The first impression is that Google Presentations does all it’s supposed to do (and without resorting to Java or Flash, at least judging by the parts I checked – it’s DHTML/ Ajax technology). You can add a new slide and then edit it in a myriad of ways:
Every element on a slide can later be freely moved around, be edited again, or resized. Editing and moving is ever-slightly sluggish compared to Microsoft PowerPoint on the same computer during my tests, but nothing that would get in your way or be frustrating. Compared to PowerPoint, the interface is also refreshingly simple, which is good for those of us who don’t live and breathe presentation tools but just want to get something done quickly.
Additional to all those basic “PowerPoint clone” features, this being a web application brings a couple of interesting other possibilities. For one thing, there’s the Share tab which you may already be used to from Google documents and Google spreadsheets. In this tab you can pick a list of collaborators and assign different rights. Everyone with the necessary rights will then edit the same document with you, at the same time; your document automatically updates to changes, and an “Also editing now” status label below indicates who’s out there (in the case of two people editing an object at the same time, a conflict message will pop up).
If you do intend to switch from office suites like Microsoft’s one, there are some caveats to keep in mind. For one thing, Google office is still being built, and it shows. Some interface metaphors are growing and changing and not fully perfected.
Sometimes, the sharing features can be confusing and don’t always do exactly what you might predict (for example, if you check the “Collaborators may invite others” box for a document, the document URL – while cryptic – is not Google Account password-protected; imagine you accidentally share a table of contents document with the wrong person, and that this ToC includes links to 100 private team documents, which would all be accidentally shared now too).
At other times, there are some smaller inconsistencies among the three editors for documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
Also, saving is not what you might expect it to be; often a document will be saved even though you never hit the save button, or activated any kind of auto-saving (in the spreadsheets editor this is most clearly disclosed with an “Automatically Saved” message, but auto-saving is also active in the other two editors). “Undoing" actions doesn’t always work – like when performing a text replacement in documents (it’s good that there’s a revision feature). And many advanced features desktop programs have are simply not available. I might have missed it, but didn’t find a simple way to embed a spreadsheet in a presentation, for instance, even though graphs are a natural part of presentations. You might also seriously miss being able to insert editable objects like arrows, or predefined clip arts, into your presentation. Google Presentations specifically also lacks an export function to save a file as PPT.
As with other Google office tools, the question “is this right for me?” can only be answered with “depends on your needs and wants” right now. In the future months and years Google may update the tools by adding new most-wanted features, but the suite may always lack in terms of sheer options quantity. Personally I prefer web applications though as they are more light-weight (no setup, no feature overload, free) and make it easier to share. I also feel like Microsoft has slightly given up their once strong focus on usability in favor of glamorous interfaces, and their attempts to simplify growingly complex interface – e.g. by automagically hiding certain menu entries – didn’t work well for me so far.
[Thanks Jason F., Rachael, DaveB and Bram L.!]
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