We all know that PowerPoint is a great invention. It has transformed presentations from yesterday’s dull, dreary and hard-to-follow deliveries to today’s media-rich events.
Its flexibility and customisable nature has allowed presenters to incorporate all sorts of things: colour, movement, sound, video, build-up graphs, animation and much more. All of this has enlivened presentations to the point where some at least can compare with entertainment.
But there’s one thing PowerPoint isn’t. It isn’t free. Or at least, it hasn’t been until now. Soon, though, that’s about to change.
Spurred no doubt by the gauntlet thrown down by Google Docs, Microsoft will be offering free Office applications on the web when it releases Office 2010 later this year.
This is definitely the way the world is going. According to Gartner, web-based office suites will increase by 34 per cent by 2013. So what does this mean for presenters?
Basically, anyone with a Windows Live account will be able to create, modify and share PowerPoint documents, completely free of charge. (They will be able to do the same with Word and Excel docs too.)
Inevitably, the free version won’t be quite as all-singing, all-dancing as the application that people pay for.
It will have fewer features, for one thing: a sort of PowerPoint “lite”. Just how much lighter remains to be seen.
Users will need to download the Office 2010 beta version to get the free application of PowerPoint, at least for the time being.
And there will be advertisements on the page: again, how intrusive these will be is not yet known.
All of these things are slight drawbacks, no doubt. But if the choice is between having a slightly reduced PowerPoint functionality with a few ads and no PowerPoint at all, there would seem to be no contest. If the free version encourages more people to enliven and enrich their presentations, that must be a good thing.
The old saying suggests that the best things in life are free. If so, PowerPoint’s status as one of those best things is about to be officially confirmed.
By David Vickery