer.
There are lots of animation options, though many are similar to the worst of PowerPoint’s animations. Stick to Fade in, Fly in, and Bounce in, or use the Action Paths, Focusky’s answer to Motion Paths (get to grips with Motion Paths here). Focusky’s Animation Painter is a great feature, you can copy animations from one object to another quickly.
- You can hide/show sections in show mode
- Screen recording capability
- Focusky uses Comic Sans font for its help tips. Need we say more?
- There were spelling errors in some of the help tips which doesn’t fill you with confidence.
- At some points Focusky was downright glitchy. For example, the animation options below.
It would take a fair amount of work to create something spectacular in Focusky. It has lots of functionality true, but there are lots of sleeker PowerPoint alternatives out there.
What is Genially?
Genially helps people create digital resources with built-in interactivity including quizzes, games, and polls.
Pro (€7.49 per month): All free resources and offline viewing, premium templates, PowerPoint import, PDF and JPG download.
Master (€20.82 per month): All previous and brand personalisation, training, resource management, collaborative tools.
Team (€79.15 per month): All previous plus 5 Master users, training, design support.
An attractive interface with lots of different templates to play with. There are a few nice touches, like the animations playing when you hover your cursor over them.
There are lots of themed templates and, if you scroll to the bottom, the option to start with a blank deck. The layouts are similar to many PowerPoint alternatives, but the templates do come pre-animated which is great if you’re lacking animation confidence. (If you’re a PowerPoint user needing some animation tips, check out this blog post).
Some of Genially’s suggested layouts have room for improvement – they leave loads of space to write text and, not to blow our own trumpet, our editable world map is better!
Alongside templates, there are lots of other resources like illustrations, icons, figures, maps, as well as predesigned elements like titles and subtitles that you can pop right onto your slide. There are also interactive elements, like buttons, that you can drag and drop.
The Interactive elements tab lets you add interactivity to your slides. You can link to another page/slide, add a link to a window in your browser, or add a text pop up. These features could be handy for creating more self-guided slides.
Though there’s no grid, there are smart guides and basic alignment tools – you can align to the slide (though only with the edges and centre not the middle) but not to other objects.
There are different levels of design control with Genially. For example, you can drag and drop pre-made interactive elements on to your slide or create your own from shapes. There’s also a specific designer mode. It takes a while to find (under the main settings menu) but allows you to precisely edit the size and position of objects, as well as the layers on a slide. Tucking these controls away works well, as the general user is not overwhelmed but those that want a little more control and information can access it.
In terms of customisation, you can change canvas size, there’s good text editing with customisable letter spacing, line height, fonts, font size, and more. You can also copy and paste text formatting which is super handy. The native icons and illustrations are fun but not editable, so are less useful for branded presentations. However, the paid version offers various brand personalisation options, so this issue can be resolved.
The image bank isn’t as good as some PowerPoint alternatives, but you can upload your own imagery (though you can’t crop them to shape). Content can be added from Twitter, Instagram, Google Docs, Pinterest, Instagram, Wikipedia and more. You can’t yet insert video files from your computer – but can embed videos from Vimeo and YouTube. There are no graphs – you might be able to insert graphs from one of the many plug-in options but there’s nothing in Genially itself.
A handy option is the ability to choose how your audience navigates through the slides: standard (clicking or pressing left and right), video (playing the whole presentation), or Microsite (all navigation through internal linking).
The templates come with pre-set animations which are fine if you don’t want to use animation to help tell a story. There are customisable animation options, though they’re limited compared to PowerPoint. There’s no animation timeline or way of easily seeing which elements are animated and which are not. Animations can be triggered by hovering your cursor over an object but not with a click which is what you want when you’re presenting in person.
Looks lovely, smooth transitions and animations, fun to play with, plenty of customisation and interactivity options – give Genially a go!
BrightCarbon does lots of work in Google Slides and, over the years, we’ve found there are definitely pros and cons to working with it.
For a really detailed look at Google Slides, head to our ULTIMATE guide to Google Slides.
What is Google Slides?
Google Slides is Google’s version of PowerPoint. It’s a cloud-based presentation tool that allows people to collaboratively work on a project and either present online or download a presentation to use offline.
When purchased under G Suite subscription, Business $10 per month: unlimited cloud storage, smart search, data loss prevention.
Google Slides has a bright, clean and intuitive interface. There are a few templates and though they’re simple, they’re easy to edit.
When designing slides, you can add grids and guides, can group and ungroup objects and use alignment tools to place objects precisely. If you want tips on creating presentations with Google Slides check out out this blog post on interactivity or this one on fonts!
Collaboration is super easy with Google Slides. Google Slides offers a variety of sharing options meaning you decide who gets full access. You can also tag people in comments, so they get an alert. You can sync slides across multiple decks meaning if you make updates to a specific slide in a specific deck, the changes will be implemented across other synced slides that sit in different decks. This is particularly handy if, for example, you have a slide containing data that you need to update regularly. This is all more stable and more comprehensive than the collaboration options offered by PowerPoint – so if working closely with your team is something you need to do regularly, then Google Slides could be perfect for you.
Slides has most of the same formatting options as PowerPoint. There are lots of shape editing tools – fill and line colour, border colour – you can add shadows and reflections and fine tune these effects. You can crop images to shape – an option missing from many PowerPoint alternatives. You can view and edit the slide master which means it’s easier to get consistent slide layouts and consistent design over multiple decks, and you can easily create templates. You can add hyperlinks to create interactive decks – check out our example here.
Options for editing GIFs are more advanced in Google Slides than PowerPoint. You can crop a GIF, recolour it, resize it, and much more without losing quality meaning you can create some really fun slides pretty easily. You also have access to hundreds of fonts through the Google Fonts library and it’s easy to insert content from your computer, the web, Google Drive, by URL etc. However, adding and editing custom graphics, such as vectors, is more difficult in Google Slides.
