There’s no shortage of browser-based presentation tools, but these are often more style than substance, and have one deal-breaking drawback: if your internet connection fails, you’ll be left with a red face and a blank screen. Presentations created using HTML5 or Flash won’t be compatible with PowerPoint or other office software either, making sharing and collaboration a pain. To be a real PowerPoint alternative, a presentation tool needs to be capable of saving and opening files in Microsoft's PowerPoint formats.
If a PowerPoint alternative is part of a full office suite, it should be possible to transfer text and charts from the word processing and spreadsheet counterpart programs without compatibility problems. The ability to make charts and tables within the presentation itself is also a boon; they’re often the clearest way to present numerical data.
Nobody wants to spend longer than strictly necessary making slideshows (with a few peculiar exceptions), but plain slides can look amateurish, so it’s also good to have a wide selection of preset templates ready to type straight into.
With that in mind, here are our favorite free alternatives to Microsoft PowerPoint.
LibreOffice Impress replicates Microsoft PowerPoint feature-for-feature
LibreOffice is the best-known free office suite, and its presentation component, LibreOffice Impress, does exactly that. It’s compatibility with Microsoft Office is second to none; it includes a tool for converting PowerPoint files to OpenDocument format, and can save and open PowerPoint presentations, AutoPlay presentations and templates from Office 97 onwards.
Like PowerPoint, Impress has a modest selection of ready-made templates, but it includes designs for different aspect ratios – something that’s easy to overlook, but can be very useful if you’re presenting using a monitor or projector that isn’t your own. There are hundreds more templates available to download from free sources like The LibreOffice Impress Templates Project, and installing them is as simple as clicking ‘Import’, then selecting the downloaded file.
Once you’ve chosen a template, you can take your pick from up to 12 different slide layouts, saving you the time and effort of arranging your content neatly – just like you can in PowerPoint. The rest of the tools work in the expected way too, with support for text boxes, images, media files, tables, charts, and word art (called Fontwork). Even the slightly cheesy animations and transitions are present and correct. LibreOffice Impress is remarkable – an almost perfect analog of PowerPoint, available to download and use completely free, even commercially.
Review and where to download: LibreOffice
2. WPS Office Free
We love WPS Free Office for its smart design, and its PowerPoint analog WPS Presentation is no exception. Unlike LibreOffice, WPS isn’t open source. Instead, the free version is supported by unobtrusive ads, but these aren't visible while you're presenting.
WPS Presentation provides you with a huge catalog of templates, including a good mixture of fun and business designs. Some have to be downloaded before you use them, so you’ll need an active internet connection before you begin, but baking them all into the basic program would increase its size tremendously.
WPS Presentation's interface is a modern Ribbon-style affair, and features most of the tools you’d expect from a PowerPoint analog, including tables and charts, images, text, sound, videos, and even Flash animations.
WPS Presentation is fully compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint formats, including templates and presentation, and also makes it easy to export your work as a series of images, a PDF, or a video file. There’s even a feature for creating backups on a local or network-attached drive, and support for cloud storage.
It’s very hard to choose between LibreOffice Impress and WPS Presentation as a free alternative to PowerPoint. For us, Impress has the edge due to Presentation’s reliance on an active internet connection for certain features, but if you rely on cloud storage for your files, Presentation might be a better choice.
Review and where to download: WPS Office Free
3. Apache OpenOffice
Still a strong alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint, but one that's starting to look and feel dated
LibreOffice is a fork of Apache OpenOffice – hence the identically named constituent programs. The two suites retain the same basic code base, but their features have diverged significantly over the years, and for our purposes, LibreOffice is now the more modern and useful of the two.
OpenOffice Impress only comes with two pre-installed design (one for introducing a new product, and one for proposing a new strategy), each of which is available in three colorways. A wizard guides you through selecting one of these options and choosing an appropriate output format, but while there are separate options for paper, screen and overhead transparencies (remember those?), there’s no choice of aspect ratios. There are more available to download, but many of them look dated, with heavy use of gradients and corny stock photos.
As in LibreOffice, you can choose from different slide layouts to suit your content, and charts, tables, and media can be added with a click of your mouse. There are animations and transitions too.
OpenOffice Impress supports PowerPoint documents, but you can’t save your work in the most recent PPTX format. Overall, the software is visibly lagging behind its LibreOffice equivalent. It’s still a great alternative to PowerPoint, but feels sadly dated.
Review and where to download: Apache OpenOffice
4. SoftMaker FreeOffice
Good-looking, but lacking the powerful tools that give its rivals the edge
SoftMaker FreeOffice is a cut-down version of the more powerful SoftMaker Office, and lacks some of the features found in its premium counterpart. It looks smart, but lacks WPS Presentation’s modern Ribbon interface (though this won’t be an issue if you’re used to working with an older version of PowerPoint).
FreeOffice Presentations comes with just four templates pre-installed, all of which are quite simple compared to those found in WPS Presentation. You can create your own or load PowerPoint templates, but SoftMaker doesn’t provide an online archive to download additional designs.
It’s easy to add images, text, tables, and other media to your presentations, and FreeOffice Presentations also lets you import elements directly from PlanMaker (its spreadsheet tool) and WordMaker (its word processor) – a feature missing from most free PowerPoint alternatives. Adding transitions and animations is straightforward too, including all the wipes and other effects you’d find in PowerPoint, but there’s no feature for creating charts. Instead, you’d have to make the chart in PlanMaker, then import it.
FreeOffice Presentations lets you save your work in PPT format, but not PPTX, which is a drawback for PowerPoint alternative. You can also export slideshows as a series of images, a Word document or a PDF, but unlike WPS Presentations, you can’t save them as videos.
Review and where to download: SoftMaker FreeOffice
This beast looks the business, but delivers less in the way of customization
The only standalone PowerPoint substitute in our roundup, SlideDog is a rather different animal. Rather than creating slides one at a time, SlideDog lets you assemble presentations from a smorgasbord of media files, including PowerPoint documents, PDFs, images, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, videos, and images. Essentially you’re creating a playlist from bits and pieces
The free version of SlideDog sets your slideshow against a branded background, which is fine if you’re just showing off some holiday snaps, but won’t be suitable for a work presentation. You also have to click through slides one at a time – there’s no timer – and your SlideDog presentations can’t be exported in a format that’s compatible with other software. Selecting the ‘Export’ option just packages everything up in a ZIP file.
If you want to show a PowerPoint file or a presentation in PDF format, SlideDog will get the job done. The free version also lets you control the slideshow via a smartphone app for 15 minutes, which might come in handy. However, it’s much less like PowerPoint than the other options here, and the basic version is severely limited.
Download here: SlideDog