Alternatives to Big-Name Tech Tools

PowerPoint Alternatives: Presentation-Tool Showdown

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280 Slides

Like the other contenders, 280 Slides is a cloud-based presentation maker that lets you create, access, and share presentations anywhere in the world. Now in beta, the service allows you to import existing presentations with the .pptx format as well as to create them from scratch on the site, and to export them back into that format as well.

280 Slides offers users basic capabilities for creating, editing, and sharing presentations.
280 Slides offers a limited selection of templates, and you can add images and movies from your own collections or directly from Web services including Flickr, Vimeo, and YouTube. To share presentations, you can put them on SlideShare, send them via e-mail, or embed them directly on a Website.

It's not clear how much storage users of 280 Slides are allowed, or if it imposes any maximum presentation size. The service is currently free.

Hands-on: Trying to import an older PowerPoint file in .ppt format, we learned that 280 Slides accepts only .pptx files. After we attempted to resave that older file in .pptx format and upload it again, it showed up garbled in 280 Slides.

On the other hand, when we used a brand-new .pptx presentation from Office 2010, the slides and theme translated nicely, though the transitions didn't make it. 280 Slides did preserve the existing theme used in that presentation when we added new slides to it, however, which was particularly nice since the service offers only nine templates of its own.

In general, 280 Slides is rudimentary and rough around the edges. Features felt extremely basic--even more so than Google Docs in many ways, despite a more attractive interface.

Price: Free

Languages: English

License: Proprietary

Import/export: Import .pptx only from PowerPoint; export to PowerPoint 2007 in .pptx format only

Unique features:

  • An attractive interface

Missing pieces:

  • Compatibility with older PowerPoint files or other formats
  • Capability to export to PDF or other formats
  • Offline presentation capabilities
  • Collaboration capabilities
  • Mobile support
  • Transition and animation capabilities
  • Support for other languages
  • Metrics and analytics

Best use for 280 Slides: We weren't very impressed with 280 Slides. It's free, but so is Google Docs, and that's better. 280 Slides needs some work before it will be competitive.

Which Presentation Maker Should You Choose?

All five of these Microsoft PowerPoint alternatives have pros and cons, but SlideRocket clearly steals the show. Zoho is a close second, but SlideRocket really seems to have every single detail covered. Its interface, compatibility, features, and collaboration tools are particularly stellar.

While Prezi is an extremely interesting contender, it didn't grab the top spot for this review mostly because it's still so different as to require a whole new way of thinking--and to make imports and exports impossible. However, that doesn't mean it won't gain ground in the future.

A presentation overview in SlideRocket gives you key information at a glance.
Google Docs remains a good, solid offering--particularly given its price--though it's certainly not as feature-rich as SlideRocket and Zoho. Finally, 280 Slides feels like an incomplete effort--which, in all fairness, it may well be, given that it's still in beta testing.

Which of these offerings is best for your work? That depends on many factors, including how heavy a user you are, the kinds of features you need, and how much collaboration you do. Most companies would be happy with Zoho, as it's part of a larger productivity suite. The higher-end SlideRocket is sure to please even the most demanding heavy user. If you're in the market for a new presentation package, you'd do well to check out both.

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