Striking graphics, intuitive charts, fun animation and insightful slides -- the ideals of a good PowerPoint presentation. As creators, we always strive to build the best presentations, but sometimes our tools can be constraining. Although Microsoft PowerPoint 97 and 2000 provide a solid basis for slide creation, it's no secret that these programs' design limitations can hamper creativity.
Working around these constrictions, an industry has emerged specifically to help creators enhance their PowerPoint presentations. These companies have created hundreds of add-ins, plug-ins and other enhancements to beef up PowerPoint and assist presenters in delivering the right message to their audiences. Here are some of the best:
Accent Graphics Presentation Librarian
Presentation Librarian is a slide-management tool. Basically, this software allows you to create a custom presentation library of PowerPoint slides that can be filed and quickly located when archived graphics or slides are needed for new presentations. Its features include password-protection options, keyword searching and the ability to search individual slides, thumbnails and full slide views. More features are described at www.presentation-librarian.com.
PowerMovie provides a quick, easy way to bring still images to life without leaving PowerPoint. Basically, PowerMovie is a compilation of preset animation effects and templates ready to be customized for your presentation. When you add photos, text or logos through a simple wizard interface, the program will automatically render a movie for insertion into PowerPoint. Overall, PowerMovie provides an easy, effective way to create subtle motion in your PowerPoint presentation. Check out www.beatware.com for details.
Brainshark is a service that lets users create, manage and share PowerPoint presentations and other business documents from remote locations. After a document is uploaded to the site, a user can add narration to enhance the information. Basically, instead of traveling everywhere to give a presentation, you can use Brainshark to reach many people at their convenience. The site, www.brainshark.com, also offers tools for interactive presentation delivery.
CrystalGraphics PowerPlugs and more
Few companies have dedicated themselves to PowerPoint plug-ins the way CrystalGraphics has. As a result, the company offers a slew of products designed to enhance your PowerPoint presentations. The PowerPlugs series, the company's main offering, is a series of CDs that provide customized templates, objects and effects to jazz up slides in a number of ways. The PowerPlugs line includes Backgrounds and Templates that serve as a source when you are initially building slides. For slide objects, look to the Photos, Headings, SuperShapes and 3D Titles CDs. More specialized plug-ins are also available, including PhotoActive FX to animate still photos, Transitions to add 3D transitions between slides, the Quotations plug-in database of famous quotes, and Charts, specifically for building eye-catching charts for slides.
For more advanced creators, Crystal 3D Impact! Pro is a 3D-animation program that can animate 3D logos, text, buttons and objects with more control than the template plug-ins provide. Information on all Crystal-Graphics wares can be found at www.crystalgraphics.com.
Three D Graphics Amigo 2000
To better communicate and display quantitative data, Amigo 2000 offers many add-ins for appealing, better-looking charts. Amigo gives creators more control over the displayed data than PowerPoint can. And it lets you import charts with a variety of characteristics right into PowerPoint.
Amigo's dual-axis feature, for instance, can give a better display of data that overlaps. To show the data side by side, you can split the chart into a dual-axis view.
With a user-friendly interface, Amigo integrates directly into PowerPoint. As a result, editing text, right-clicking for menus, moving data labels, filling charts with color, pattern, gradient, texture or an image, and other familiar PowerPoint options are still available in the program. Amigo also incorporates the slide color-scheme function set within the presentation so all your colors will still match.
As with any presentation component, you can do a lot with charts. Remember to keep the look and feel appropriate for your topic and don't overwhelm the audience with too much data. More information on Amigo can be found at www.threedgraphics.com.
Don't forget Microsoft
In your search for useful plug-ins, keep in mind that Microsoft provides a number of them for PowerPoint. To access these tools, visit the Microsoft Web site at www.microsoft.com. Under the Product Families section, select Office, click on Downloads and select either the Office Product Updates link or the PowerPoint link. You'll find yourself in the Download Center, where you can select the proper criteria for your search and find the following downloads: