Deckset review: Mac app excels at presentation minimalism
At a Glance
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Deckset is an elegant tool for making beautifully minimal presentations, emphasizing plain-text writing over fiddly formatting.
When I chatted with Adobe a few weeks back about the Adobe Voice app, an Adobe engineer noted that the frustrating thing with presentation software such as Keynote or PowerPoint is the sheer amount of customization you feel like you must do before making your very first slide. Like Voice, Unsigned Integer's $20 Deckset (Mac App Store link) aims to remove this obstacle while making it easy to create clean, attractive presentations. But unlike Adobe’s iPad creation, this Mac app goes about the task in a very different—and delightful—way.
Though it offers eight beautiful themes for your presentations, the majority of your visual work with Deckset is done outside the app, in your favorite plain-text editor. That’s because Deckset uses basic Markdown syntax to style your text to your theme. Deckset’s formatting will be easily familiar to those with Markdown experience, and for those unfamiliar, the app offers a great tutorial—in, of course, slideshow form.
I’m surprised there’s no built-in text manipulation available, but I love how seamless the interaction is between Deckset and your external editor: Deckset offers a live preview of the slides while you’re editing your text—whenever you save the text document, your slides automatically update.
Building a presentation with Deckset is almost too easy once you have the words you want to say. You can also augment your slides with automatically-styled images and video. To add multimedia, you just drag and drop a media file into the Deckset window; the app automatically adds the appropriate Markdown code to the clipboard for pasting into your text file.
Image and video support is fairly rudimentary, though you do get some neat filtering options to make text overlays easier to read. Inline image alignment is also still a little wonky: You insert the media link before or after the line you want it to appear beside, and Deckset has trouble wrapping multiple lines. This isn’t the end of the world, but it may irritate presentation tweakers who like being able to manually drag and adjust their images.
That said, Deckset clearly isn’t a program for tweakers. It’s designed for the average person who needs to make beautiful slides without the muss and fuss of Keynote or PowerPoint. And in that regard, it’s excellent. The themes are crisp, and the image integration is stunning, while the focus on plain-text editing keeps your mind on facts rather than fonts.
One omission I hope to see addressed in future versions is transitions. Currently, Deckset presents slides discretely, and the app’s export options don’t allow for video creation. You indicate a new slide in your text document by typing three dashes (---); I imagine that the app could mix this up a bit to support a few transition styles. Until then, the lack of transitions feels like an odd blank in an otherwise polished app.
Personally, I can’t wait to use Deckset for my next presentation. It’s the kind of program that begs you to save time with it rather than spending hours styling font colors and sizes.