280 Slides: Linux Presentation Software Cheaper than Sliderocket, Less Clunky than Zoho Office, and More Powerful than Google Docs

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280 Slides, unlike Sliderocket and the offerings from Google Docs and Zoho Docs/Office, is the only presentation web app that is free, offers tons of features, and remains relatively light on system resources, making it usable on older computers and browsers. PreZentit and Google Docs are also free and should work in most environments. This review compares these online services with other more cumbersome and less functional options.

280 Slides (4 out of 5)

Highlighted in ReadWriteWeb’s 2008 roundup of online presentation apps, 280 Slides is more lightweight than Flash-based apps like SlideRocket, has more features than Google Docs, and even stacks up nicely with the relatively full-featured Zoho Show. Like its competitors, it imports a simple Powerpoint presentation flawlessly and offers a library of themes. It’s missing slide transitions and animations, but so is Zoho Show. Unlike Google Docs, it could import a picture and even rotate it on the spot. As an additional feature, it can import photos and videos directly from Flickr and YouTube. Although some features are more rudimentary than in Zoho Show, the only feature it doesn’t have that Zoho does is the ability to edit a master slide. An overall positive review from profy notes that 280 Slides is missing some image editing tools and computability options, but the interface is quite attractive and intuitive. It’s a winner in my book.

PreZentit (3 out of 5)

PreZentIt has one of the key features 280 Slides lacks–slide transitions–but does not allow you to effectively import a Powerpoint presentation, edit a master slide, choose themes, or animate slides. Bethany at Sloan-C.org compared several online presentation apps a couple years ago, including Preezo, Spresent, and several others, and she picked PreZentIt as the only one that meets her criteria for access, usability, privacy, time management, and fun factor. Though different from Powerpoint, PreZentIt’s interface is intuitive and smooth enough that it makes up for missing a couple of relatively unimportant features (like shapes), in my opinion.

Google Docs (2 out of 5)

The ever popular and easy-to-use Google Docs is of course another option, allowing you to import Powerpoint presentations, choose a basic theme, and offering rudimentary slide animations in the form of “incremental reveal.” However, basic stuff like inserting an image did not work in my test, and users complain that the app hangs during presentations. It’s cool to have this app just a couple clicks away from your Gmail or other Google services, but, if you really want something functional, other options are much better.

Other Options

Alternatives to the options above generally fall into three categories.

  1. Resource Intensive Web Apps: Sliderocket and Zoho Show are poor choices for older computers, netbooks, or mobile devices, because they chew up system resources even within your browser and therefore perform slowly. Sliderocket also has the disadvantage of requiring a monthly paid subscription.
  2. Incomplete Solutions: Vcasmo is an interesting tool for combining presentations, photos, and videos into one show, but it does not allow you to actually create a presentation from scratch. s5easy is a very barebones presentation creator that does not seem to have any advantage over even the minimalistic Google Docs.
  3. Totally Different: Some web apps make concepts like “importing Powerpoint” or “slide transitions” obsolete. Prezi replaces “slides” with a “canvas,” and Vyew is a web conferencing platform with built-in presentation and collaboration tools.