Friday, 21 August 2015

Which tool is right for the job? Presentation edition

I often get asked which presentation software is best.  Here's the definitive answer: it depends.

Of course it's best to drive nails with a hammer, but more than once, growing up on the farm, we'd grab whatever was at hand. It turns out that a rock, a crescent wrench, and Vice-grips can all get the job done but usually resulted in dented wood, smashed fingers, and bent nails. So it is with presentation software. The best thing to do is to know the strengths and limitations of the different options and then select the best tool for the job. 

For presentations, I use Keynote or Google Slides. The deciding factor on which to use usually comes down to whether or not I'm part of a group that requires asynchronous collaboration. I love the speed an fluidity with which I can make great looking slides, working with beautiful images in Keynote. But, if I have to collaborate with others who are building their own slides and we can't meet together to build one preso, Google Slides gets the nod. (Ideally, every presentation you give should be made in close collaboration so that the look of the slides is coherent - see this post by Keri-Lee for more tips on designing effective presentations) 

When it comes to presenting, I love the presenter view in Keynote and the fact that I can roam around the room, see my notes, and advance slides from my iPhone. (n.b. you can also see a presenter view from Google Slides) Though you can present your Google Slides offline, embedded video will not play. Another thing that often plagues people presenting from Google Slides is laggy performance, especially for video when the wifi is questionable. For this reason, I like to make sure that for an important presentation, I control my own destiny and don't have to rely on wifi... I like all my media stored locally on my Mac (not an option in Google Slides).
After the presentation, Google Slides are super easy to share with others. If I decide to share my Keynote slides, it means an extra step to convert to PDF and then share with my audience. I love the design features in Keynote so much that it's my go-to for basic graphic design work as well and with a little extra know-how, you can use it to create amazing interactives for multi-touch books and even html5 web content. Not to be outdone, Google Slides is a great way to make dynamic headers and content for our online learning platform.

So you see, it depends. Here's a summary of some of the strengths of each software:

A lot of this honestly comes down to my own personal comfort and preferences. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments... are there other advantages or disadvantages you are thinking of? Not to mention PowerPoint... how does that fit into the mix? My hope is that you'll carefully consider your choice of tools and use the one that best fits your needs.


  1. Great post Jeff. You can go for a win win by blending the two, so use Google slides for the initial construction/content phase then when you're ready to add the polish, download as a PowerPoint and open in Keynote to add the polish.

    This is a great strategy to employ with students as well. Using slide carnival with Google slides significantly ups the ante in Google Slides favour in my experience especially being able to access the funky icons on the final slide:

    1. Totally agree and love Slides Carnival... lovely templates and design. Your suggested workflow of planning on G Slides and polishing in Keynote is interesting... will try that out.

  2. Hello! Thanks for writing this post. I hardly use keynote these days because I can't easily share, make copies and remix presentations for others as quickly as GP. But GP has kind of lame-o design tools, as you mentioned. Last year, I used GP for convenience and efficiency but often cringed at the brick brown zigzags on beige or the limited font choices. Anyway, it worked for me and it didn't add too much to my planning - to keep me on time and give kids visual cues and something to go back to when they are doing work at home, so I grinned and bared it. At the tail end of last year, I used slidecarnival (thanks for that). Which eased the design pain a great deal. It slowed me down a little but I preferred the choices and cool noun project icons -- it slowed me down a little though in terms of workflow - haha. I love HaikuDeck and use it for like Meet the Teacher night or what have you but I needed a bit more space for a little more text for classes so if it's for everyday presentations in class, I don't use it. . Recently discovered slidebean and it seems to fit most of what I use presentations for without the GP lack-of-design fatigue. It's efficient, has design choices (including palettes and fonts), access to creative common images and quicker creation because of the interface. I have a paid account and added part of the English team so whoever needs copies or needs to edit can also do so. But it was an easy decision since I use it everyday. Just blabbing here. Thanks again.

    1. Interesting to hear how people's workflows are changing and evolving and I guess that's my ultimate point... be intentional. Have you considered building in Keynote and exporting as images, upload to Google Slides workflow (one Chris Betcher uses)? I also love HaikuDeck and will check out Slidebean! Thanks for the tips.