What do you add to the presentation app that already does it all?
As with Word, PowerPoint 2011 launches so fast you forget to start waiting for it, and the new Ribbon interface does a great job of putting all the features within easy reach.
Flicking between the tabs quickly reveals all the elements and effects you can use to build a show. The impressive range of transitions and SmartArt graphics will largely be familiar to Office 2008 users, but the Animations tab provides more and smarter ways to make text and graphics appear, disappear, and jiggle about in between.
Once you get the hang of applying these to objects, making things happen in the right order, and ungrouping SmartArt where appropriate to animate individual items, it's gratifyingly easy to create slides that Al Gore would be proud of.
There's also better control over video within shows, reducing the need to break out of PowerPoint. Clips are embedded in your presentation rather than linked, which avoids 'missing media' screw-ups but can make for very large files. Flash video still isn't supported, even though the Windows version handles it.
The more complex your slides become, the harder it can be to wrangle overlapping elements. PowerPoint 2011 has a radical solution: select Reorder Objects (under Arrange on the Format tab) and everything on a slide fans out in 3D, a bit like Cover Flow.
You can then drag an item to move it forward or backward in the stacking order. It's cute, but you can't select or resize objects in this view, so you may still have to drag them to the front, edit them, then put them back.
We were disappointed to find that fonts still can't be embedded; nor can PowerPoint 2011 read-only fonts be embedded in files from the Windows version. So unless your show will only ever be played from your own Mac, you'll need to stick to the core Microsoft fonts. If PDFs can preserve fonts across platforms, Microsoft should be able to manage it.
Specially for Mac users, though, is the option to send your slides to iPhoto, if you prefer to build your show there. Like Excel, PowerPoint has regained the support for VBA macros that was dropped in Office 2008, and includes the Visual Basic Editor.
Oddly, though, saving files in the default PPTX format strips out any macros; you have to use special formats to store them. Presentations containing macros are also excluded from co-authoring, the new function that lets you save files 'in the cloud' via Microsoft SkyDrive (or a SharePoint server) and edit them simultaneously with other users.
As long as your show is macro-free, this is an interesting way to collaborate. And when it comes to presenting, you can instantly 'broadcast' your show on the web, visible to any Mac or Windows PC via Microsoft's servers, as long as your audience can manage without audio, movies and fancy transitions.
There's also a PowerPoint Web App, which isn't capable of building a show from scratch but could be a life-saver for last-minute tweaks.
Users may be put off at first by some disorienting user interface changes, such as the omission of the Formatting palette. But with even slicker effects topping enormous flexibility, there's plenty to like in PowerPoint 2011.