Google Slides’ animation features are fairly restricted (there are about 15 options). Though there’s no equivalent of the morph transition (a really cool animation option in PowerPoint 365) simple animations can still do a lot of heavy lifting. With Google Slides animation can be applied to text, shapes, objects, and slides. We recommend sticking to the more basic Google Slides animations, such as Fly in and Fade in, for a polished professional look.
- Very intuitive
- Easy collaboration
- Charts are difficult to edit as they are always live – which means they use data pulled from a Google Sheets document. This means that though they are super easy to create charts appear in Google as a non-editable image, which makes them difficult to customise.
Google Slides does lack some of PowerPoint’s more complex functionality but it is this learning curve that puts many people off PowerPoint in the first place. Slides is easy to use and really shines in the arena of collaborative working, so it’s no surprise that it’s a very popular tool for both businesses and individuals. If you want to learn more about Google Slides, we have loads of resources like these image editing hacks and this blog post on making the most of Google Slide’s animation features.
What is Haiku Deck?
Haiku Deck feels pretty dated compared to many other PowerPoint alternatives. The default setting for slides is 4.3 which is a red flag – these days 16.9 is standard. Of course, if you’re using an older projector where 4.3 is required then this won’t be an issue, but it would be great to have the flexibility of multiple aspect ratios.
Pro ($19.99 per month or $119.88 per year): The Basic version plus unlimited decks, offline viewing, privacy controls, add audio, embed YouTube, branding, Zuru.
Premium ($359.88 per year): All previous plus analytics, live web playback, priority support.
Haiku Deck is incredible easy to use, it’s clear why it’s popular with educators and students. There are a handful of restrictive layouts; text and image placement is pre-set and not editable. You can choose from a selection of templates (templates set font and colours).
Zuru – available on Premium – is a tool which automatically creates presentations. We’re not sold on the idea of automatic presentation creation; a good presentation is all about story and over-reliance on AI is likely to result in a deck that’s just pretty images and bullet points which is rarely an effective strategy – read our blog post about this here.
That sums up the issue with Haiku Deck, regardless of whether you use Zuru or create slides yourself, you end up with some variation on full bleed images and short text points or statements. This isn’t necessarily bad slide design, but we find this type of slide tends to be just decorative and not do any of the heavy lifting with your story.
If you need to create slideshows with hyperlinks, videos, specific images, large amounts of information, etc. then this is not the platform for you. The decks are barely customisable. You just enter text and add images. The graph and statistic layouts look ok but are too restrictive – you can only have so much text or it gets cut off.
You can’t control font size or choose where text boxes are positioned. Typographic controls are non-existent, there are no kerning options, you can’t sub- or super-script text. You can record and add narration, add media and basic charts, and zoom in and out of images.
You can chose your background and font colours easily.
Haiku Deck are very proud of their access to 40M+ royalty free images. Keywords from your text content are used to pull images from this bank and you can easily insert them into your deck.
There are no animation options.
- Live Presentation mode – teachers can broadcast to student screens in their classroom or anywhere in the world.
- It took a long time to load to view a small presentation.
There are glowing reviews for Haiku Deck online, but beautiful images do not an effective presentation make. It could be brilliant for school projects, but for your next sales pitch you might prefer something with a little more oompf.
What is Keynote?
Keynote is a presentation tool and forms part of Apple’s iWork suite. It can be used on Macs as well as iPads, iPhones and iPod touches.
Keynote is super streamlined and intuitive. There are around 30 themes you can pick from that are nice and clean.
The process of creating slides in Keynote is fairly similar to creating slides in PowerPoint. If you pick a theme, you can simply replace the placeholder text and graphics with your own words and images. Or you can start from scratch and add tables, charts, shapes, images, narration and video. You can ensure precise design with the rulers and alignment guides, drag and drop objects, create groups, lock objects and see a list of your objects in the Object List.
One criticism is that is can be hard to find some features in Keynote. In Keynote instead of having a ribbon – like in PowerPoint – you have a toolbar. You can customise it with the features you use most to make slide creation easier. Wish this was available in PowerPoint? Download our Quick Access Toolbar and customise it with your favourite PowerPoint tools.
Though it’s true that Keynote has fewer features overall than PowerPoint, you might not be able to create super complex sequences for example, the features that Keynote does have are realised to a polished level and bugs and glitches are rare.
You can export presentations to Microsoft PowerPoint and as PDF, QuickTime, HTML and image files.
Keynote has lots of the same customisation options as PowerPoint. A fun touch is that you can add illustrations and handwritten notes to your slides using Apple Pencil on your iPad. If you’re not artistically inclined, Keynote has over 700 customisable shapes, and you can easily edit them by tapping a shape and choosing Format then Style. You can also create Freeform shapes. You can add interactive charts, and Keynote has fully functional text and paragraph editing. You can import a variety of media files to make your slides more engaging.
You can save Keynote documents as PowerPoint files. Or import and edit PowerPoint documents directly in Keynote with most popular PowerPoint features supported. So, if you’re working on the same project as a PowerPoint user, it isn’t too tricky to collaborate.
Keynote’s animation engine is simple to use, though slightly more restrictive than PowerPoint – you can’t stack animations for example. Having said that, it has some really useful animation effects that you’re actually likely to use and fewer over-the-top options than PowerPoint. There are over 30 transitions and effects for objects and text. You can animate objects along a path using Apple Pencil or your finger on your iPhone or iPad. Everyone has access to Magic Move, which is similar to PowerPoint’s Morph transition (only available in PowerPoint 2016). You can see a demonstration of Magic Move below:
- Real time collaboration; decks can be accessed on a Mac, iPad or iPhone
- With Keynote Live, audiences in many locations can watch you presentation in real time on a Mac, iPad, iPhone or the web
- Converting to Google Slides is not as easy as converting to PowerPoint
- There’s no scroll-wheel based zoom in/out shortcut
- You can’t hide objects
Keynote users really love this program, it’s easy to use and reliable. If you’re an Apple user Keynote is a great free PowerPoint alternative.
