Hands-on with SlideRocket, a PowerPoint killer in the making

I spent some of this weekend using SlideRocket, a new service that's aiming to replace your presentation software with its flashy (actually Flexy) Web-based tools. Is it a real PowerPoint or Apple Keynote killer in its current iteration? Not yet, but I think it's off to a great start.

The service has all the flash and fervor of some other Adobe Flex-based apps we've seen like BuzzWord, Scrapblog, and Picnik. The transitions and stock slide templates are enough to distract you from how potentially boring your presenter is and thought has been put into making things look good from the get-go, no matter your design prowess. In many ways, the final results are indistinguishable from Apple's well-known presentation software Keynote, which has been a part of the company's iWork suite for Macs for the last three years.

Let's start by talking about what makes SlideRocket different from presentation software you might be used to. For one thing it's very Web-friendly. As I mentioned last week in our coverage of the company's demo at the Under the Radar conference (coverage), it's been designed to integrate media and information services you're already using. Big names on the list include Yahoo maps, Flickr, and Google Docs; I foresee others being added in the future--as long as the service has a data API.

Linking up to each of these services is handled with some grace, although I found performance to take a hit when adding several Flickr photos to a single slide since the service will check in with Flickr each time you load up the slide. It can be set to do the same thing for Google Documents, but this is actually a good thing in case the source data changes. I've been told local copies of the files will be able to be stored on SlideRocket's servers in the future to speed things up.

Speaking of local storage, SlideRocket has the beginnings of a very smart way to handle shared media. Similar to Keynote, all your files are put together in one place and can be sorted via keywords simply by name. The more time you spend categorizing it, the faster you'll be able to parse it, but the built-in search is instantaneous--which is very helpful. Users get up to 3GB of storage to share photos, music, and videos. These asset libraries are shared in the business editions.

So, how does it stack up against other Web-based presentation tools?… Read more

SlideRocket puts the 'wow' into online presentations

Flashy presentation tool SlideRocket is easily one of the best-looking services I've seen.

CEO Mitch Grasso's presentation at this afternoon's Under the Radar session about the virtual worker (using SlideRocket to present) got several oohs and ahhs. In many ways it takes a cue from Apple's Keynote product with great use of fonts, reflections, transparencies, and transitions to put together presentations that use hardware acceleration and cutting-edge design templates to impress clients, co-workers, and potentially your boss.

The app uses Adobe's Flex technology and has an offline client meaning users can create and edit presentations … Read more

Convert any Office file to PDF for free

Recently an associate whose PC lacked Adobe Acrobat sent me a Word file via e-mail, asking if I could convert it to PDF and e-mail it back to her. Since the process took all of about 30 seconds, I was delighted to help. Then the next day she sent two more files in need of conversion to PDF, and a couple of days after than another. After her fourth request of the week I felt compelled to tell her about two ways she could have converted the files herself for free: Adobe's own Create Adobe PDF Online free trial, … Read more

Making the switch from Microsoft Office to Web apps

The only reason I've opened Microsoft Outlook or any other desktop e-mail program in the last year is to test tips. Since I added my ISP account to my Gmail in-box, and moved my Outlook appointments to Google Calendar, I get all the information I need in my browser.

Now I'm getting ready to boot Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for their Web alternatives, but before I bail on Office entirely, I stuck a toe in the Web-apps water by using the free ThinkFree Online service irregularly over the past few weeks. So far, I haven't missed Word, … Read more

Expand your file-protection options via Microsoft Office 2007's Trust Center

One of the most notable additions to Microsoft's 2007 Office System was the Trust Center, which centralizes the security options in Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and the other applications in the suite. Of course, this being Office, it figures that many of the most important security features--including the new Document Inspector--also reside elsewhere.

To open the Trust Center in the 2007 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, click the Office button, select the Options button at the bottom-right of the window, choose Trust Center in the left pane, and click the Trust Center Settings button in the right … Read more

Stay safe while using Microsoft Office 2003

You trust Microsoft Office with your most important documents, spreadsheets, e-mail, and presentations. Unfortunately, many of the default security settings in Office applications may not provide a sufficient level of protection for your data, your system, and your reputation. Follow these steps to fine-tune the security settings in Office 2003; tomorrow I'll cover the new security options in Office 2007's Trust Center and elsewhere.

Office 2003 lets you encrypt files so that you need a password to read or edit them. In Word 2003, open the document and click Tools > Protect Document. To restrict the styles that … Read more

Let viewers set the pace of your PowerPoint presentations

It's your presentation, and you have every right to control its pace by deciding when to move to the next slide. But there are times when you want to let the presentation run itself, or you may want to allow the person viewing it to decide when to move to the next slide (or maybe even a little of both). You can convert any PowerPoint presentation into a self-running slide show, or add controls that let the viewer go to the next slide, with just a few simple settings.

Once you've finished putting your presentation's slides in … Read more

Five great freebies improve your Office experience

Microsoft Office is so jam-packed with features that an entire industry has been created to help people find the ones they need. (An example is Addintools' $30 Classic Menu for Office 2007.) Why would anyone suggest that you add even more functions to Office apps? Because the best free Office add-ins can save you considerable time and trouble, without costing you a red cent. Here are five of my favorite Office helpers.

Poll attendees to find the best time for a meeting Everybody's busy, as anyone who has ever tried to schedule a meeting with more than two attendees … Read more

Word 2007 loses the ability to export outlines to PowerPoint

There's a great little feature in Microsoft Word 2003 and earlier versions of the word-processing program that lets you export to PowerPoint an outline of any Word file formatted with headings. I admit that it's a specialized operation that probably doesn't get used all that often, but it's a handy way to work between the two Office apps.

I was all set to tell you how to use the feature in Word 2007 when I realized it has been removed. So all that noise Microsoft made when the new Office System was released more than a … Read more

Google Presentations gets embeddable slide shows

The Google Docs team, has posted on their blog about the availability of a few new features for Google Presentations to start off the new year. The most significant of the new features is the ability to embed slide shows in web pages. It's not a surprise that Google decided to go this route, given the huge success of embeddable video with YouTube and other embeddable content around the web.

As you can see in my slide show that I have included at the end of this post, it works in a similar way and looks very much like YouTube's embeddable player. Overall, sharing and embedding your slide shows is a fairly painless process. As I said in my original article about Google Presentations, their strong point is collaboration and sharing. This latest feature has continued that trend.

While this is all great, my big problem with Google Presentations is still the lack of a professional look to the slide shows. The feature set just is not quite there yet. I am sure that Google is hard at work, implementing features like transitions, animations, etc., so I can't penalize them too much for that yet, being such a young product. However, if they want to capture any significant portion of the market share, Google Presentations needs the more advanced features.

Other features included in this release are importing slides from other presentations, drag and drop image insertion, and an improved UI. Check out my embedded slide show after the jump.… Read more