It’s time to officially ditch PowerPoint as your go-to tool for building slideshow presentations. Slideshow-building app Haiku Deck’s latest feature, Haiku Deck Zuru, practically builds a slideshow for you, extracting the must-know information from your notes and putting it together in a gorgeously themed presentation. The Haiku Deck team calls Zuru, which was announced on Thursday, artificial intelligence, as it looks for keywords to pick out slide topics and relevant images pulled from its image database, which is entirely safe for public use.
Haiku Deck got a couple of additional new features on Thursday as well. You’ll find a new presentation gallery with customizable templates for a wide range of events, additional slide templates, and a new color-matching tool that lets you use precise color schemes (perhaps pulled straight from your brand’s logo). You’ll also be able to “remix” existing decks created and shared by other users. All of these features, save for Zuru, are available for both the iPad and the Web version.
We applauded Haiku Deck when it first launched for offering a seamless way to build slideshows on the iPad, which could then be exported to PowerPoint or Keynote or shared via the Web. Each Haiku Deck update brings added functionality that make it a real competitor in the presentation building space, and Haiku Deck Zuru feels like the platform’s first major premium offering. It’s an additional feature that users will have to pay extra for—$30 a year if purchased during the presale, and $60 a year after that.
So, with a price tag like that, is this service worth it? I got to demo Haiku Deck Zuru before launch with Adam Tratt, Haiku Deck’s cofounder and CEO, and really liked what I saw.
Here’s how it works: You import your slideshow outline (sorry, there is a little work involved here) from Evernote, PowerPoint, or Keynote, and Haiku Deck Zuru gets to work. It analyzes keywords, looks for key phrases, studies how you’ve organized your notes, and builds a deck from there. You can manually play around with individual slide layouts and tweak the content, of course, and shuffle the slides around until they’re in the order that you want.
It reminds me of Evernote’s presentation mode, which turns your notes into a slideshow with the push of a button. However, one thing that Haiku Deck Zuru excels in is images. It automatically pulls in artwork from its database based on keywords—for example, if you’re working on a presentation about San Francisco’s housing market, Zuru might identify “San Francisco,” “rent increases,” and “housing bubble” as keywords, and then recommend an image to use that is tagged with one of those keywords. Images are selected based on how often an image has been selected over time—meaning, you’ll see the best and most popular images float to the top of your selection list.
You can always manually change the image to something else in Haiku Deck’s database, or select a different keyword to open up your image options. You can also upload your own photos to use, but make note of your privacy settings—if you’re making a public presentation, that image will be made available to the rest of the Haiku Deck community.
When you’re finished building your deck, you can embed that slideshow in any website, or share it to your social networks or via email. You can also export it as an editable PPTX file and work with it some more in either PowerPoint or Keynote.
It might seem redundant to upload a slideshow you’ve already built, but I loved what I saw Haiku Deck Zuru do with a ho-hum PowerPoint slider. It stripped away its cheesy stock template, broke over-crammed slides up into more digestible bites, and even recognized important charts and figured out a way to incorporate them in a more visually impressive way. Plus, it created a custom color palette to give the slideshow a more polished design.
“We want to get the user as close to ‘done’ as possible,“ Tratt said, “and if we can take something crummy and make it 80 percent better, we’ve done our job.”
Haiku Deck Zuru will be a Web-only offering to start. It can be purchased now during its presale for $30 for a one-year subscription, and presale subscribers will have access to a beta in early spring 2015. The full Version 1.0 of Haiku Deck Zuru is scheduled to launch by late spring 2015, and it’s regular price is set for $60 per year. Haiku Deck Zuru is an additional premium feature—Haiku Deck’s apps for the iPhone and iPad will remain free, as will its standard Web app.