Libre Office Impress
What is Libre Office Impress?
Libre Office is a free open source suite, compatible with Microsoft Office. Impress is its free PowerPoint alternative. LibreOffice is community-driven and developed software, and is a project of the not-for-profit organisation The Document Foundation.
Impress is very similar to PowerPoint in look and feel. If you’re a PowerPoint user, getting started will be very easy.
The process of creating slides is also similar to PowerPoint. Impress’s assets aren’t as sleek and modern as other PowerPoint alternatives; it all feels very 90s (but sadly not in a cool way)!
The templates on offer are fairly limited, even more so than PowerPoint, so if you’re looking for PowerPoint alternatives because you want nice templates then Impress isn’t for you. However, Impress slides are very customisable. Like with PowerPoint, a designer’s eye might be needed to make something that looks contemporary and professional.
You can import video and images, set your own custom colour palette. The graph options are great and can be edited within the file.
Though some of the animation options are dated there are plenty that are super useful, like motion paths, meaning you can create great animated slides. Animations can be triggered by clicks and you can add animations to individual elements. There’s no animation timeline, so it’s hard to know exactly what you’re doing with multiple animations on one slide.
- It’s free with no watermarks or Impress branding.
- Supports macros. This might not matter to the casual user but it’s great news for those a little more into their tech. Click here to learn more about the magic of macros in PowerPoint.
- PowerPoint files are (generally) compatible with Impress.
- You have to download the entire Libre Office suite to get Impress.
- It was a bit glitchy, for example when previewing animations.
- Conversion from a PowerPoint file to Impress wasn’t perfect. E.g. animations went awry and images looked less sharp.
If you want to use PowerPoint but don’t want to pay, Impress is an ideal free alternative.
What is Ludus?
Ludus describes itself as an advanced presentation tool for creative professionals.
Ludus has a clean, dark interface. They state on their website that they ‘don’t want to spend all [their] energy on providing the most advanced text editing tool, the most powerful image filters, or the most amazing transitions’, which suggests that the functionality of Ludus is limited. However, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Solo ($14.99 per month): All features and unlimited storage, unlimited presentations, one user maximum.
Team ($19.98 per month): All previous and minimum 2 users.
Special: Custom needs, custom price.
Ludus has fewer templates than many PowerPoint alternatives. Not a problem if you’re happy to create something from scratch, however, if you’re looking for PowerPoint alternatives with snazzy templates, this might not be for you.
Creating from scratch is made easier by smart guides and alignment tools. You can lock objects – a really handy feature meaning you don’t keep accidentally selecting a background image when you’re editing objects on top. Ludus also lets you work with things in layers.
Almost everything has a keyboard shortcut clearly displayed at the bottom of the screen, so if you use Ludus regularly you could really build up speed.
There are a bunch of great features for customising your slides including text editing tools, adjusting letter spacing, line height, font size etc.
You can make icons editable objects meaning you can change the colour and outline. If you create elements that you’re particularly proud of, you can save them as Smart Blocks to your own searchable library which you can access when you’re creating presentations in the future.
A slight negative is that there are limited shape types and, though you can crop images, you can’t crop images to a shape. However, there are some really great image editing tools that set Ludus apart from other PowerPoint alternatives, and PowerPoint itself.
You can add hyperlinks to skip to different slides or external sites. There are a bunch of integrations with Unsplash, GIFy, Flickr, the Noun Project and more. Ludus is also linked to Google fonts giving you 800+ fonts at your fingertips.
11 slide transitions are available, and you can set the duration of the transition. However, you can’t animate individual objects. Ludus suggest using GIFs to add animated elements and say they are working on providing this functionality in the future. You can only view transition animations online, as presentations are exported as PDFs.
- Good collaboration options: sharable Smart Blocks, password protection, and custom URLS for sharing.
- Ludus can export to PDF, HTML, JPG, and PNG formats.
- You can only present an animated Ludus presentation online.
- Though you can choose e.g. font size you have to type in a number. There are no bigger/smaller arrows, so editing text was a bit time consuming.
It’s worth keeping an eye on Ludus. It’s being updated all the time in response to user requests, it has a few unique features and is pleasant to use. There is a 30-day free trial if you fancy giving it a go.
Paste by WeTransfer
What is Paste?
Paste was first launched in 2015 but has been recently acquired by WeTransfer who have just launched Paste 2.0. Paste 2.0 is billed as a reactive slide creator allowing users to drop content on the slides without having to fuss with formatting or layouts.
Free: 3 slide decks, custom branding, unlimited sharing.
Pro ($10 per month paid annually): Up to four members, unlimited slide decks, private slide decks, remove Paste branding.
Team ($30 per month paid annually): Everything with Pro plus up to 25 members and priority customer support.
Paste has special prices for education and NGOs on application.
If you sign up to Paste with a work email address, Paste automatically scans your company website to extract brand details. You can then choose to start your deck using a template or a blank project. Paste does its best to extract your brand colours and logo – it worked pretty well for me, but the colours are easily adjusted in the Brand Settings if it isn’t quite right.
There are only three templates to pick from – this was refreshing as some PowerPoint alternatives have what feels like hundreds of templates! Whichever you chose, Paste provides a short, guided tour through the various features which was helpful.
Overall, Paste was smooth, clean and nice to work in.
The reason there are so few templates in Paste is that, rather than plugging your content into an existing structure, the slide reacts to your content to create a suitable layout. It’s easy to add and remove content such as text and images from slides and the slides themselves are split into columns which you can add or remove.
You can insert images from Unsplash and GIFs from Giphy – Paste will predict the type of images you need based on the content you already have.
You can also upload images from your computer and media can be pulled in from a huge variety of websites and apps. You can then move slides to adjust the layout; text and media resizes automatically.
