I wrote about pptPlex and Prezi before, but for the first time I actually spend some real time to get into the details with 2 tools to let you design presentations on a big canvas, which you can mover around during a presentation, and you can zoom in and out of.
  • pptPlex is a PowerPoint plugin developed by Microsoft as part of their Office labs.
  • Prezi is a web-based tool with its own user interface, independent of PowerPoint or Keynote.
An introduction video about pptPlex: An introduction video about Prezi:
Both of these tools have a learning curve, and I would be curious to see whether any of you have tried them out as well. Some of my observations below could simply be because I am ignorant of some of the features of the software.
My overall comment is that I really like the ability to freely move around, zoom in and out in presentation content. For example in fund raising presentations (small smart audience with little time), questions from the audience might take over the pre-set order in which slides are presented. But this also brings me to the main "negative" feedback of these tools: both are basically "frameworks" that link a series of slides or objects. I am missing the ability to design a presentation really as just one infinite canvas. The effect you get in Google Earth: zooming into ever more detail.
  • In pptPlex the canvas cannot be controlled 100%. Charts get placed in the grid, but it is impossible to create links between, make them flow over into each other. Also, the PowerPoint editor has natural limitations of zooming into a slide (the building block of the canvas)
  • In Prezi it is possible to create one perpetual zooming canvas, but the drawing tools are a bit more basic: it is harder to position shapes exactly, and connect them with other shapes and lines exactly.
Now for some more specific impresseions.
  • Installation is a bit tricky, you need to install the latest .net framework. I am a computer science engineer and have reasonable IT skills, but failed to get it to work on a first try. After some time (and probably some Microsoft software updates) I saw the pptPlex plugin somehow pop up in my PowerPoint. Don't really know how.
  • pptPlex presentations can only be shown on a PowerPoint installation that has the plugin installed. So given the technical difficulties of doing this, you are bound to running things of your own laptop. Things cannot be shared via email.
  • Per my previous comment: the canvas' editing options are a bit limited
  • The big issue with Prezi is that you have to learn a new user interface. It is straightforward, but still it requires effort. This will make it hard to use this software for group collaborations.
  • As a cloud-based tool, presentations get stored in your own web-based storage space. You can export presentations to a Flash player for offline viewing/presenting.
  • The graphics capabilities of Prezi are (still) limited. Colors, shapes, fonts, lines, you are restricted to a limited number of pre-set options. You could work around this by using images (that can be imported. In the extreme case you could edit diagrams in another software, save them as JPG and import them into Prezi. But this would make the editing and maintenance process of a presentation very cumbersome.
  • Data visualization tools in Prezi are non-existent
  • Per my general comment: it is hard to position objects exactly. Prezi is more a freehand object positioning tool than a precise technical drawing utility.
  • You can upload PDF files (including converted PPT documents) to Prezi, which will put the slides on the grid (slightly randomly). You can add a path between the slides. But when you now run the presentation it almost becomes like a regular PPT presentation with incredibly spectacular slide transition effects, which I am not a fan of.
On balance, I like the functionality provided by Prezi better. Ultimately, it would be great to have the Prezi functionality completely integrated in the regular PowerPoint environment.
This was some feedback based on an hour of trying things out. I need to take the plung and try to create a real, full presentation in one of these tools to push them to the edge.
Did any of you try these tools out?

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