Business Software

Microsoft Office 2010: A First Look at PowerPoint Web App

Microsoft has kicked off the Technical Preview of Office Web Apps. I looked at the Office Web Apps version of Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation software to see how it stacks up to its more robust Microsoft Office desktop cousin.

Select 'Microsoft PowerPoint presentation' from the menu to start the program.
After logging in to my SkyDrive account and accessing My Documents, I started the Office Web Apps PowerPoint application by clicking New and selecting Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.

On the next screen I had to give my presentation a name. Similar to the Excel Web App, the PowerPoint Web App showed a large thumbnail-preview area on the right side of the screen; but because I had yet to create any slides, the preview was blank.

The main working area of Office Web Apps PowerPoint is identical to that of the Microsoft Office version.
A few seconds after I entered a name for the presentation and clicked Create, the Office Web Apps PowerPoint application appeared in my Web browser. The lower half looked familiar, with the left pane displaying a thumbnail index of the slides and the right side dedicated to the current slide plus a smaller area at the bottom for notes.

The Home Ribbon in the full PowerPoint has significantly more functions available.
The top portion was another story, though. Overall, the Office Web Apps PowerPoint has the same look and feel as the retail Microsoft Office PowerPoint software, but the features available on the Ribbon in Office Web Apps are very limited compared with the real deal.

After adding a title and some information in the subtitle box, I was able to work with the text as I would in the normal PowerPoint, for the most part. I could change the size, color, and font of the text from the Ribbon interface at the top of the screen.

The fonts list does not display the font as it will appear in Office Web Apps.
One difference I noted, though, was that the Office Web Apps version had far fewer fonts available to me, and they displayed in uniform text rather than in the what-you-see-is-what-you-get view of fonts that I'm accustomed to in the desktop version of the app.

The lack of a WYSIWYG font list definitely slowed me down, because I had to choose fonts one at a time to see what they looked like. Once I got my fonts worked out, I clicked on New Slide in the Ribbon bar to move on.

When you select 'New Slide', Office Web Apps PowerPoint presents this list of formats to choose from.
The New Slide window displays the available slide formats to choose from. This is similar to the experience of adding a new slide in the desktop PowerPoint. I selected the slide format that has two content elements so that I could insert a photo on one side and some text on the other.

The content windows on the new slide have icons to click on for choosing between adding an image/photo or adding a SmartArt element. You can also select Click to add text at the top of the element if you want to...well, add text.

Adding an image or photo is as straightforward as doing so in any other program; clicking that icon brings up a window to browse your hard drive and find an image. If you click on the icon to add SmartArt, a window pops up displaying the various SmartArt elements to choose from.

The presentation of the SmartArt options is not as slick as in Microsoft Office PowerPoint, but the options and functionality seem to be on a par with those in the desktop program.

The Office Web Apps PowerPoint does not have the ability to apply design templates. It can't do slide transitions or animations, either. And it lacks the ability to insert tables, multimedia elements, symbols, and more. In the Microsoft Office PowerPoint Ribbon, I can see loads of options that are absent from the Office Web Apps version.

For creating basic PowerPoint presentations or making minor modifications to existing presentation slide decks, the Office Web Apps PowerPoint seems more than capable. Advanced PowerPoint users might wish to use it for small changes, but would be wise to keep their "real" PowerPoint as well.

Want to see more of the Microsoft Office Web Apps? Take a closer look at the Excel Web App and Office Web Apps' sharing and collaboration features. At press time, Word and OneNote were not yet fully functional.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice, and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.

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