You can’t add tables, graphs or charts which is a shame. Obviously, you can save these as images and add them that way but using images means editing the data is a huge faff.
Paste has ‘Power Layouts’ which let you select a simply layout to add your content to. You can then add and drag content around until you’re happy with it. This is an example of a 3 column power layout:
Alternatively, you don’t have to pick a layout, you can just drag files to Paste from your computer and it will arrange them in a grid.
A feature I can see being used very heavily is the media holders. These allow you to add images or video into really lovely phone or tablet holders. They look great and you can even add a 3D effect, so they react to your mouse when you’re presenting. These are great for showing websites, YouTube videos, app mock-ups and more.
One feature that needs a little work is auto colours. With this setting on, the background is meant to react to the colour of images you add. This didn’t work as automatically for me as I expect – I had to go and select auto colour again each time.
You can export Paste presentations as PDFs or embed them into web pages.
Paste will automatically add your branding to each slide preventing your team from using the wrong colours or fonts. There is some text formatting; bold, italic, bullets, numbers, and a checklist. You can set text size to small, medium and large – not as much range as I’d like but it keeps things simple and helps ensure consistency across slides. You can set the style and font for each of these levels (small, medium and large) in Brand Settings.
You can also add a logo and text watermark.
A good feature Paste has is that you can edit all slides at once. If you want to change background colour or slide layout on every slide or a selection of slides you can. This is a time saver and will help you update decks quickly.
Sadly, there is no animation in Paste. Even the ability to make each column fade in on a click would add a lot of value. You could ‘hack’ this by duplicating slides then deleting content, so it looks like a slide is building in but this would be quite time consuming.
- Good collaboration features, you can leave comments, assign slides to team members and respond to content with reactions.
- It was hard to delete the media holders
Paste could be great for very media rich decks that are mainly images, screenshots, or video. It allows users to quickly create brand complaint good-looking content for swish follow ups to an online meeting or training session. There are also some great portfolio examples on the Paste Explore page. The lack of animation means that there are better options than Paste for creating in-person or face-to-face presentations.
What is Powtoon?
Powtoon is a video and presentation tool that comes with lots of ready-made templates. Though there are lots of video options, let’s stick to exploring the presentation creation tools. We’ve reviewed Powtoon before, check it out here.
Pro ($19 per month): 5 premium exports per month, access to pro and free content, 2 GB storage.
Pro+ ($59 per month): Unlimited premium exports, unlimited access to content, 10 GB storage.
Agency ($99 per month): All previous and 3rd-party reseller rights, 100 GB storage, upload custom fonts.
Powtoon’s interface is a bit overwhelming. There are lots of moving parts, it’s very bright and quite distracting. However, Powtoon’s focus on animation, movement, and storytelling is missing from many other PowerPoint alternatives and is great to see.
It might take you a while to get started, there’s definitely a learning curve with Powtoon. Though a designer – or at least a Powtoon expert – could create stunning presentations, the rest of us might struggle if we decided to go it alone without using one of the pre-made templates.
Using Powtoon’s templates can help you get professional looking results. There’s a large selection of media, templates, and animation effects to choose from.
Once you’ve chosen a template, you can choose different ‘looks’ – infographic, cartoon, real – then Powtoon shows you assets that are consistent with that style. This helps you create something that looks cohesive. There are some really great assets you can pick from to give slides a bit of flair.
There are a few frustrating quirks, for example, it’s difficult to select objects if they overlap. However, there is a handy grid you can toggle on and off to help with object placement.
There are two levels of editing, edit and create. The former is more basic, allowing you to edit text and colours, swap out illustrations etc. The latter is a more detailed editor where you can access extended functionality like the animation timeline.
When changing the size of objects, both the width and height change proportionately which isn’t always what you want. The charts are a bit rubbish.
You can supposedly import PowerPoints into Powtoon. Adding some of Powtoon’s animated assets to a PowerPoint deck could be great, but this feature needs more work. You have to do a lot of editing to deal with the fact Powtoon can’t really cope with a PowerPoint file – particularly with layers as you can see in the clip below!
There are 12 animation options. It was a bit fiddly to work out how to add and place animations on the timeline. Though Powtoon says this is presentation creation, you can’t trigger animations with a click – you have to set timings instead. This is great if you want to share a copy of your deck as a video but it would be difficult to present a Powtoon live. You can see the timeline below.
- Regularly refreshed assets, for example the range of ethnicities of the cartoon figures has been recently updated.
- Powtoon is a heavy product and might make your computer work hard.
- Uploading images and videos is slow and once you’ve got the files uploaded you can’t name them, so if you put a lot of content on Powtoon it can be difficult to put your hands on what you need.
Powtoon presentations can have a cartoony feel which is difficult to achieve in PowerPoint. Their pre-animated assets – like characters – make it easy to achieve effects which would take a long time to create elsewhere. If that’s the look you’re going for Powtoon is great, otherwise it might not be worth learning how to use it.
Full disclosure, we’ve not always been huge fans of Prezi. However, one thing we can get behind is their passion for storytelling and Prezi certainly talks the talk when it comes to visual design. They claim that Prezis are more effective than PowerPoint. Let’s see how they measure up.
What is Prezi?
Like many PowerPoint alternatives, Prezi is designed for people who aren’t designers. The major differentiator is that instead of slides organised linearly, every part of a Prezi exists in a single space – on a huge blank canvas – which can be explored in a different sequence every time. Prezi call this ‘conversational presenting’.
Prezi Classic presented its users with a complete blank canvas. Prezi Next, launched in 2017, is more structured, limiting the ways users can organize their presentation by automatically programming the path taken from section to section. This path progresses by the pans and zooms that are characteristic of a Prezi presentation. For a more detailed introduction to Prezi, watch this video from the Presentation Guild.
There are pricing options for individuals, business users, and educators. Here is a selection:
Standard (£7 per month): Unlimited presentations, import PowerPoint slides, advanced privacy options.
