The new working area of PowerPoint is gloriously free from clutter, with the Ribbon keeping all the tools within easy reach. It allows you to be very productive, yet keep your creative juices stimulated by seeing many of the possibilities laid out for you in the galleries of shapes, pictures, SmartArt and WordArt.
The same themes you see in Word, Excel and Outlook are available in PowerPoint, and can instantly change the look and feel of your entire presentation. The theme fonts, colour schemes and effects can all be changed individually and, of course, you can create your own custom themes to make your presentations and other documents follow a corporate standard.
Of all the new features, SmartArt stands out the most. Complex diagrams you previously had to handcraft from individual shapes, colour individually and populate with text can now be made in a few clicks. Choose the diagram and type or paste bullet points to populate. The number and size of the shapes adjust automatically to the number of bullet points and the amount of text you have to display. A different colour scheme is just a click away, as is adding an extra block to your diagram. If you want 3D perspective or a glow effect, it’s just one click too.
There are great new features for handling pictures. The Picture Tools | Format tab has 28 styles — combinations of borders, bevels, shadows and reflections. You can also recolour pictures, crop, resize, and adjust brightness and contrast.
Much-improved text-handling options, plus a great updating of WordArt, use the Ribbon to the full. Integration is better with both Word and Excel, and tables and charts copy more smoothly. If you paste data from documents that use different themes, the pasted data automatically takes on the theme of the destination document, adapting its fonts, colours and effects to suit its new surroundings.
The proofing tools in PowerPoint are now more consistent with Word and Excel, using the same options and custom dictionaries. You’re also informed about contextual spelling errors — such as “their” and “there” — with the offending word being highlighted.
If your PC or notebook can drive two independent screens, you can use the new Presenter View. This runs the slideshow on one monitor and a different view on the other. Here, you can see thumbnails of all the slides, a preview of the next slide and your speaker’s notes in large, clear type. You can use the thumbnails to jump to another slide out of sequence without having to break back into edit mode, or flick forward or back through many slides. You can also blank the main display, for a break or an out-of-context question.
The new XML file format used by PowerPoint 2007 automatically compresses files, making it quicker and easier to share presentations with other people. The format is also more robust, meaning errors in transmission are less likely to corrupt the file, and it’s more likely that the main parts are recoverable should a corruption occur.
There’s great integration with SharePoint, allowing you to create a library of slides, which anyone in your organisation can share. Users can build their own presentations from slides that have already been created and approved. Finished presentations can be saved to the ordinary file system, published to a SharePoint site, compiled to a CD, encrypted and/or sent via email. You can also export your presentation to XPS or PDF files. XPS (XML Paper Specification) is Microsoft’s rival to Adobe’s PDF (Portable Document Format). The viewers are built into Windows Vista, and available as a free download for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. XPS is at the heart of Vista’s printer drivers and does much the same thing as PDF, but it renders more efficiently.
This ability is added to Office through a download from Microsoft. Adobe objected to its inclusion in the box, but there’s a prompt on the Office Button menu to point you to locate the right Add-in.
All told, PowerPoint 2007 is head and shoulders above the competition — it’s incredibly easy to use and is capable of producing far better-looking results than you’ll have seen before.
This Review appeared in the March, 2007 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing