sliderocket: Powerpoint on the web

I read about sliderocket over on R/WW, and at ZDNet, today, and signed up for a Beta. While I’m waiting for them to send one out (I hope) I’d like to talk a little about why I love the idea of this product.

Firstly, I was recently tasked with conducting a 40-minute presentation. This is something I was quite excited to do, since it was about the Semantic Web, but I didn’t have any presentation software on my PC. I downloaded a copy of OpenOffice, which has a presentation application built in, and found it ironically bland for an app called ‘Impress’. I know, as a person of geekish persuasion (I’m only half-geek, on my father’s side) I shouldn’t give a toss about what an application looks like, but should focus entirely on what it does and how well. But this is a presentation–aesthetics is what the software was written for. I’m not crunching numbers or writing code, I’m standing up in front of people discussing an exciting topic, trying to put forward a well-polished talk. I want my slides to reflect that–they need to add to the talk, and they can’t do that if they’re boring.

Not only this, but I find OpenOffice’s Impress seemed to have loads of options in random places, and a difficult-to-follow system of preferences. It has dozens of background settings, but it’s like pulling teeth to get a gradient you like.

Eventually, I downloaded a trial of Microsoft’s Powerpoint 2007 and found it much, much better. It’s easy to use, simple-to-navigate, and aesthetically pleasing. It’s huge downside, however, is that it’s expensive.

Now, having seen sliderocket’s site, and had a look at their demo presentation, I’m struck by three things. First, it’s gorgeous! The actual presentation is stunning, and eye-catching and flawless. This is desperately important for a presentation app.

Secondly, because it’s a web app, it can incorporate web-features natively. Granted, I find it hard to think why I’d need a hyperlink in a presentation (I’m there, pointing to it, after all), but it offers import assets from Flickr and other web-tools. This is a huge step towards a semantic-type application which could use the very latest information in a presentation (live stock reports, automatically-updated images, up-to-date contact information for companies…).

Finally, this is platform agnostic. It’s on the web, so you can use it on the web. Although there is an offline reader for download, you can play it using just flash seamlessly. No longer will you have to make sure the place’s projector will talk to your laptop (or like me, that the laptop they provide has a reader for your presentation ;~)). It’ll run on Linux, Mac, and Windows!

There is one, only one, concern of mine, though, That’s that when you click to advance a slide, your curser turns into a clock and you have a bit of a delay. This could be incredibly annoying for time-critical presentations or animations. We’ll just have to see how well this bears out in a trial, though.

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