For Mac and Windows users alike, the terms “PowerPoint presentation” and “electronic slide show” have been almost synonymous for years. But Computer Systems Odessa’s ConceptDraw Presenter 1.0.1 aims to provide a viable alternative to Microsoft’s PowerPoint. The company bills Presenter, which runs in OS 9 and OS X, as the perfect solution for creating slide presentations and enhancing PowerPoint shows. But before Presenter can even approach PowerPoint’s ubiquity, it will have to grow to include items such as global editing and QuickTime importing.
Quick on the Draw
Presenter’s extensive suite of drawing functions, including splines and curves, ought to keep most artists satisfied. It also has Smart Connectors, which let you draw connecting lines that stay with objects as they move. For those who need a head start on their projects, Presenter has Libraries, which let you import prerendered drawings into your slides.
We also appreciated Presenter’s responsiveness, especially during slide shows, an issue that occasionally makes users reluctant to run PowerPoint X presentations on slower Macs. Presenter provides more animation options than PowerPoint, including controls that let you fine-tune animation timing and a function that lets you add scrolling text captions to live presentations. Path-based animation would be a welcome addition, but you can accomplish a great deal with Presenter’s existing tools.
PowerPoint Files Get the Cold Shoulder
We were initially intrigued by Presenter’s ability to import and export PowerPoint 98 files. While the program imported PowerPoint 98 presentations with nary a complaint, the translation was often flawed. For example, the background of some slides changed color inexplicably, making text impossible to read. We encountered severe banding in shaded backgrounds, and many text animations didn’t work at all. We determined that we would’ve had to do a good deal of work to restore most of our imported PowerPoint files.
Presenter didn’t fare much better when exporting to PowerPoint, but it did correctly save presentations in Flash, PDF, and HTML format. (Computer Systems Odessa says that the glitches are caused by PowerPoint’s lack of comprehensive specification for its file format.)
Missing the Basics
Presenter’s glaring omission of support for global editing surprised us — the program has no master slides or text placeholders.
In Background view, you can place and edit text blocks, and they will appear identical on every slide. But if you decide later that you don’t like the color or size of your titles, for example, you have to edit each one individually.
Presenter’s inability to place QuickTime movies on slides is another red flag for educational, scientific, and other professional presenters, who often must import video clips into their presentations. (You can, however, import sounds and static images.) Presenter also doesn’t have a find-and-replace function, and it doesn’t include a spelling checker or provide tools for bulleted text, tables, or graphs.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
While it’s refreshing to see a new presentation package on the market, ConceptDraw Presenter 1.0.1’s missing features put it out of the running for most professional work. For the time being, Presenter is worth considering only if you covet its drawing tools and can live with its many shortcomings.