Presentation Software
"Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely." -Edward Tufte. (OK, that essay applies just as much to the alternatives as it does to PowerPoint, but the quote was too clever not to use.) To be honest, I've never used presentation software enough to have much to say about it. PowerPoint's obviously a pretty good program, but like many Microsoft products, its dominance owes more to Microsoft buying it from the original developers and then bundling it in Microsoft Office than any uniquely compelling features. There's very little it can do that the "also rans" can't do, and there are more than a few things that the alternatives can do better.
close match high quality challenge MS Apple Keynote represents the current state of the art in this category, with a so-far unmatched combination of ease-of-use features and advanced support for multimedia, including scalable graphics, loads of smoothed fonts, dual displays, etc. It imports and exports all of the file formats you're likely to want. The main down-side is that it's only available for the latest Mac OS X. Other than that, it's priced affordably. Mac OS
close match low price challenge MS LibreOffice/OpenOffice/NeoOffice Impress is a very capable program, with most of the features you'd expect to find in a modern presentation package. It will run on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, or Solaris, and stores its documents in OpenDoc XML, a fully-open data storage format. It has excellent compatibility with MS Office files. It's available in several flavours, including LibreOffice, a free open-source community-driven version; and both free and commercial versions under the Oracle OpenOffice name. Windows Unix-like Mac OS OS/2
close match high quality challenge MS Corel Presentations is one of the three major applications included in the standard WordPerfect Office suite (with WP and Quattro). It has all the features you'd expect these days (templates, snazzy backgrounds, dynamic transitions, etc.), plus support for animation and sound within slides. Not only can it import and export PowerPoint files, it can also produce Flash files for publishing on the Web. Windows
close match high quality challenge MS Lotus Freelance Graphics is part of IBM's SmartSuite package (along with 1-2-3, WordPro, Organizer, etc), and although it's a good tool in its own right, the key point is that it handles most presentation tasks (including reading .PPT files and exporting stand-alone executables) well enough to make PowerPoint unecessary for SmartSuite users. And of course it shares a similar interface to it's suite-mates. For Windows and OS/2. Windows OS/2
close match high quality low price challenge MS Lotus Symphony Presentations is the presentation module in IBM's office suite. It's based on the core of OpenOffice with a user interface developed by IBM/Lotus. Available for both Windows and Mac. Windows Mac OS
close match high quality challenge MS SoftMaker Presentations is part of the SoftMaker suite, which is available not just for Windows and Linux, but also both the "Windows CE" and "Pocket PC "versions of Microsoft's mobile operating system. Unix-like Windows
close match high quality low price Ability Presentations is part of a complete suite similar to MS Office, and comes close to qualifying as a clone of PowerPoint, with file-format compatibility, an interface that will look very familiar to Word users, and of course features. And much cheaper. The components can be purchased separately or as a complete package. Available for Windows. A free trial can be downloaded. Windows
high quality low price GoBe Productive is an highly-integrated office software package, by some of the same people who created the legendary Claris/AppleWorks package. Rather than having separate programs for word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, presentation, etc. GoBe Productive is a single program that lets you do all of these things, even in a single document. It was a popular package for BeOS, and is now available for Windows. A trial version is available for download. Windows
low price challenge MS Thinkfree Show operates in conjunction with the company's web site, where your documents can be stored (securely) for retrieval from anywhere. It requires a relatively small download, which can also be used (with local storage) offline. It's Java based, so it's compatible with all the major operating systems: Windows, Mac OS, and Unix-like systems. Companies can licence a server edition for deployment on their LAN. Windows Unix-like Mac OS
low price challenge MS KPresenter is the presentation software included in the free KOffice suite of programs for Unix-like systems running the KDE desktop. It can import PowerPoint files and export HTML pages. Since it's feature set is driven by the needs and interests of its developers (rather than adding them for the sake of adding them) it's a fairly simple product, and doesn't have a very large array of templates and such included, but it's more than adequate for many people's presentation needs, and as an open source project, it's likely to improve dramatically with age. Unix-like
high quality Prologue SundayPlus is a well-regarded program designed to assist churches with the use of multimedia technology in their worship services, and is easy for a lay-person (by which I mean "not technical", rather than "not ordained") to work with. However, there's no reason it couldn't be used for secular presentations as well. The dual-screen aspect, showing the presenter a comprehensive control panel and the congregation/audience just the presentation itself, is a nice feature. It's available for Mac and Windows. Or you might find something else that meets your presentation needs on this listing of worship-focused presentation programs. Windows Mac OS
close match a close match or substitute for Microsoft's product
high quality an especially high-quality alternative
low price an inexpensive (or even free) alternative
challenge MS offers a strong challenge to Microsoft's influence
my choice my personal selection
Runs on: Windows Windows, Mac OS Mac OS, Unix-like Unix-like systems, Java Java-compatible systems, Symbian Symbian OS, Palm OS Palm OS, Netware Netware, OpenVMS OpenVMS, BeOS BeOS, OS/2 OS/2, Amiga Amiga, RISC OS RISC OS, DOS DOS
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