PowerPoint 2007 benefits hugely from Office 2007's highly visual ribbon interface and new design tools. There's still room for improvement, but the new elements add up to the meatiest PowerPoint update in many years.
Click here to read our review of Office 2007.
PowerPoint 2007's new themes improve markedly on PowerPoint 2003's cheesy templates. Themes include preset colour choices to prevent you from creating ugly presentations; you can also modify the colours and layout of a theme, and then save for later use. Since themes and colour selections are also available in Word and Excel, you can apply a consistent look across all your Office 2007 documents.
Also new (and available in Word and Excel, too) is SmartArt, a drawing tool for creating graphics such as organisational charts, pyramids and cycles, that illustrate relationships. You can add and style SmartArt elements with a few clicks.
PowerPoint 2007's improved effects include drop shadows, perspective and bevelling. You can apply these to text and graphics, including charts and SmartArt, directly from the ribbon. In virtually every case, you can preview how the proposed change will affect your presentation.
Tables are top
PowerPoint 2007 includes some worthwhile non-design improvements, too. Tables, which have long been a headache to work with, are now easy to style. Similarly, the task of moving data between Excel and PowerPoint, with formatting intact, is finally the cakewalk it should have been all along.
Dual-monitor support is more sophisticated too and you can now blank out the presentation display if you need to do something on your laptop that you don’t want projected to your audience.
PowerPoint's new look sets the bar so high that the few weak spots in the interface are downright jarring. One of these involves the new charting engine, which produces much handsomer graphics than earlier versions but employs a chart type selector that hides your slides and doesn’t offer a live preview of results.
Cutting-edge presenters may be disappointed that features for adding video, audio, animation and transitions to a presentation remain pretty basic.
And output destined for the web still looks so shabby in non-Microsoft browsers that Firefox and Safari users who try to open your presentations will get a message warning them that the content may not show properly.
(Incidentally, PowerPoint 2003's ability to broadcast presentations over the internet is gone altogether, but it never worked very well anyway.)