Plus (£19 per month): All previous and premium images and icons, PDF export, offline presenting.
Premium (£59 per month): All previous plus analytics and online training.
Teams: Custom needs, custom pricing
Prezi Next is template-based and there are lots of modern and attractive templates available. If the reason you’re considering ditching PowerPoint is that the templates leave a lot to be desired, then Prezi’s templates are a real bonus.
One problem with Prezi being so template based is that once you start trying to change things it is quite easy to mess a template up. You can build a Prezi presentation from scratch though, as with PowerPoint, a little practise is needed.
It’s pretty easy to get started with a template, you just type into the text boxes, drag and drop elements, and all the movement/transitions are set up for you.
There are two ways to organise your presentation, planet or stack, narrowing down the ways you can move around the presentation. This is useful, making it less likely you’ll get confused or lose your place when presenting. The path is set and zooms from the overview to the topic, then to any subtopics then back out again. The topics add structure which is helpful for both presenter and audience.
In general, the functionality of Prezi is quite limited. Here are a few examples:
- Image editing – can’t crop and if you chose a background image, you can’t move it around.
- Lack of information about your slides e.g. what font size the text is or what the line thickness is. It’s difficult to ensure consistency.
- Can’t hyperlink
- No alignment tools.
- Can’t swap out one object for another easily e.g. if you want to change a straight line to an arrow or swap an image with a different one, you have to manually switch them out, meaning your layout could be ruined.
- Video playback – can’t edit the thumbnail or play without going full screen.
- No colour picker options.
It’s difficult to create branded content though you can send Prezi brand guidelines and they’ll create templates for you.
On the positive side, because of the canvas approach, it’s possible to create something that stands out and doesn’t feel like a typical PowerPoint. It may also encourage people to think more creatively about how they lay out and present their content. There are also some great assets, such as these lovely shape options.
A recent addition to Prezi Next is the animations tab. Though the options are still fairly limited – you can fade in and out and zoom – being able to stagger content makes Prezis much easier to present and helps the presenter tell their story more effectively. Then you have the famous Prezi pan/zoom transitions as you move around your content.
If you want the pan and zoom effects without switching to Prezi, check out SlideRide .
- Great features for business users: smart branding, offline access, presenter view, voice over, PDF export, Prezi analytics, real-time collaboration.
- Mobile app for sharing Prezis via tablet.
- Non-linear presentations can be difficult to navigate.
We always recommend practising your presentation, but this is even truer with Prezi. You need to know the path you want to take through your content and the different options available to make the most of the conversational presenting options.
If you’re looking for a simple PowerPoint alternative, then Prezi might not be the answer. There is a learning curve, especially if you want to branch out from the pre-made templates.
You may want more functionality than Prezi offers but there’s no doubt people do create visually engaging and attractive Prezis and it’s certainly worth giving it a go to see if it suits you.
What is Slidebean?
Slidebean is presentation software powered by artificial intelligence. The system analyses your content, then makes design decisions without human intervention. Slidebean claims to be “The first truly AI-powered presentation software”.
Starter ($96 per year): 15+ starter templates, collaboration options, privacy setting, export to PDF and HTML.
Premium ($228 per year): All previous and 120+ premium templates, analytics, branding options, 2 people max, priority support.
Slidebean’s UI has two separate sections, one for design (Design) and one for content (Outline). Design should be influenced by content, so this separation could be bad news.
You can pick a template or start from scratch and content can be added in either the Outline or the Design panels. Slidebean will design the deck around the content if you chose ‘arrange with AI’. You can cycle through different layout options or move elements around the slide yourself.
Slides are built by adding Content blocks. These include text, quotes, photos, video, audio, charts and graphs and more. There is also a native image bank.
Depending on how much you care about design, you can have a completely hands-off approach or use the design panel to change images, icons, text size and style. You can add and remove content blocks, and when you move content blocks around the slide a grid appears to help you place them neatly.
You can’t alter the colour of individual objects, but you can change the colour palette. Restricting users’ use of colour is a good way of making sure the design stays looking good. However, it is frustrating that you can’t alter the colours on a chart. Apart from this, the chart and graph options in general are good and it’s easy to edit the data.
Lots of customisation options common in other PowerPoint alternatives – like typography or detailed image editing – are not available in Slidebean but the whole point of the app is that you don’t have to do any designing, so it makes sense that options are limited.
You can alter the animation order really easily by dragging and dropping under the animation tab. Each block is numbered on the slide so you can easily see what the current order is. Objects animate in on clicks which is great for live presenting – however, you can have the whole slide animate automatically. The animation options themselves are super limited, basically everything has the same animation.
- Slidebean is linked to Unsplash, the Noun Project, and GIPHY so you can use content from these sites on your slides.
- Limited colour editing options with icons.
Out of the many PowerPoint alternatives we tested, Slidebean is one of the only ones that really doesn’t require any design expertise to use but still turns out modern, sleek slides that could actually be used in an effective presentation. You can try it out for free, then upgrade to share and present.
What is SlideMagic?
SlideMagic is a web app aimed at the business community that allows users to make presentations in their web browser. Presentations can be delivered from the browser or converted to PDF or PPT files.
We first reviewed SlideMagic back in its beta phrase, now SlideMagic 2.0 is in beta.
SlideMagic has a pared back interface. The ‘Getting started with SlideMagic’ deck shows that super simple slides and large images are the name of the game.
SlideMagic is built around grids. You can change the number of columns and rows, but content can only be added within the confines of the grid. We’ve talked elsewhere on the blog about the importance of creating a good grid, and though it is restrictive, the emphasis on the grid means that SlideMagic decks are well balanced.
This emphasis on simplicity is felt throughout the application. Each presentation has just one accent colour paired with black and white. You can colour pick an accent colour from an uploaded image or enter RGB values. You can create your own layout from the grid or select a pre-made layout.
