Scholarly Smackdown: PowerPoint vs. Google Slides vs. Prezi

Everyone, at some point in their life, will be asked to give some kind of presentation to go along with a talk. For many of us, projecting a slide show along with a class report or talk has been something we’ve done since childhood. That being said, the nature of the presentation game is changing. While the PowerPoint remains the standard, new challengers are making a splash in the presentation world. In this article, I’ll go through the pros and cons of each of these platforms.

The PowerPoint logo.

PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint is so ingrained in our idea of modern presentations that giving any sort of slide show is often called “giving a PowerPoint”. But at the same time, does PowerPoint hold up to its new competitors? Let’s take a closer look.

Price:

Microsoft has shifted towards yearly subscriptions for various packages. UIUC affiliates can download the suite on their home computer for free. Otherwise, packages range between $70-$100 per year, or a one-time purchase of $150, which does not include applications such as OneDrive. For more information on options, go to the UIUC Webstore or Microsoft’s website.

Usability:

Though it’s gotten better with time and my own familiarity with Microsoft Office, PowerPoint is not the most usable option of these. Part of that has to do with the sheer amount of options available in PowerPoint. That being said, the more you can customize your project, the greater the potential to misuse tools or make mistakes. Real problems arise when you want to do things that aren’t included in their preset slide layouts, and formatting images — while it has become simpler than in older versions of the software — remains, at times, an issue.

Web Capability:

Microsoft PowerPoint is first and foremost downloadable computer software. However, PowerPoint has recently come out with a competitor to online platforms called PowerPoint Online, which has most of the capabilities of PowerPoint software, but allows for you to collaborate in real-time with others. To log into PowerPoint Online one needs a Microsoft ID (UIUC affiliates can log in with their email). One cannot access or purchase access to PowerPoint Online without a Microsoft ID. PowerPoint Online is useful if you like the look of PowerPoint and want an easy-to-open and portable version, but I find that the interface is a little clunky, but it does integrate slideshows made on the desktop version easily. I think PowerPoint Online is an important addition to the Microsoft Suite because, with time, it will eliminate that awkward 15 minutes that happens during any and every presentation session where someone can’t get their jump drive to work.

Aesthetics:

When done well, a PowerPoint can look good. It isn’t going to be a beauty queen, but it will look good. However, people have a tendency to over-embellish a PowerPoint, or leave it so bare that it looks sad. There’s a happy medium when it comes to PowerPoint. Just make sure you include some images to spice up your PowerPoint and stay away from templates that include gradients — this isn’t a business convention in 2002.

The Google Slides logo.

Google Slides

Google Slides is Google’s online PowerPoint equivalent. Most notable for the ability to collaborate on presentations, it’s a simplified PowerPoint that you can access from anywhere (with Wifi).

Price:

Google Slides is free with your Google account. Your limiting factor here is memory. While the automatic Drive memory is typically more than enough for most people, you can add on extra memory or $2-$300 a month, depending on your needs.

Usability:

Google Slides is the most bare bones of these three programs and the easiest to use. This is a trade-off, of course, because it also means that it has the least options of these choices. Google Slides’ controls are generally pretty similar to Google Docs and easy to learn. Even for those who aren’t familiar with other Google Drive programs, the tools are pretty intuitive — more so than PowerPoint’s.

Web Capability:

Google Slides was built for the Web. It’s the easiest to access of these programs, and the most widely-recognized Web application. That being said, it lacks a good offline mode, which can be frustrating when you need to work on a presentation without Wifi. However, its connectivity with the other online components of Google Drive are worth it.

Aesthetics:

I give Google Slides a one-up on PowerPoint for aesthetics, because while they have fewer templates, they tend to be a little more modern and aesthetically pleasing than PowerPoint’s. Further, while there are fewer overall customization options for Google Slides, the result can end up more attractive because your time and energy is focused on getting the job done, as opposed to playing around.

The Prezi logo.

Prezi

Prezi is the newest presentation platform on the scene. Created as a more dynamic alternative to slideshow presentations, this web-based app uses zoomable canvases for presentations.

Price:

A basic account is free, and a basic student account (which includes privacy controls) is also free. Other individual packages range from $7 to $59.

Usability:

Honestly, I find Prezi difficult to use. Part of that can be attributed to my years of experience with PowerPoint and similar platforms and my comparative inexperience with Prezi, but I do think that there’s an element that isn’t entirely my fault here. Moving through your presentation can be cumbersome, even in the edit mode. Customization options are more limited, and can easily ruin the flow of your presentation if you’re not careful. I do think that the more closely you stick to Prezi’s pre-made options, the easier it is to use. Also, the shorter your presentation is, the less cumbersome Prezi is both as a creator and consumer.

Web Capability:

Prezi is a web-based application, and offline access must be paid for.

Aesthetics:

Prezi is, undoubtedly, pretty. I find it a little ironic that animation — which PowerPoint has been criticized for — is one of the major selling points of Prezi. When I watch a Prezi, I do have the tendency to feel a little seasick, especially if it’s a presentation with a lot of points that zoom in and out. But overall, the aesthetics are the most modern of any of the platforms, the most visually-striking, and the most impressive if you are able to handle them correctly and create a good presentation.

Overall:

Each of these have their merits and flaws, but I will be, personally, sticking with PowerPoint. Especially given the new online component of PowerPoint, it is a tried and true partner that may not produce the most striking results, but can accompany my work just fine. That being said, I’ll also look further into Prezi, maybe sign up for our Savvy Researcher workshop on it, and see if it does live up to its incredible reputation.

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