2004, Microsoft adds new features to a staple of the business world. PowerPoint is
so ubiquitous at most businesses, studies have been done to discover the effects
it has had on the way companies communicate. If PowerPoint were to be suddenly removed
from computers at Lockheed Martin, much of our ability to communicate to others in
a group setting would be disrupted. PowerPoint is a simple way to put your thoughts
and information in an attractive, easy-to-present package that can be shared on-screen
to groups. Microsoft has added new capabilities to PowerPoint 2004 to help you be
more effective in doing just that.
- Processor: Mac OS X-compatible
processor that is a model G3 or higher.
- Operating System: Mac
OS X version 10.2.8 or later.
- Memory: 256 MB of RAM.
- Display: Monitor that
can display 1024 x 768 or higher resolution displaying thousands of colors
The basics of PowerPoint remain as they always were. Text, graphics, media clips,
sounds, animations and other information is organized into groups of slides that
make up a presentation. The user is able to add slides, rearrange them, change transitions
between slides and set timings for automatic presentations. Pre-packaged templates
can be applied to the slide backgrounds, text and layout, or they can be modified
to suit the need. Templates can also be created from scratch. PowerPoint is well
suited to presenting sentence-length thoughts and ideas, along with illustrations,
graphics or drawings. It is less suited to text paragraphs, which can be difficult
to read on-screen.
There are a number of new features available in PowerPoint (PPT) 2004, some more
interesting than others.
PowerPoint 2004 includes a new feature shared with other programs in the Office
2004 suite, an updated Formatting Palette. As mentioned in the Excel 2004 review, one of the options is that the
Formatting Palette makes nice use of Mac OS X's translucence. Also like Excel, the
Add Objects panel is new in 2004. It puts many of the functions used most often and
makes them one-click operations. Want to add a slide? Just click on the desired layout
and into the presentation it goes. Along with Slides in the Add Objects Palette are
Symbols, Lines, AutoShapes and Text Shapes arranged in a tabbed layout so it's easy
to switch among them.
Many other commonly used formatting functions are integrated into the Formatting
Palette in this version, most of which previously resided in toolbars. I personally
prefer this approach, as the Palette frees up vertical screen space. This is desirable
especially in this era of widescreen displays that Apple has adopted as standard
throughout most of their computer line. The multiple toolbars stacked up below the
menu bar in previous versions chew up vertical screen space and also have no text
associated with all the cryptic icons (this is a criticism of toolbars in general).
The Formatting Palette in PPT 2004 eases both problems, as it parks to the right
of the active window and incorporates text for many of the options to assist in choosing
the right one. Additionally, all the palettes have disclosure triangles that let
the user choose which to display or hide. It's nice to be able to have all the options
close at hand, only a click away.
Font Shadow Transparency
One of the subtle effects that makes OS X so striking when you first see it is
all the drop shadows. Windows, window controls, text, you name it - OS X puts a shadow
on it. This contributes to the photo-realistic feel of the whole OS. New to PPT 2004
is font shadow transparency. Enter text, enable shadows, and customize it for direction,
color, offset, softness and transparency. It's one of those things that, while you
can't quite put your finger on it, it just looks better. Features like this set the
Mac version apart from the Windows version.
New Transitions and Slide Designs
Another Mac-only feature of PPT 2004 is 3D Transitions. Mac OS X support of Open
GL and Quartz graphics lets Microsoft jazz up slide transitions in PPT 2004. The
most familiar of these is the Cube transition, which rotates the slide as though
it were a cube, similar to Apple's Fast User Switching transition. The effect is
very striking combined with the new photo-realistic Slide Designs that Microsoft
has included with this version. Not all of them would work in every business, and
some are quite quirky, like the Highway design, which places your text on a 3D rendered
green overhead highway sign. They are attractive, very Mac OS X-like, and add new
life to the dated-looking templates that have shipped with the last couple of versions.
The down side to the 3D transitions is that it may not look the same in Windows,
or in earlier Mac versions. The Compatibility Report feature will evaluate differences
for various versions.
Microsoft has added some new tools for presenters to improve timing and rehearsal
of slide shows. The Presenter Tool shows your deck in a three panel window with a
timer at the top left, slide previews in a scrolling window on the left, the main
slide in the center with notes below, and an upcoming slide floating window. It works
better than it sounds. By stepping through the text and rehearsing the talking points,
a presenter can refine her presentation and add timings to the charts. It's much
easier to do it this way than the old Rehearse Timings option, although that is still
As with other parts
of the Office 2004 suite, PowerPoint 2004 really takes advantage of Mac OS X features
and produces slide shows that really look like they belong on the Mac. Also like
the rest of Office 2004, you have to decide if the incremental new features are worth
the upgrade (or new purchase) price. PowerPoint 2004 is a great program and essential
for many businesses. In business, it is likely that your employer would purchase
the software for you. The other consideration for Mac users is Apple's program Keynote.
While the objective of this review was not to compare Keynote and PowerPoint, heavy
users of presentation software might find one or the other to be more appropriate
to his or her needs. Keynote, however, is not cross-platform, whereas PowerPoint
is. The bottom line is that PowerPoint 2004 is a matured, powerful, and feature-driven
cross-platform solution for creating eye-catching and informative presentations,
and if you can afford it, I highly recommend it.
- Indispensable in many
- New Mac-only features
- Excellent Mac OS X look
- Helpful presenter tools
- Office is expensive
- Not all features are
- Updates are mostly incremental
4 out of 5 Mice