It would be great if you could drag and drop elements on the slide to easily edit the layouts. As it stands, the process of creating slides is a bit laborious.
SlideMagic is one of the most restrictive PowerPoint alternatives we looked at. On one hand, there’s less chance of messing up but on the other there’s little opportunity for creativity. A slight negative is the 4:3 slide size – this can look dated on more modern projectors or screens, though it looks like SlideMagic 2.0 has a 16:9 option.
There are basic image editing tools, such as black and white and blur, but it would be nice to have more control over, for example, how much blur is applied to an image.
There are serious colour restrictions. The background must be either black, white or the accent colour – though you can upload a background image so there are ways to bring more colour to your slides. You can’t edit graph colours. There’s no image/symbol/icon library, everything has to be pulled in as an image file.
There are a few useful editing tools, for example, you can select multiple objects and make simultaneous edits, and there’s a nice little button called Harmonise format which standardises all text boxes to the same sized font and text placement. Great time saving tools.
There are no animation or transition options.
- Convenient speaker note/handout options
- Uploaded images saved into a library
- Presenter view
- No animation options!
Though SlideMagic’s strict grid format takes a bit of getting used to, it could be useful for non-designers. Hopefully its somewhat dated layouts are addressed in version 2.0.
What is Slides.com?
Slides is a suite of modern presentation tools, available in your browser. It prioritises collaborative working and is the only PowerPoint alternative we saw that has offerings for developers.
Lite ($5 per month): Unlimited private decks, present offline, export to PDF.
Pro ($10 per month): All Lite features and unlimited storage, 3 collaborators, custom CSS, Google analytics.
Team ($20 per month): All previous plus unlimited collaborators, custom branding, theme editor, shared media library and slide templates, clone decks, priority support.
The Slides interface is nice and simple, it’s easy to get started and the menus are arranged logically.
The default for Slides.com is to start your deck from scratch rather than using a ready-made template. The slide layout options are pretty basic, though once you’ve created your own slides, you can save these as layouts and use them again. The main menu shows everything you can put on your slides: Text, Image, Video, Shape, Line, iFrame, Table, Code and Math.
Creating slides is made easier with a grid and smart guides you can turn on or off. Not being able to zoom in or out whilst editing is a bit irritating.
Slides has lots of customisation tools, click on an object to bring up a menu of options showing how it can be edited. For a shape this includes colour, size, hyperlinking, animation, depth on the slide. For text, customisation options include line height, letter spacing, colour, opacity, padding, rotation linking, animation – you can also directly edit the HTML.
There is a customisable editor you can load with your company’s assets and colour themes to pull from again and again – a real timesaver. You can also build up your own media library with images, videos and slide templates. You can save any slide as a template and your team can have access to a shared library of slide templates.
Slides doesn’t have as many assets as some other PowerPoint alternatives. There are tables but no charts or graphs. However, you can embed content from YouTube, Vimeo, Maps, Unsplash and GIPHY and upload your own media and video content.
There are several slide transitions and you can break a slide into multiple “fragments” to reveal it step-by-step. You can control how each step animates and you can set the duration and delay of animations. You can animate individual objects, but you can’t add multiple animations to the same object. Animations can be triggered automatically, with a click on a specific object or with a hover over. This works great for kiosk-style or online presenting, but not so much for live presenting.
The animation options are certainly not the worst, and it looks like they’re being developed as we speak.
- Version history and roll back
- Collaboration options: comments, feedback and notifications
- No pre-made slide layouts to help create slides.
Slides.com would be great for kiosk-style presentations and for those wanting coding options. It is thoroughly inoffensive.
What is Microsoft Sway?
Microsoft Sway is another piece of presentation software from Microsoft – it’s aimed at those wanting to produce interactive presentations and content that doesn’t need a presenter. Sway is more streamlined than PowerPoint – a lightweight, cloud-only, storytelling application.
Free for anyone with a Microsoft account, premium features enabled with an Office 365 work or school account.
Sway is easy to use – it’s set up for non-designers, helping you put your content front and centre. It offers three different layout options: vertical, where the slides scroll through like a webpage; horizontal, where slides scroll sideways; and Slideshow, which is most like PowerPoint.
Though there are not many templates, those that exist come with nice built-in transitions which help presentations flow well. They feel more like a single piece of content than a series of slides. This effect would be hard to produce without a good understanding of PowerPoint animations.
Similarly to Slidebean, there are two views in Microsoft Sway. The Storyline panel, where you can add written content, and Design view, where you can see what your Sway looks like. Edits can be made in either view, and extra content added via easy drag and drop content cards.
The editing set up is very different to PowerPoint. Sway offers design and content suggestions based on what is already on your slides. For example, if you enter a topic, Sway will generate a presentation with images, definitions etc. related to this topic already inserted. Time will tell how useful this actually is. Technology like this is found in many PowerPoint alternatives and will only get more powerful in the future.
Because of the Storyline/Design split you can’t see your edits in real time. If you’re used to PowerPoint, or even one of the PowerPoint alternatives mentioned in this article, you might not like having to constantly click through to the preview mode to see what’s your end product will look like.
Sway is designed primarily for simplicity. But it’s just too simple. The colour options for the built-in layouts are a bit naff.
When you add text, it’s just displayed on a white background, very dull. Complex layouts, animations, and sequences are not possible. In fact, you have very little control over slide design at all, instead you relinquish it into the hands of algorithms. You can’t edit images within Sway or choose where text and images are placed on the slides.
You can easily embed web content, such as tweets, maps, and videos. You can’t create charts or other types of data visualisation directly within Microsoft Sway, but you can embed charts, documents, and more from other sources. This seems more effort than it’s worth when many other programs offer native graph and chart capabilities.
You can make minor changes to the way text and images appear. For example, you can choose the focus of an image so Sway knows which bits it should ensure the viewer can see.
