I am making radical shifts to the way I work with my IT infrastructure. Over the past week, I have moved many of the software tools I use "in the cloud".
  1. I stopped using Outlook and are now managing email through gmail with a custom domain (tagging, search, excellent spam management and the Outlook PST files simply became to big to manage locally)
  2. My client invoicing is now run via Freshbooks (affiliate link), enabling clients to log in directly into my system
  3. I am experimenting with Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live to set up shared workspaces with clients
  4. And last but not least, I started to experiment with spreadsheet and presentation software in the cloud.
I am learning a lot here, and get lots of inspiration for new blog posts, but let's talk about one thing at a time: how likely is it that presentation software such as PowerPoint will move into the cloud. Unlike spreadsheets and databases, I am not that optimistic.
At first sight, it seems like the benefits of going into the cloud should apply to presentation software as well: access from anywhere, group collaboration, easy sharing, no more file size issues with storage and email.
There are two aspects to cloud processing: online storage and collaborating with shared files using online tools. Online storage is incredibly useful for presentations, files get increasingly big/harder to email. It is the online collaboration that is the problem.
  • Unlike a spreadsheet, the design and look and feel of a presentation are paramount. If the fonts are a bit off, if you cannot position the object exactly as you want it, if you cannot use all the colors you would like to use, you are in trouble. Moving back and forth between PowerPoint and online editing tools will drop a few formats here and there.
  • Collaboration on presentations is different than collaboration on a spreadsheet. Presentations are very personal. Having someone else edit my slide, add a bullet here and there, change the title disrupts the design process. I welcome input, but like to keep control of the pen. (To contradict myself: the one exception might be the slideument, where slideware is used as a vehicle to write a document rather than prepare graphics for a presentation.
  • The number of toolbars, shortcuts, functions you use in a presentation program is far greater than you use in a spreadsheet tool. At least, that's the case for me. I have created incredibly large and complex Excel files basically using "+" "-" "*" "/""sum" and some basic formating. A presentation design interface is more complex, and people will find it more difficult to migrate. This is why Prezi is having trouble taking off.
  • After a presentation, the slide document often starts to live its second life, becoming a source for "Frankensteined" follow-on presentations. 99.9% of people who Frankenstein use PowerPoint.
  • The sharing element is different for presentations and spreadsheets. Some presentations are aimed at getting the widest possible audience, just uploading them to a tool like SlideShare (without group editing capabilities) is enough, while this is almost never the case with a spreadsheet, that needs to be edited in a small group that can access the confidential data.
To make a long story short: I see databases and spreadsheets going into the cloud, but presentation design software staying on our PCs, with some tools to help them reach a wide audience (SlideShare) for viewing only.
Here is a list of more online slide design tools.