PowerPoint 2013 has just reached its beta version. So has it been worth the wait?
Jo Fahey from Eyeful Presentations puts PowerPoint 2013 through its paces.
Look and Feel
When you first open PowerPoint 2013 you are instantly struck by the sleek new look and feel. This is not only visually appealing but makes the whole program feel very solid and reliable. Also the default slide size is now 16×9 rather than the traditional 4×3 – an improvement which we’ve been looking forward to for a while now.
It may look a little different, but the ribbon is still there and the layout of this has barely changed. What has changed, though, is when you right-click and select format shape: the window for this now appears to the right and as a solid part of PowerPoint, rather than floating ethereally. It takes a little getting used to, but essentially it’s the same.
Not a lot’s changed on the template front, with PowerPoint 2013 sticking to the same format as its 2010 and 2007 predecessors. We’re great believers in hanging on to what works, so there’s no disappointment on that front.
It’s the Insert Tab on the ribbon that’s changed most. Colours are the same as before but the gradient fill pre-sets have really improved to give a more modern look and feel.
Insert Online Pictures
The Insert tab also includes some new image options. The first of these is the ability to Insert Online Pictures. This allows you to load directly from SkyDrive or by searching the web for images using Bing Image Search – great for home users but not really applicable in the professional world.
This does pose the question – is Microsoft opening its users up to a whole world of pain in terms of using unlicensed images? Our recommendation is to tread carefully out there when choosing images to add to your presentation!
Insert Screen Shot Tool
Another upgrade to inserting images is the Insert Screen Shot tool, which those of you who use the Windows Snipping Tool will be familiar with. You can either snip parts of your monitor view or this tool will show you a screen grab of any applications that you have open. Integrating this type of functionality has made a previously clunky task much smoother.
This screen-shot functionality is also really useful when used in conjunction with the new Eyedropper tool, which is part of the fill section, when it comes to changing colour.
Now you can snip anything on screen and quickly and easily create a consistent colour palette by using the Eyedropper tool to replicate colours from one shape or image to another.
One of the big advances of PowerPoint 2010 was the ability to save a presentation as a WMV video. In 2013 Microsoft have added the functionality to save as an MP4 video. This is no great advantage as you can easily convert a WMV video outside of PowerPoint, but nonetheless it will save time.
Sadly, the only way to export to Flash/HTML5 is still an external plug-in but maybe that’s something we’ll see in the next iteration.
Game Changing Animation Pane
I had hoped and dreamed for an animation pane with a scrub bar so that I could view animations from a chosen part of the sequence only. Well, there isn’t a scrub bar but Microsoft have certainly upped their game in the department of animation preview.
Now when you are creating a long sequence of animation you can either select a point in the pane to start from, or you can use CTRL to select any animations in the pane and preview only these! FANTASTIC!
Hours and hours of painful animation previewing will be consigned to history as this fantastic new tool makes PowerPoint designers’ lives across the world that bit easier!
And if that wasn’t impressive enough, there is another great upgrade to animation, this time to motion paths. To make a shape arrive at exactly the position you want it has always been a highly skilled and fiddly task. PowerPoint 2013 now creates a temporary copy of the object you are adding a motion path to and projects a preview of exactly where the object will be when it has travelled along the motion path. This is the sort of functionality that encourages designers to dream up ambitious schemes so it’s all good!
Other Design Upgrades
The auto alignment tool that really improved in 2010 has been upgraded, and the automatic guides now highlight the equal spacing between two objects, saving time on distributing later.
The yellow diamond when altering the edges of a rounded rectangle, for example, has improved as the circles and lines around the shape disappear, allowing you to see what you are doing!
The selection pane looks much better now, but works in much the same way, although it now has the ability to drag objects into position.
In my PowerPoint dream, I hoped for the Combine Shapes tool to be a part of the ribbon, and, indeed, they are now there, along with a couple of new additions to this small family of commands which sits nestled in the Drawing Tools tab.
Copying objects across from an open PowerPoint 2010 deck is OK, the objects keep all of their attributes apart from animation.
Outside of Design
Microsoft’s big push for Office 2013 is the functionality linked to SkyDrive, pushing people to save documents there as opposed to locally on their machines. This is really useful as you can now start a document on one PC then continue on another PC or a mobile device without the need for emailing a different version back and forth.
The ‘Prezi’-type Zoom
Another new function is that in presenting mode you can hit a button and zoom straight into a particular area of a slide. This is useful for highlighting content to your audience, but I think caution will be needed; if you’re using this all the time it may be that your slides are too cluttered and too much of this could leave your audience dizzy a la Prezi.
Much Faster Overall
Overall, the thing that you really notice is that everything seems to happen much quicker than in previous versions. This is apparent throughout PowerPoint 2013, but to satisfy myself that I wasn’t imagining it, I did a quick test.
- Inserting a piece of music into a slide in PowerPoint 2010 = 9.5 seconds
- PowerPoint 2013 = less than 1 second
The suspected improvement is real and significant (to the point that I am unembarrassed about using a stopwatch in the office)!
And finally, some of the things that haven’t come true from my PowerPoint 2013 hopes… there are still no ‘Insert Icons’ or ‘Insert Silhouettes’ buttons and the animation ‘Random Bars’ is still there! Still, you can’t have everything!
So, in our opinion, PowerPoint 2013 is a worthy successor to 2010 and has taken some big steps forward in functionality. It’s not the huge leap we had from 2003 to 2007, but there is a lot to be said about not fixing what isn’t broken.
PowerPoint 2013 means that PowerPoint users across the land can save even more time and work with less stressful animations, leaving them extra energy to let their imaginations (and their storytelling skills) run wild!
Thank you, Microsoft! It finally feels like we are on the same page…
Jo Fahey is Head of Customer Engagement for Eyeful Presentations.
Jo can be reached on 0845 056 8528 or through the Eyeful Presentations website
1 January 2013