Such is the reach of Microsoft's app that 'PowerPoint' is often used as a term to mean 'slideshow' irrespective of the software used to create it – everyone knows what PowerPoint is, what it looks like, and what it does.
But with younger, leaner rivals like Google Slides nipping at its heels, is PowerPoint still the best presentation software around? It's arguably got more competition than Word and Excel right now, so how is Microsoft responding?
PowerPoint is available as part of an Office 365 subscription or with a one-off Office 2019 purchase (which lacks regular updates and some cloud features).
Microsoft PowerPoint for Office 365: interface
Like Word, Excel and most of the other components that make up Office 365, Microsoft PowerPoint offers up an interface based around the ribbon menu – somewhat divisive when it was introduced, but since accepted as probably the best way of presenting a lot of functions and menus cleanly (with further improvements coming soon, apparently).
The main bulk of the PowerPoint screen is dominated by the slides themselves, while thumbnails of the entire presentation sit on the left – it's a formula that works for PowerPoint, and it has stayed very similar for years now.
And it's all very easy to get around and nicely done, from the animation previews that are automatically loaded whenever you select something new on the Animations tab, to the drop-down menu of templates that shows up as you're about to insert a new slide.
Context is all-important when it comes to giving you the tools you need at the right moment, and the ribbon menu adapts accordingly depending on what you've selected on-screen. There are also some useful pop-up menus too – like the formatting toolbar that shows up right after you highlight a block of text.
PowerPoint isn't as complex a program as Microsoft Word or Excel, but even so it does an impressive job of arranging itself in a way that caters both to the advanced user and the complete beginner (the recently added 'Tell me what you want to do...' help bar is particularly useful for those who don't have much experience with the software).
Microsoft PowerPoint for Office 365: features
For many a year now, PowerPoint has been giving slideshow makers what they need: a slick way to combine animations, text, photos and video into slides that can be switched using a mesmerising array of transitions (including the impressive Morph). Not much has changed in this regard and it's safe to say PowerPoint is still the best in the business – at least in terms of the number of features.
We do like the Designer that Microsoft has recently added to PowerPoint for Office 365 subscribers, which uses elements you've added to the page to suggest new and innovative layouts you might not otherwise think of – it's the perfect antidote to dull and staid slideshows and in our experience works really well.
It's not just the tools that PowerPoint offers up though, it's the ease with which they can be used. Whether you need to exactly duplicate one slide to form the basis of another, or you want to display the slideshow on one screen and manage your notes on the other, or you need to export the whole pile of slides as a video – everything is easy to access.
One area that PowerPoint and the other Office applications have definitely improved in recent years is collaboration features. Partly enabled through OneDrive, this means you and your colleagues can work on the same slideshow at the same time without it ever being confusing or throwing up errors. Comments and edits are made clear through color coding, and it works well across all the key Office components.
If there is a valid criticism of PowerPoint it's that the app looks bloated and heavy compared with newer, web-based rivals (think Google Slides or Prezi). It's fair to say that for some jobs, those alternative tools might be a better fit – but in terms of comprehensiveness and power features, PowerPoint is still on its own.
Microsoft PowerPoint for Office 365: mobile and web
Perhaps in response to some of the competitors we mentioned above, PowerPoint Online has been the subject of several improvements in recent years. It's now a perfectly adequate way of viewing and playing slideshows on the web, though compared with the desktop application it can feel clunky and limited.
The formatting and layout options are more restricted than on the desktop, and because PowerPoint is based around being able to take control over the design of a page – more so than Word and Excel – the online version of the app isn't quite as useful as it might be. Still, it's fast and fluid, and can be handy when you don't have PowerPoint installed.
It’s the same story for the PowerPoint mobile apps available for Android and iOS. You don't get the same kind of layout control that you do on the desktop with a mouse and keyboard, but the apps try their best – they're certainly fine for reviewing (and presenting) slideshows and making a few tweaks to text and images, but they're not brilliant if you're having to build new projects from scratch.
The smaller screen doesn't help of course, but again PowerPoint is at a disadvantage compared to Word and Excel – zooming in on details is more manageable on documents and spreadsheets, but with presentations you really need to see the whole lot at once, and that's not as easy to do on a phone or a tablet.
These mobile apps certainly aren't bad, but they're hard to recommend for any serious work – the absence of key features (like being able to add and edit animations) means you're best off doing most of your work on the desktop. The apps are there if you need them, though, and are great for presenting your work on a connected laptop.
Microsoft PowerPoint for Office 365: pricing and verdict
You get Microsoft PowerPoint as part of Office 365 Business – that'll set you back £7.90 per user per month (plus VAT) if you're paying once a year ($8.25 in the US), or £9.50 per user per month (plus VAT) if you're paying month-to-month ($10 in the US). If you haven't made up your mind, there's a 30-day free trial.
As we've said, you can also get PowerPoint as part of a one-off Office 2019 purchase, if you don't need the features you miss out on in that case.
If you want to create a slideshow with all the bells and whistles, then PowerPoint still rules the roost: new features like the Designer, along with the breadth and range of transitions and animations, and the constantly updated array of templates make this juggernaut of an application still relevant in 2018. And it's relatively easy to pick up too.
At the same time, alternatives like Google Slides and Adobe Spark feel a lot more streamlined and modern – cutting down the bloat and perhaps making themselves more suitable for quicker, lighter projects. We still give PowerPoint two thumbs up, but the competition is stronger than ever.
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