Headings can be emphasized and accented. Large blocks of text can be bulleted or numbered (death by PowerPoint anyone?). All can be linked to external URLs.
Transitions are automatically generated within the templates. Individual objects cannot be animated.
- The layout automatically changes depending what device is being used.
- Online only.
- Sway’s can’t be shared as a file, so collaboration requires people to have access to the same account if they want to make edits.
To a presentation expert, Microsoft Sway doesn’t really appeal. It could be a great option for personal projects, like a photography portfolio or jazzing up a report or newsletter. But it’s too simple for much else. The end products are more like online magazine articles than engaging presentations.
What is Visme?
Visme is an online tool that allows its users to produce presentations, infographics and more. Its purpose is to help people create beautiful visuals without having to tackle complicated design software.
Visme have individual, business and education pricing options. This is the business pricing structure:
Basic (free): 5 projects, 100MB storage, JPG download, public projects.
Single ($25 per month): Unlimited projects, 10 GB storage, HTML5 download, slide library, privacy controls, folders, brand kit, record audio.
Team ($75 per month): All previous and 3 users, 10 GB storage per user, share projects and folders, set permissions.
Visme has a library of good-looking templates – a handful come with the free version and there are loads more available if you upgrade. Within each template you can select from a bunch of slide layouts – agenda slides, timelines, maps, charts and graphs and more.
To start you select a template and then chose which slide layouts you want to use. There are plenty of graphics to choose from, you don’t have to create your own graphics, icons, or charts. Their map slide is great – each country is named, and you can show or hide countries and change the colour.
Show object list brings up a selection pane. Here all the objects on a slide are listed, you can show, hide, and lock objects. You can also re-name them, a super handy feature if you have lots of elements of the page.
Clicking on the burger menu in the top left, gives a range of options. If you click view options, you can turn on a grid and even customize it to your own measurements. Also under the burger menu are options to change canvas size and add presentation notes. The presentation note feature could do with a bit of work: you get a pop-up window to type your notes and you can drag this around the screen but there is nowhere easy for it to pop up and down from. You have to exit and go through the burger menu to get it back, which seem a bit of a faff.
Visme has way more functionality than PowerPoint alternatives like Prezi Next. There’s all the align tools you need, the ability to change font size, swap out icons, and more. There are good customisation tools, such as text kerning and line spacing to help you create something really personalised.
Shape and image formatting are locked when you first add an object but can be unlocked. This is a great way of making the program accessible to people with less design confidence (if you don’t unlock objects it’s much harder to mess up your template) whilst allowing those who want it, more granular control. Image editing is available with a selection of filters and cropping.
Visme has some useful and simple data visualisation tools you can use in combination with their icon library. You can’t represent really complex data but it’s fine for simple facts and figures – check it out here.
If you want to make sure your presentation is on-brand you can save fonts and colour palettes within Visme.
The animations available are limited; objects can fly in and out from various places, pop, and fade. Though you can set what times objects enter, there’s no option to have them triggered by a click. This restricts live presentations but would work fine for self-running presentations.
Under the Show objects list, you can click show timeline and up pops an animation pane – hallelujah! Here you can see all the animation timings and drag things around to edit animation order. This functionality is great, why it is so hidden!?
- Handy intro videos help you get to grips with Visme
- Some features are difficult to find.
- You have to ungroup groups to edit individual objects within that group.
- 30-slide maximum
Visme slides look like PowerPoint slides. This isn’t a bad thing at all, but if you’re looking to break away from the PowerPoint look, then Visme isn’t it. Visme does offer modern, sleek layouts, easy drag and drop slide creation and some lovely templates.
What is Xtensio?
Xtensio is a cloud-based platform designed to help people create sales, marketing and strategy content. Xtensio began as a tool for start-ups but has evolved into a larger ‘toolbox’ with interactive templates intended to be of use during all stages of a company’s growth.
Free: 3 Folios. You have to pay to download Folios with the free plan but can share live web links.
There are a bunch of pricing options grouped under Individual, Business and Education. Here’s a selection:
Individual Plus ($15 per month paid yearly): 20 Folios, one user, download as PDFs and PNGs, link privacy control, create and share custom templates.
Business Team ($120 per month paid yearly): Unlimited Folios, 4-10 users, password protected links, customised links, Folio stats, 6 month data retention, collaboration and team management options, brand management options.
Agency ($500 per month paid yearly): Everything in Team plus 20 users, 12 month data retention, upload custom fonts, dedicated custom success manager and some advanced admin features.
Education Students and Educators ($40 per semester): 20 Folios, private links, PDF and PNG exports, one user, create and share custom templates.
Xtensio is a bit similar to programs like Sway (but with more features) as you build your project – called a Folio – using content blocks. It’s easy to get going and there are video tutorials and How-to guides if you’re not sure where to start.
The content blocks seem fairly comprehensive. They include text, a couple of charts, images, and videos alongside more web-friendly features like an email form and social media links.
There are lots of well-structured templates tailored to business communication e.g. customer profile, case study, proposal and more.
The templates immediately reveal one downside of Xtensio presentations, they are not at all animated. The finished product feels more like a scrollable website than a presentation – something to bear in mind when deciding which PowerPoint alternative is best for you.
In Xtensio you can create a custom template from scratch by selecting a blank Folio. When you’re happy with what you’ve done you can save it as a custom template. Alternatively, pick from one of the many templates on offer.
If you’re using the blank template, expect to spend a fair amount of time working out what you can and can’t do. It’s easy to add and remove content blocks (or modules) but getting them to sit where you want takes a bit more time. The drag and drop didn’t function in the way I expected as it only allows you to swap one module’s position with another rather than drag and drop the module to where you want it to sit on the canvas.
However, a slight learning curve is to be expected.
You can add images and video from your PC or from an URL and those images can be hyperlinked. You can insert tables and use some basic formatting features. There aren’t any alignment features, but these aren’t really necessary as all the content blocks sit on a vertical grid.
