PowerPoint 2010 – collaborate and enliven the Board Pack

13th June 2010

In keeping with the other Office 2010 applications, one of the key areas for improvement in PowerPoint is collaboration. For those with access to SharePoint 2010, PowerPoint 2010 includes the capability to ‘co-author’ a presentation with colleagues. Changes made by co-authors can be reviewed and then rejected or accepted and merged into the presentation. Simon Hurst, senior FSN writer finds there is plenty in PowerPoint 2010 to enliven the Board Pack or analysts’ briefing.

To help manage collaborative presentations, and guard against the loss of important content through another author overwriting your efforts, the PowerPoint File tab includes a ‘Manage Versions’ button to provide access to draft versions of unsaved files – as long as AutoRecover is turned on in the Save section of the PowerPoint options.

If your collaboration is sequential rather than simultaneous, then the Review ribbon includes a new set of options for merging two presentation files and reviewing changes from one to the other. Just like the Word track changes feature, you have options to accept and reject changes – either by individual change, individual slide or for the presentation as a whole.

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Even without SharePoint some limited collaboration is possible over the Internet using the new PowerPoint Web App which allows basic editing of a presentation saved in a Windows Live ‘SkyDrive’. It is also possible to save a presentation created in the normal ‘desktop’ PowerPoint directly to a SkyDrive or SharePoint location via the Share button on the File tab.

As well as facilitating collaboration on the creation of a presentation, PowerPoint 2010 also includes features to help share the finished article. If you want to quickly present your efforts to the world at large, then there is an excellent new ‘broadcast’ facility. From the Slide Show ribbon, simply click on the Broadcast Slide Show option which guides you through the process of sending your presentation to the public ‘PowerPoint Broadcast Service’. As well as managing the connection to the service, for which you will need to have a Windows Live ID, the broadcast option also creates the emails you need to invite up to 50 viewers to participate in your presentation by opening the link in their browser.

If you intend to distribute your presentation rather than broadcast it, then the new video embedding tools will help simplify the process by allowing you to send a single PowerPoint file that includes any video content, rather than a PowerPoint file and clutch of associated video files. The File tab, Info section also includes new tools to help you optimise the media in your presentation both for compatibility and for size and performance.

Alternatively, you can turn your whole presentation into its own video in Windows Media Video (wmv) format. Once again, the option lurks within the File tab, this time within the Share section. You can choose the video quality from HD Display down to portable device and include narrations within the file. The other portable device option is PowerPoint Mobile 2010 – the version of PowerPoint that lets you display your presentations on your phone. That should brighten up the 5:20 from Victoria.

Turning to the actual content of the presentation: as mentioned above, video files can be embedded within a presentation. You also have a good level of control as to how your video will look within the presentation. The Playback Video Tools tab includes the ability to trim videos in order to remove unwanted content as well as to fade in, fade out and set volume. The Format tab includes tools for adjusting brightness and contrast, and colour as well as choosing from a wide variety of frame types and effects.

If the video that you want to include resides on YouTube or a similar web host, the ‘embed’ code that the host site provides can be used to include the video in the presentation. Note that, in spite of the term ‘embed’ code, this is just a link to the video in its web location and you will need access to that location to be able to play the video.

Some of the new features that first appeared in Office 2007 are particularly relevant to PowerPoint. Themes in the Design tab enable you to change the look of your entire presentation with a single click and, because the same themes are shared by the other Office applications, it makes it easy to create a coordinated design across presentations, documents and spreadsheets.

The improvement in graphics capabilities that Office 2007’s SmartArt feature introduced continues to allow the creation of all sorts of business related diagrams – from organisation charts to process diagrams. The SmartArt Tools ribbon tabs provide an extensive range of tools for formatting these diagrams to your exact requirements. If you need to include examples of computer applications, the Insert, Screenshot option makes it very easy to include a snapshot of any open window as a picture within your presentation.

Looking at features that might be especially useful when working with financial information, PowerPoint now shares the same ‘Tables’ options as Word and, as far as formatting is concerned, Excel. If you need the calculation capabilities of Excel, then the Insert, Table drop down includes the option to insert an Excel spreadsheet within your slide. Charts follow the same approach with the full power of the Excel charting engine being available within PowerPoint. In addition, for charts that are not linked to an Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint’s animation options extend to animating individual chart components so that you can display your bar chart one bar at a time. This option is perhaps slightly less easy to find than it used to be. Having added an animation effect to the chart as a whole, you need to click on the effect dropdown in the animation pane, select Effect Options, then the Chart Animation tab. The Group Chart dropdown then lets you define how you want to animate the elements of your chart. Each animation can then be displayed using the ‘expand contents’ button immediately beneath the main animation effect.

All good exciting stuff, but my favourite bit? That would be LaserMouse. Just hold down the control key and click the left mouse button to turn the cursor into a laser pointer. You can even choose the colour of the laser beam.

It’s very easy to get carried away with PowerPoint, particularly with all the new features in the 2007 and 2010 versions. Sometimes the way to make your presentation stand out – for the right reasons – is to keep it very simple and use any special effects sparingly.