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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Scholarly Smackdown: Scalar vs. Omeka

Scholarly Smackdown is the Scholarly Commons’ new review series comparing popular online research tools and resources. This week we’ll be taking a look at Scalar and Omeka, resources for presenting research digitally.

No scholars were harmed in the making of this column.


Scalar is a content management system for creating digital books of media scholarship from The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, based out of University of Southern California. It features a WYSISWYG editor that allows you to edit different types of pages within a digital book. You choose how and in what way these pages connect. It’s free and you can create as many Scalar books as you want. It makes it easy to incorporate content from partner archives such as the Internet Archive and Critical Commons. The biggest selling point to Scalar, especially for media scholars, is that it lets you present media without having to host the media yourself, which is especially relevant for those analyzing media that is still under copyright. However, please do not let all of this potential power go to your head, and instead check out our copyright resources and feel free to contact the Copyright Librarian, Sara Benson with questions you may have.
In my opinion, Scalar is not as easy or intuitive to use as the people who created it seem to think it is, though USC provides some instructions for Scalar 2. The latest update has been buggy, and while ANVC/Scalar GitHub is very helpful, Scalar is clearly still a work in progress. If you do have any experience with web development, there is very limited customization, and I was not able to find specific instructions for CSS styling for Scalar 2. Finally, you cannot import  your own files larger than 2 MB, which can be frustrating if you want to use your own very high quality scans of items.

Omeka is a content management system designed for creating online exhibits from the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and Corporation for Digital Scholarship, the people behind  Zotero and THAT Camp.
Omeka basic features a WYSIWYG Editor and 500MB of file storage. The biggest advantage of Omeka is that it makes it very easy to add a lot of metadata about items that you want to display in an exhibit and create and arrange collections of these items. It also features lots of plugins (such as a CSS editor and a PDF embedded documents viewer), and the website provides very clear and thorough instructions. However, you can create only one Omeka site per account on the free version. If you contact the Scholarly Commons we can set up an Omeka site for you through the library institutional account, and you can learn more information and request an Omeka site here. 
One major difference between Omeka and Scalar is that with more storage, comes more responsibility; specifically, making sure that you have the permission to use items so that your research does not get taken down. Once again — please check out our copyright resources. Other notable drawbacks include the fact that customization is limited and is not great at creating things that aren’t online exhibits or exhibit-like sites.

Omeka and Scalar are two options of many for creating digital humanities projects. For specific questions and to learn more about Scalar and Omeka and other digital humanities resources at Scholarly Commons email us, and don’t forget to join us for a Savvy Research workshop about Scalar October 17 from 1-2 pm.

Let us know in the comments about your Scalar and Omeka experiences! Which do you prefer and why?

Further Reading:
Omeka Libguide:
Scalar Libguide:


“Alliance for Networking Visual Culture » Overview.” Accessed October 12, 2016.
Marcotte, Alison and Alex Villanueva. “Red Cross Work on Mutilés, At Paris (1918).” SourceLab Prototype Series 1, no. 1 (2015).
“Image of Research” Accessed October 12, 2016.