PowerPoint 2007 Wins Fans
SmartArt and other new features clinch its spot as the must-have presentation tool.
PowerPoint certainly wins the popularity contest out of all the new Office 2007
applications. Of the four that readers have recently reviewed (Word, Excel and
Outlook; for those stories, see the October
2007 issues of Redmond
), PowerPoint 2007 earns the lion's share of praise.
While much of the criticism of Word and Excel 2007 centered on the ribbon interface,
readers say the new interface in PowerPoint 2007 is easy to decipher and actually
makes building presentations far more straightforward than in 2003.
"I love the ribbon in PowerPoint 2007," says Susan Hanley, an independent
consultant based in Bethesda, Md. "For me, it's more intuitive than with
the other Office 2007 products. I found features right away, whereas with Word
and Excel it took me a little bit longer."
Hanley cautions, however, that she's more of an expert in Word and Excel than
she is in PowerPoint. "I think power users tend to have trouble with the
ribbon," she says. "Because I wasn't very good at PowerPoint before,
now I feel like I'm much better at it because the ribbon makes things so much
easier to find." This echoes other readers' sentiments regarding the ribbon
interface being easier for beginners to grasp.
Steve Hohman, director of IT at Lightning Technology Group Inc. in Oldsmar,
Fla., agrees. "I haven't come across anything that was easier in 2003 than
in 2007," he says. "In most cases, I've found 2007 more intuitive."
SmartArt Seals the Deal
The main reason most readers give for upgrading to PowerPoint 2007 is SmartArt,
which is PowerPoint's new designer-quality graphics tool with built-in professional-looking
layouts, templates, themes and color palettes.
"The ideal PowerPoint is minimal words. It's finding a concept to keep
the audience's attention instead of having them read the slides," Hohman
says. "PowerPoint 2007 really does a great job because it makes building
those images and concepts a lot easier, and it looks better, too."
Hohman says there's more variety to the templates that come with PowerPoint
2007 and they're easy to customize. For example, users can base a typical organizational
chart on a hierarchy, matrix, an open format or a completely customized look.
"I just put in my concepts and adjust my bullet levels," Hohman
says. "So if my primary concept is backups, and my next three bullet levels
are daily, weekly and monthly, that's how I structure it -- just like if I were
doing an outline in Word. That automatically translates over to my SmartArt."
Users no longer have to retype bullet lists or fuss with layout changes. "It's
actually faster than in 2003, even though it has all these new features,"
Hohman says. "In 2003, you might have said this graphic template has five
sub-concepts, but I only need four. So you would cut out the extra one and rearrange
everything. In 2007, all you do is remove a bullet in the list. It removes the
extra one and reorganizes it automatically. It's a lot easier."
Hanley says PowerPoint is on par with Microsoft's Visio diagramming tool, but
its results are more visually appealing. "You can do the same kind of thing
in Visio, but it's boring and two-dimensional," she says. "In PowerPoint
2007, there are pre-defined color codes and themes. You can easily make it three-dimensional,
beveled, gradient-shaded or whatever."
Preview the Point
PowerPoint 2007, like the other tools in the Office 2007 suite, also lets users
preview changes before making them. Because of all the design choices available
in PowerPoint 2007, readers say the new preview feature is essential.
"The preview feature is important because before you commit to a style,
it shows you exactly what it will look like," Hanley says. "You hover
over it, see what it's going to look like and then you click to commit. That's
a huge advantage."
Another key new feature in PowerPoint 2007 is the presenter view. Using two
monitors, presenters can now run their PowerPoint presentation from one monitor
(on a laptop at a podium, for example) while the audience views it on the second
monitor. "I used to have to print out my notes and flip pages while I used
the clicker to step through the presentation," Hanley says. "So this
is a cool feature, especially for someone like me who doesn't tend to write
a lot of words on their PowerPoint."
Hanley prefers to use PowerPoint slides to provide an image for people to view
or a visual reminder of what she's trying to convey. "I want people to
have something interesting to look at, but I don't want them to be reading slides
because it's incredibly boring," she says. "And I don't want to read
what the slides say, because that's even more boring."
By keeping her script separate, she can ensure that she stays on message and
keeps the actual slide presentation crisp and clear. "I can see what I
want to say on my screen, which I have to look at to click anyway, as opposed
to shuffling through paper notes, which seems ridiculous."
