Everyone can now see what the next version of PowerPoint– Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 — will look like. There may be some minor changes and they may be holding back some goodies, but what you see now is a very good idea of what you’ll see later, in my opinion.
You can download the beta here. (Update: The beta is long gone.)
There are lots of changes, but nothing big–at least not if you’re focusing only on PowerPoint itself. Instead, the big new feature applies to all of Office. To enable you to work on any device — computer, tablet, or phone — you’ll be encouraged to create a Windows Live account and log in. (After you do it once, it’s automatic.) You’ll also have obvious access to a SkyDrive account — free online storage — so you can save documents there. In this way, you can pick them up wherever you left off — from another computer or device, anywhere you are.
Also, Office has a Touch mode that will let you touch, swipe, and so on if you’re on a touch-enabled device.
But let’s go through the changes to PowerPoint itself.
The look has changed
Each Office application has its own color. PowerPoint is burnt orange. At least, that’s what I call it. What name would you give this color? You’ll see this color at the bottom, on the active tab, around selected slides in the left-hand panel, when you click the File tab, and more.
The entire PowerPoint window is much more understated.The gray around the slides is lighter. The dividing line between the panes is lighter. The ribbon tab names are uppercase. It looks pretty, but I find it harder to distinguish the edges of panes and other interface items.
Starting a new presentation is different
When you click File> New, you now see images of themes. There’s a default theme, which is 7-1/2 x 10, like in earlier versions, and a “Blank Presentation,” which is 7-1/2 x 13.333. This is a typical widescreen size. The other themes are in the same area, so you don’t need to go to the Design tab as you did previously.
When you choose a theme, you can see how some of the layouts look by clicking the More Images buttons. You also have color variants, so you can quickly customize the theme. Then click Create to start working. Watch the video to see how this new procedure works.
Slide design tools have improved
Equidistant smart guides: PowerPoint 2010 introduced alignment guides (also known as smart guides or whiskers) to line up objects on the screen. PowerPoint 2013 adds guides to help you easily place objects equidistant from each other.
Eyedropper: You can now pick a color with an eyedropper to apply a color. There’s a secret, however. (Thanks, Echo, for reminding me!) Select an object. On the Format tab, choose Shape File or Shape Outline and choose the Eyedropper option. You’ll get a different cursor and can easily pick any color on the slide. The secret is that if you press and hold the left mouse button, you can drag off the slide and select any color on your screen. Now you don’t need to use a separate application.
New Merge Shapes option: PowerPoint 2010 introduced the Union, Combine, Intersect, and Subtract tools to create custom shapes. 2013 makes these tools easier to find, putting them in the Insert Shapes group of the Format tab. It also adds a new tool, Fragment. which breaks up overlapping shapes to their individual sub-shapes. (To create the figure on the right, I moved the resulting shapes apart.)
Insert pictures from the web: Choose Insert> Online Pictures to choose from Office.com’s Clip Art gallery, a Bing image search, Flickr (if you have an account) and your SkyDrive files. Microsoft tries to guide you to choose only Creative Commons licensed photos so that you stay legal. (Note that even Creative Commons images require attribution, so click the provided URL at the lower-left corner to see the source.) I’m leery of this. In the examples I checked, I wasn’t sure that the images were really under the Creative Commons license.
New Format task panes: The Format Shape dialog box has become a task pane, so it’s never on top of your slide. Other formatting dialog boxes (Format Background, Format Picture, etc.) are also task panes.
Video output is MP4: PowerPoint 2010 let you output presentations to WMV video format. It was a great new feature, but now you get MP4 instead. This is welcome, since MP4 is more widely used.
New Page Curl transition: Presenters have wanted a page turn transition for a long time and there finally is a very nice one. Not that you should use it a lot. I try to resist transition effects unless there’s a good reason for one. But if you’re telling a story, Page Curl would fit into your metaphor nicely.
The datasheet is back! Remember the datasheet when you inserted a chart? It was a small spreadsheet that you used for your data. In PowerPoint 2007, that changed and instead you went to a full, though temporary, Excel spreadsheet. People found it difficult to use so Microsoft listened and the datasheet has returned.
New chart styles: The chart styles have been updated based on customer feedback. They are more stylish and subtle; I think you’ll like them. Also, there are Quick Edit buttons that make editing charts easier.
Motion path preview: When you animate with a motion path, after you specify the path, you see a semi-transparent image of the object at its ending location. You can then easily adjust the path so that the object ends up exactly where you want it. Very nice! (Thanks, Bruce, for bringing this one to my attention.)
Collaborate more effectively
Reply Comment: You could add comments before but now, it’s possible to reply to comments to create a conversation.
Sharing: If you save your presentation on SkyDrive, you can share it (like Google Docs). You can:
- Invite people (send them an e-mail with the link)
- Get a view or edit link to put in an e-mail or on a website
- Post to social networks
- E-mail the presentation
- Present online through the Office Presentation Service
- Publish slides to a SharePoint site. (SharePoint is a Microsoft product for storing and sharing content.)
Not all of these features are new, but they are newly put together under the Sharing feature.
Updated Presenter View: Presenter View has been updated and streamlined. Instead of seeing all the slides at the bottom, you see the next slide at the upper-right corner. (You can read more about Presenter View here.)
Slide Zoom and Pan: You can zoom in on a diagram, chart, or graphic, pan around, and then zoom out. When you zoom out completely, you see a kind of Slide Sorter view, so that you can choose which slide you want to display next. This is quite cool and will especially help people presenting on smaller screens.
Watch a video of this new feature.
What do you think?
Are you going to upgrade? How will saving to the cloud go over in your company? Leave a comment and share your thoughts and opinions!