At BrightCarbon we are a team of unabashed PowerPoint enthusiasts. So, there was little hesitation when we were approached by PPT Productivity to review their PowerPoint add-in.

PPT Productivity understand – like us – that good PowerPoint is hard to do, and they claim to make it easier by providing users with more than 60 new PowerPoint functions. These functions are meant to boost productivity and help users to easily create professional presentations.

A look at all the PPT Productivity tabs and panels. Image credit: PPT Productivity

Two brave Carbonites volunteered to take the add-in for a test drive.

Sandy is a Senior Consultant at BrightCarbon, so she knows PowerPoint like the back of her hand. She uses PowerPoint most days but doesn’t do a lot of heavy lifting on slide design. Her main jobs are storyboarding and making edits on existing slides. She wanted to see whether the tool could help her to be more efficient, even though precise formatting isn’t her main focus.

Kate is one of our expert Design Consultants. She spends all day, every day in PowerPoint and is an absolute wiz with the program. Kate produces beautiful slides, from scratch, often at a rapid pace. She was hoping that PPT Productivity would fill in some of the gaps in PowerPoint’s tool selection and provide features that would make her wonder “How did I live before this!?”

Our intrepid reviewers downloaded PPT Productivity’s free trial version, which includes the full set of Power Tools, and got testing. Read on to discover their thoughts after a day, a week, and fortnight of using the add-in.

One day of PPT Productivity

Sandy: I downloaded the free trial and installed it, but it wasn’t showing up in my PowerPoint. I tried all the usual tricks (turned it off and on again), but no luck. It took an email to the PPT Productivity team to get things off the ground. Their reply to my email query was prompt and their instructions were clear. I had to manually enable the add-in within PowerPoint, then it appeared as a tab at the top of the interface.

The person I’d been emailing about installation offered to give me a live demo but I thought I would just have a play around on my own. The first thing I noticed was many of the features on the PPT Productivity tab are already available in PowerPoint. But, it looked like there were some cool new features, especially on the Shape panel.

Kate: I didn’t have any problems with the installation, it was a smooth process for me! When I first looked at the tools, I was really excited about shape and sizing features but less so about the native PowerPoint features (such as the alignment and distribution tools) included in the tabs and panes, as I already use those in my day to day work.

As I have a really set routine with PowerPoint, I was interested to see if it would be easy to incorporate the add-in tools into my workflow. I wondered if it would be disruptive to use these new features instead of the workarounds I use on a daily basis.

It struck me as strange that PPT Productivity’s most innovative features seemed to be in panels on the sides of the workspace instead of the top tabs. The tabs are where I’m used to clicking, since that’s where my quick access toolbar and the majority of other useful PowerPoint features live. It was going to be interesting to see how this novel setup could fit into my workflow.

One week of PPT Productivity

Sandy: Sadly, I didn’t really have that many opportunities to test out the add-in during our first week together! When I did need to use PowerPoint, I kept forgetting about the tools as they’re in a separate tab with separate panels. I made a note to myself to use the add-in more in the second week and hoped that Kate was doing a better job of testing it out than I was!

Kate: During the first week I kept an eye out for opportunities to use the PPT Productivity features; in particular, I wanted to use the quick resizing and height/width adjustment tools from the Shape panel. These seemed like they’d be huge time-savers! Although I did use those features quite a bit, I couldn’t find ways to easily incorporate the rest of the features into my routine.

Quickly make multiple objects the same height and width. Image credit: PPT Productivity

Two weeks of PPT Productivity

Sandy: This week, I used the tool a lot more than in week one. There are a couple of amazing features for the kind of work I need to do: the quick select tools (select all objects of the same size/same colour) were very useful, as were the quick resizing tools and colour panel.

Select all objects of the same size/colour in a flash. Image credit: PPT Productivity

However, I found that sometimes the add-in made PowerPoint run quite slowly or caused the display to glitch. I had to restart PowerPoint a few more times that I would have liked, and that probably cancelled out the productivity gains I had from the cool new features.

Kate: I had a lot of slides to get through this week, and I just kept forgetting about the PPT Productivity tools. I tried keeping the tab and various panels open, but they used up valuable space, so I kept closing them. Then, my usual routine kicked in and was faster than constantly clicking to the tab, reopening the panels, and closing them again.

But, there was some useful stuff in the add-in: the features I was excited about at the start did live up to my expectations and I would definitely use them in future if they were more easily accessible.

Final thoughts on PPT Productivity

Sandy: I enjoyed aspects of the add-in, but don’t think I’m a convert just yet. Some of the features are really cool, but others are either:

  1. Included in PowerPoint already e.g. alignment tools, Insert Chart, Insert Table
  2. So specific that I don’t think I’d use them on a day-to-day basis e.g. Toggle Vertical Lock Position, Set Chevrons to Same Angle
  3. Not specific enough for the custom design work we do at BrightCarbon e.g. Change Margins of Selected Shapes toggles between pre-set margins, but we’d always set these manually anyway

If you’re a PowerPoint novice and want to improve your productivity, it’s a good bet to start with a quick access toolbar. This will help you create slides a lot more quickly, and it’s free. Make one yourself with all the features you use or download ours to get all of PowerPoint’s best bits. You can also download our own design add-in, BrightSlide. Read more about what BrightSlide can do here.

Kate: I’d say that the add-in has a high price for what you get. PPT Productivity offer three core products*: Basic Tools, Productivity Tools, and Power Tools. The features I was excited about using – that aren’t already included in standard PowerPoint – are only available in the most expensive package. Also, there are no animation features, even though this is a big area that PowerPoint could use some extra help with.

I found it really difficult to work PPT Productivity into my regular workflow. I think this is because I’m already used to where everything is in PowerPoint and all the best features are in sidebars rather than the main work area. If the features could be added to an additional row under the quick access toolbar, that would be much better.

Of course, I only took two weeks to test the tool, and if you were to use it daily it would probably fit into your routine in time. At the end of the day, no set of tools is going to give instant results: being productive in any program is all about practice and learning the tricks of the trade.

For more reviews, check out the Presentation technology corner of our blog. And if you’d like to learn more about how the BrightCarbon team practice being productive in PowerPoint, keep an eye on our events page for our regular PowerPoint Productivity Masterclass.

*At the time of publishing, one year’s subscription to the add-in comes in at $49 for Basic Tools, $99 for the Productivity Tools, and $149 for the Power Tools. Subsequent license renewals are available at a slight discount.

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Kate Allen

Senior design consultant

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