PowerPoint 2007 also has several new features that make sharing presentations
easier and more secure, including the new Document Inspector feature, the ability
to save as a PDF and improved integration with SharePoint.
When he finished a presentation in PowerPoint 2007, Hohman says it prompted
him to run the Document Inspector wizard. The new Document Inspector checks
presentations for hidden metadata, personal information and other sensitive
content stored within the presentation. It also checks comments, document properties,
off-slide content and presentation notes.
"It pulled out my name and some other information," Hohman says.
"It's a neat feature. It's kind of a check and balance to make sure that
you don't send all your info across the planet."
Hanley says that she actually had used a third-party tool to handle similar
inspection and removal functions in 2003, something she won't need with 2007.
She also likes the ability to save a presentation in PDF format. This feature
is common to all Office 2007 apps with a free download from Microsoft.
"I often share PowerPoint presentations on my Web site, so I like the
idea that I can save them easily as a PDF," she says. "I had been
using PDF converter software, but this saves me a step. It makes me feel like
I'm protecting my own intellectual property, at least a little bit."
Hohman agrees, noting that it's especially useful since many of the people
with whom he collaborates don't have Office 2007. "I save almost any Office
document now as a PDF, because then I don't care what versions [of Office] other
people have," he says. "They just need an Acrobat viewer, so it makes
The only downside to PowerPoint 2007, say readers, is its lack of collaborative
features. For example, editing tools like spell check have been revamped, but
there's still no good way to track changes when multiple people work on a single
presentation. Your only choice is to insert comments in the presentation, which
is a difficult way to track changes.
"The spell check is much better, and it's more context-aware," Hohman
says. "If I needed to write the word 'for' but I typed 'from,' previously
that would've been shown as a correct spelling. But in the new version, it's
actually flagged as a misusage of the word, along with some suggestions. It
looks at the context of how you're using the word and gives you the suggestions
based on that."
Hanley agrees, and also wishes that PowerPoint had a better way to track revisions.
"That's the one thing I don't like about PowerPoint in general,"
she says. "It would be really nice if there was a track-changes feature
like there is in Word, where you could highlight what you want to change and
another person could see what you did. So 2007 is no easier when it comes to
Another caveat with 2007 is that users can easily get carried away with all
the graphic possibilities to the detriment of their overall presentation.
"People think they have to use all features," Hanley says. "When
a tool is this easy to make changes, add colors and add graphics, you can tend
to lose focus on the main point. You have to be careful about having too much
of a good thing."
More Plus than Minus
Overall, readers say PowerPoint 2007 is a must-have upgrade. "Upgrading
to Office 2007 is a no-brainer," Hanley says, noting that her key reasons
are the revamped calendars in Outlook and PowerPoint's SmartArt.
She particularly appreciates PowerPoint 2007 now that she's an independent
consultant. "My secretary used to do all of my PowerPoints. I'd tell her
what I wanted to say and she'd turn it into something pretty," she says.
"I'm doing this by myself now. I can easily do things my secretary used
to do, only faster."
More InformationSharePoint Integration Is Key
Using PowerPoint 2007 and SharePoint 2007 together eases collaboration and
ensures secure, up-to-date presentations.
PowerPoint 2007's integration with SharePoint through the slide libraries makes
both tools stronger. Users can create slides in PowerPoint 2007 and store them
in a SharePoint library.
"Say I'm in the marketing department and I have a series of slides with
a standard pitch about the company that I want people to use," Susan Hanley,
an independent consultant based in Bethesda, Md., says. "Maybe I have one
slide that shows the executive team and another that shows our locations. The
problem is that everybody uses the last version of those slides they saved to
their C drive, and they seldom come back and get the most recent version from
the intranet or wherever it's stored."
When users store slides in a slide library within SharePoint, however, any
other users wishing to see or edit them simply check them out of the library.
When they check out the slides, they're asked if they want to maintain a link
to the server version of the slides.
"If I say yes, I want to maintain that link, it keeps it up to date,"
Hanley says. "So even though it's stored on my C drive, the next time I
open it, if the server version has been updated, I'll get prompted to take the
update. Every time I try and use that presentation, I'll always get the most
current, correct version of those slides. That's a huge productivity savings."
Joanne Cummings is principal writer and editor for Cummings Ltd., a freelance editorial firm based in North Andover, Mass.