Opening up a pre-made template and editing it is very easy. You can simply type in your content, swap out the images and delete any parts of the template you don’t need.
One of the content block options are called canvases. These are clickable modules that open full-screen and are made up of other modules. You can use these to have more control over the grid/layout of modules Xtensio has pre-made canvases for user personas and business models.
Side note: You can view some sections of your Folio in Code View – if that’s your jam.
Folios can be exported as PDFs or PNGs or shared with clients and colleagues as responsive, live web pages.
There’s a decent amount of text formatting (font size, bold/italics/underlined, font, heading styles etc.) and if you’re creative you can use it to create something that looks good and is consistent across different projects. With a paid subscription you can add and manage fonts and chose your own colours (either with an eyedropper or using HEX codes) then lock these to create a consistent style guide.
You can set a background image or colour to visually break up the content. It would be great to have some basic image editing options e.g. transparency or colour editing to help bring images into line with your chosen style. At the moment image editing is non-existent but you can edit the colours and values of tables, charts and graphs.
There are great collaboration features and you can customise access levels to suit your needs.
There are no animation features. You can’t “present” Folio’s as much as scroll through them.
- Changes automatically save and sync across all devices and you can view revision history and revert to older versions.
- Password protection
- Xtensio reviewers like the fact that the templates – user personas, business models etc. – encourage them to think through their business plans/goals and organise their thoughts effectively. We know that knowing your business’s story and fully understanding what you offer over your competitors is key to a successful pitch so it’s great to see Xtensio helping their users work through these important questions.
- The undo feature doesn’t always undo actions in the way you’d expect.
I can see Xtensio being useful for non-designers who want to quickly and confidently create brand-compliant collateral such as one pagers, visually appealing reports, business plans, employee handbooks etc. The kind of content audiences consume at their own pace. Xtensio Folios could also make impressive leave-behinds or follow up documents to send out after a presentation. However, they are less appropriate for an in-person (or online) presentation as they are not designed to be presented by a presenter.
What is Zoho Show?
Zoho Show is part of a web-based online office suite containing word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, note-taking, wikis, web conferencing, and more.
For the Zoho Suite:
Zoho Workplace (from £2.40 per month)
Zoho Show has a similar feel to PowerPoint. If you want new, sexy templates then the small selection on offer might disappoint. The layouts are pretty basic, but you can select from a range of fonts and colour schemes.
The process of creating slides is very similar to creating slides in PowerPoint. You can turn on grids or create your own guides (if you can figure out how to duplicate the guide line). You can align to slide and shapes. You can hide slides and lock slides from editing. All useful. There are also some useful editing tools that are missing in many PowerPoint alternatives, such as ‘find and replace’ and spell check.
You can find smart elements under the Shape tab. These are editable but automatically animate at a level that would be hard to replicate – really useful. However, the icon library is limited.
Zoho Show has good text editing options including spacing, indent, fonts, superscript and subscript. There are also lots of image editing options e.g. crop to shape, apply filters, set transparent colour, alter brightness and contrast, and more. Zoho Show has good chart and graph options which are more editable than you see in many other PowerPoint alternatives (add/remove title, data labels, etc.). You can create freeform shapes which is really cool! Boolean tools would be a great addition to help users make the most of the freeform shapes.
You can insert content from Twitter and YouTube and hyperlink elements.
Zoho Show has slide masters, like in PowerPoint, giving you more control over what is happening on your slides and helping you create slides with consistent layouts.
There are lots of animation options: motion paths, emphasis, entrance and exit animations as in PowerPoint. And like, in PowerPoint, some of the animations are a little rubbish so tread carefully. Objects can animate in on click, after previous, or with previous.
You can change the animation order, add delays and extend the duration of animations but the animation timeline is not super useful as you can’t see whether animations overlap.
The bar graphic below has a built-in animation.
- Export/import PowerPoint files
- Version history
- Collaborative work: multiple users, real-time feedback, comments
- Small comment, but the shadow effect is rubbish!
If PowerPoint is not for you, then Zoho might not be either. It offers almost the same thing with a slightly different interface, fewer tools, and a few more web integrations. If PowerPoint is too complex, Zoho is only slight less complicated – you still have to start from scratch.
Does your PowerPoint alternative play nicely?
If all you need to do is create a nice looking presentation, most of these PowerPoint alternatives will do just fine. However, with decent slide software you can do a few different things; author, collaborate, present, distribute etc. The thing is, there are huge network effects when it comes to collaborating and distributing. You’ve created a beautiful presentation, but can you send the file to a colleague? Can they open it? Edit it? Can you present offline? Where is the file stored? If dealing with the presentation is a total headache it’s unlikely you’ll convince other people to switch to a PowerPoint alternative.
The ULTIMATE guide to PowerPoint alternatives: Conclusion
One final point to make is that you can create pretty complex interactivity in PowerPoint and though some PowerPoint alternatives, like Google Slides, do have interactivity options, many do not. Just something to consider!
And that is that! Though we’ve probably missed some PowerPoint alternatives, and new options will have hit the market by the time this is published, we’ve covered the big hitters out there. Let us know if we’ve missed one of your favourites in the comments below.
It’s been a momentous journey. We’ve learnt that sometimes you don’t get on with programs that look promising and that you can be surprised by the most unlikely ones.
If you think we’ve been too harsh, don’t worry, we hold PowerPoint to a high standard too! We want our clients to have slides that work best for them and help them achieve their goals, that means we expect a lot of the software we use to create presentations.
A lot of these programs rely on the fact that people want easy to use, good looking templates. But…
It ain’t what you use it’s the way that you use it, and that’s what gets results!Leave a comment
Olivia Kippax Jones
Communication consultantView Olivia Kippax Jones's profile
We were notified on Friday that we’ve been successful in our renewal bid. They were particularly complementary about our presentation and claimed it was one of the best they’ve had.Greg Tufnall Siemens