Powerpoint 2010 - Another Pointless Release?

Powerpoint is a funny tool. Even for it's core use (sending people to sleep in meetings), it's default formula (slide, title, bullets) is abused and misunderstood by the corporate world...

In the last 10 years Powerpoint (and it's cousin Keynote over on Mac) developed a following from video creators, who realised screen recording software could record Powerpoint's full screen slide shows and turn them into videos for the YouTube generation.

Whether you like this approach or not, it's prevalent, and Powerpoint can do the job well when used correctly.

So what does the 2010 edition bring to the fold? Well, take a look at this little demo -

Unbelievably - and I didn't believe it when I first saw this, that's 100% Powerpoint. Being the natural skeptic I am,  I sought proof, and this is in fact readily available as a download from Microsoft's Office Templates site.

Looking at that file, there's some complex stuff going on which is beyond simple "drag and drop," but it clearly shows Powerpoint is now a formidable choice for basic (and effective) animation of on screen elements, if the likes of Adobe Flash or Adobe After Effects are beyond your price range or learning curve.

What's New That You Should Care About

Smooth & Faded Transistions

Whatever was on your Slide, Powerpoint was always the ugly kid compared to Keynote because of the 1989, one-pixel-at-a-time slide and text transistions that have amazingly persisted until this release. 2010 now offers nice faded transistions (at last you can do that Star Wars wipe with style) and smooth animation that looks so much better.

3D & Artistic Effects

I'm less sold on the 3D, but effects are now standard across the board in Office. More interesting are Photoshop style effects like drop shadow, bevel, outer glow, stroke etc. It great being able to set these up as styles for your videos and not move between Photoshop and Powerpoint so much

Animation Paths and Controls

Slide in? I don't think so. You can now create complex vector paths and timings to animate elements flying all over the place on your slides, much like you would in Flash. I'm not sure I'd necessarily say it's any easier in Powerpoint but once you learn how to do it, it's quicker. A "bounce" easing effect is a superb addition as well.

Embeddable Video & Audio

Support for adding video and audio (including Flash) is much better, you can spread audio across slides (could be useful to sync narrations with slides if that's a workflow you prefer), and videos can be overlayed with other graphics

Summing Up

Microsoft have also done a great job in the themes department, providing some really nice out-the-box styles for your templates and reasonably decent color pallettes. When it came to screen recording with Camtasia, the new animation effects and transistions struggled on my 8Gb Ram/Centrino 2 power house, with a few programs open, so you'll need to shutdown everything except Camtasia Recorder and Powerpoint for best results.

Powerpoint has come of age for the YouTube generation. Some of KeyNote's effects still look better, but for sheer power and possibilities, Powerpoint is at last a tool you can make truly fantastic videos with.

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