What application springs to mind when you think of creating visual aids to accompany your school presentation? For most people, it’s Microsoft’s PowerPoint. But that’s certainly not the only game in town. Plenty of other tools and services are cooler, faster, easier to use, and—in almost all cases—less expensive.
Here you’ll find four compelling alternatives to PowerPoint, including Web apps that let you dispense with installing software, and mobile apps that allow for presentation-building (and presenting) on the go. Not included are well-known options such as Google Docs,OpenOffice, and Zoho Show, all of which offer basic slide-builders that can easily pinch-hit for PowerPoint and don’t cost a dime. Those tools, however, haven’t changed much in recent years.
Haiku Deck (iPad)
Haiku Deck for iPad is designed to turn your ideas into beautiful presentations in about the time it takes to ride the train to work. The secret? It gives you built-in access to a wealth of free art.
Haiku Deck provides excellent tools for finding free art to illustrate your presentations. Indeed, half the battle in crafting attractive slides is finding appropriate artwork to go with the text. Haiku Deck lets you add your own (from your iOS device’s camera roll or from any other image library), but it can also search millions of free, Creative Commons-licensed images based on the words you’ve chosen for that slide.
You’ll find Haiku Deck is a great tool for building short, simple, and attractive slide decks on the run. And you can’t beat the price: It’s free. If you want extra themes, they’re available for purchase in-app.
Kingsoft Presentation Free 2013
If you’re looking for a more traditional alternative to PowerPoint, one that runs in Windows and closely emulates the standard slideshow-building process, Kingsoft offers a compelling option in Presentation Free 2013. Available separately or as part of the Kingsoft Office Free 2013 suite, this program should satisfy most of your slide-deck needs.
If you’re already familiar with PowerPoint, you’ll have a huge head start on Presentation Free: Its default interface borrows heavily from Microsoft’s Ribbon, though it has a second interface option that closely resembles older versions of PowerPoint. It’s an easy product to learn either way. Whichever interface you choose, Presentation Free has one amenable feature that still eludes PowerPoint: document tabs that make switching between multiple open presentations much easier.
Presentation Free 2013 looks and works very much like Microsoft’s PowerPoint, but you don’t need to buy an entire productivity suite to get it.
Kingsoft supplies a generous library of presentation templates that you can use as a jumping-off point, along with a nice selection of layouts, color schemes, animations, and the like. You can add a wealth of elements to your slides, everything from sounds and background music to movies and Flash animations.
Presentation Free can open existing PowerPoint presentations, including those saved in the newer .pptx format. It can save only to the older .ppt format, or to Kingsoft’s native .dps format. You also have the option of converting presentation files to PDFs.
Far too many presentations are boring. In many cases, it’s not because the content is dull, it’s just that audiences have seen enough static slideshows to last a lifetime. Prezi creates eye-catching custom animations that blow ordinary slide decks out of the water.
It works like this: You assemble various snippets of information—text, graphics, videos, and the like—onto the virtual equivalent of a giant, themed poster board. Instead of flipping from one page to the next, PowerPoint-style, Prezi flies around that poster board, zooming in to one area for viewing, then up, out, and onto the next.
All of this happens with an animated flow. It looks like something a professional effects shop would take weeks and thousands of dollars to create. But it’s really just a Prezi template stocked with your data and some extra infographics.
Earlier this year, Prezi added a long-awaited new feature: sound. You can now include background music that plays during the presentation, or even add voice-overs or sound effects to “path steps” (the transitions between areas of the scene). That might not seem like a huge deal, but Prezi delivers such a smooth, cinematic experience.
Prezi has also added a creator app for iPad and a viewer for iPhone, meaning that you can build and/or make your pitches on the run. They’re free, as is Prezi Basic. Upgrade options start at $59 per year.
SoftMaker Presentations Mobile (Android)
If Microsoft ever decided to release PowerPoint for Android, it would probably have a lot in common with SoftMaker Presentations Mobile. This powerful app is worth its $5 price tag, allowing you to not only create slide decks from scratch right on your Android device, but also to import and save your existing .ppt and .pptx files.
To be fair, Presentations Mobile offers little of the mobile-presentations finesse of Haiku Deck or Pixxa Perspective. It is, at best, a rudimentary PowerPoint clone, allowing for the creation of only the most basic slides.
It can, however, import presentations from a variety of sources, including local memory and online services such as Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, and SkyDrive. Once you have those files in place, you can make basic edits and then restore the files to their homes, or forward them via email. Depending on which Android device you’re using, you can also connect to an external display to deliver your presentation—complete with any embedded sounds, transitions, and animations.
Ultimately, this app isn’t so much about replacing PowerPoint as it is about making PowerPoint mobile, with simple tools for building basic slides and robust tools for accessing your existing presentations on the go.