Are you hankering to give your PowerPoint presentations a visual boost? Do you want to get away from the "I did this in PowerPoint look" that you (and everyone else) get from using PowerPoint's built in templates? Do you need a timeline slide or help finding graphics to illustrate your slide content?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then take a look at these five great—and free—design tools. They can help you enhance your PowerPoint presentations and speed up the design process.
Free PowerPoint Design Tools
VisualBee is a handy PowerPoint add-in that optimizes your presentation and also sources images for your slides based on your presentation's content. Once you install the software, open your PowerPoint presentation and, on the new VisualBee tab, click Enhance Presentation.
Figure 1: VisualBee gives your presentation a visual overhaul, and it finds relevant images to illustrate your slides.
When the Enhance Presentation dialog appears, from choose a template to use from its style gallery—you can hover over the thumbnails to see each design in more detail if desired. Choose a template, and VisualBee goes go through your presentation and applies the template, locates and inserts appropriate images into your slides, and adds animation effects.
You can then preview the slides and edit them using the options available, which include replacing the image and changing the layout. When you are done, click Save Presentation to save a copy with the newly updated design.
VisualBee comes in three versions:
- Basic (free): includes a VisualBee logo on your slides, and it limits you to 10 slides per presentation.
- Standard ($39.90; paid annually): provides an unlimited number of branding-free slides per presentation.
- Pro ($79.90; paid annually): adds your company logo to your slides and includes a company image library and an image-finder. If you make a lot of presentations, the image finder alone makes this application a great time saver. It finds pictures to illustrate your slides using the content on your slides. You don't have to think of search phrases to use—it does the work for you.
2. Note & Point
Although Note & Point hasn't been updated for at least six months, it remains a handy collection of curated presentations chosen because they show good design aesthetics. You can browse the site for inspiration, and you can download many of the slide decks as PowerPoint slide shows or PDF galleries.
Figure 2: Note & Point, an online showcase of well-designed slide decks, is a wonderful source for inspiration and ideas.
If all you need is a little design inspiration, then Note & Point is a handy reference site. The site features only high quality presentations, which means that you don't have to wade through a mire of bad design to find visual gems.
If you're looking for slide animation effects, then Brainshark is a good place to start. This site provides a set of free animation templates, and all you need to do is sign up to download them free of charge. You can use the site's handy viewer to preview the animation effects. You can decide which of the animation effects that you want, and then click from inside the viewer to download the .pptx files that you then open in PowerPoint.
Figure 3: The free animation templates from Brainshark help you animate slides in a visually interesting way.
You'll find animations for agendas, calendars, clocks, icons and shapes, timelines, visuals, text, charts and maps. The site offers high-quality animations, so you're sure to find something to enhance your presentations.
Typically used to present historical data, milestones for future product launches, and other business projects, timelines can be very helpful in a presentation. However, PowerPoint doesn’t offer a way to create a timeline slide.
Office Timeline fills that glaring gap by providing a time line tool that you can run from inside PowerPoint. The app installs as a PowerPoint tab, and to run it choose Office Timeline > New. A wizard dialog offers the choice of Metro, Gantt, Phases and Interval timeline types and, once you make your selection, you follow the wizard's steps to enter the data—such as milestones and tasks—for the timeline. Select the colors and styles you want, and click to finish. Alternately, you can click the green checkmark to insert a basic timeline and then customize it using the options on the ribbon.
Figure 4: If you need a timeline for historical data or project management, Office TimeLine is a handy tool to use.
Office Timeline timelines look good, and the wizard makes it easy for anyone (even someone unfamiliar with project management terms) to create time-based visuals for presentations.
The free PowerPoint Labs add-in, like Office Timeline and VisualBee, installs as a tab inside PowerPoint. This gives you access to visual effects for your slides including highlighting text and images, image animations and so on.
Figure 5: PowerPoint Labs offers a range of animation effects for working with text and images on slides.
A two-minute demo video on the download website shows you what this add-in can do. You'll also find animated images that demonstrate a single effect that you can create with the add-in. Watching the demos is helpful, because the add-in doesn't give you a lot of guidance.
If you need more information, visit the online help page and download sample slides that you can study to learn how to create the effects yourself. Overall this tool is very powerful, and it will help you design sophisticated animation effects more easily than using PowerPoint's own animation tools. However, it will require an investment of time on your part to learn to use it.
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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