PowerPoint is a great tool for making business presentations, but it isn't your only option. You'll find plenty of great online tools that let you create presentations–on your own or in collaboration with others. I'll introduce you to three free slideshow tools to keep on your presentation shortlist.
3 Free Slideshow Presentation Tools
The Prezi slide show creation tool breaks all the rules about displaying slideshows in a linear format with one rectangular slide after the other. With Prezi, you can create slide shows that move around a 2D or 3D space.
Figure 1: Prezi offers a range of great 2D and 3D templates to get you started making a presentation.
You create a new prezi (a prezi is a presentation, while Prezi is the name of the product) by first selecting a template—this is your presentation's 2D or 3D canvas. You have lots of options from which to choose, and none of them even remotely resemble PowerPoint templates.
Watch the getting started videos to get an idea how to use Prezi and what a prezi looks like. Once you select a template, you can start working on your prezi and add the details for your slide show. You can add images, text and YouTube videos to any prezi, and you can also predetermine which areas of your canvas will be displayed (and in which order) when you run the presentation.
Figure 2: Prezi lets you add images, text and videos to your presentations and to present information in a non-linear way.
Prezi offers three pricing packages: The free option includes 100MB of storage—enough, according to the site, for a few prezis. While you can edit and share prezis, note that they are all public. The two for-fee versions provide additional options such as private presentations, the capability to work offline, to use your own logo on your presentations, and additional online storage.
2. Zoho Show
Zoho Show is part of the Zoho online office suite, and its presentation module works in a similar way to PowerPoint. When you create a new presentation you receive a series of design templates to use. You can then select a color variation for your design and a combination of fonts.
Figure 3: The templates in Zoho Show will help you create good-looking presentations.
Once you've chosen a template, you can add slides and then type your text and add images to each slide. You can choose from a number of slide layouts. If you've used PowerPoint before, this process should feel familiar. You can also configure the transitions that take you from one slide to the next.
Do you need to involve other people in the design and editing process? No problem; Zoho Show lets you collaborate on presentations. You can also maintain a version history, which lets you return to previous versions of the presentation if necessary.
Once you're finished designing, click the Slide Show tab to run your presentation. Alternately, you can click the Share tab and share it with other people, publish it to an external website, embed it in a Web page or broadcast it to an audience using the online broadcasting tool. You can also download the completed presentation as a PowerPoint, Open document, or PDF format file.
As a free alternative to PowerPoint, Zoho is one of the most feature-rich and useful presentation design tools.
3. Google Docs
Google Docs includes a presentation tool for creating slide shows online. Google Docs is the most basic of the three applications discussed here, and it offers a small variety of rather plain presentation templates.
Figure 4: Google Docs offers a good range of tools for creating slideshow presentations, either online or as embedded objects on websites.
Once you've selected a template, you can choose Insert to insert new slides. You can right-click on a slide and select a different layout for the slide if desired. As with PowerPoint, you can set transitions between the slides and you can save the presentation, share it and publish it to the Web. Like Zoho Show, you can share the presentation with others and collaborate on its design and content. Download your Google Docs presentations as PowerPoint format files, as well as PDFs, jpg and png images.
Once you complete your slideshow, you present it by selecting an option from the Presentation dropdown list. This lets you play the presentation on your own computer much as you would if you were making a presentation from PowerPoint.
Google Docs presentations are less attractive than what you can create using Zoho Show, and they lag well behind the stylish multi-dimensional interactive creations you can make with Prezi. On the upside, it's a free presentation application that's easy to use.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
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