PowerPoint 2010 – Usability

Monday, March 1st, 2010 2 comments

PowerPoint 2010 logoPowerPoint 2010 contains many new features and upgrades. A lot of these have been inserted to display advancements in technology – they look impressive, they’re more high-tech, and when used correctly, they can produce impressive-looking presentations. Our favourites of these new features were discussed in our PowerPoint 2010 Review.

The second part of our PowerPoint 2010 review centres around the improvements made in usability. There are two reasons for these improvements to be made: to reduce the stress involved in trying to perfect a presentation by making the process easier; and to save time, by reducing the number of clicks needed to perform a function, or removing the need for plug-ins or other programs.

Our testers noted three distinct areas of improvement in PowerPoint 2010. Here we explain these, and detail examples of each.

Menu Functions

One of the most noticeable things about the move from earlier versions of PowerPoint to 2010 is the shift to more intuitive menus. There has been a real effort to make things simpler and quicker for users, and this has been shown in certain functions in particular. The animation menu is significantly different, with large icons depicting each animation, and a preview of each shown by simply hovering over each option. Motion paths in particular are easier to use from this menu.

The print preview menu displays all options on screen at once, so that it is not necessary to navigate through different folders and tabs. Similarly, users are given different paste options from an automatic menu, creating a much easier option for the user.

More Editing Options

Another great improvement seen in many features of PowerPoint is the inclusion of more editing options. Pie charts are a good example of this; another is gradient fill. 2010 boasts a huge range of preset colour schemes (including everything from Rainbow to Chrome), rather than only offering the choice of two colours.

The introduction of gradient stops is fantastic. These can be added or removed separately, so that the user can include up to 10 different colours or other attributes at his own discretion. This gives a much greater control over any gradient, as colour, transparency and brightness can be changed for each individual gradient stop. The position of each can be adjusted according to percentage, or by dragging across the bar. In short, the user has a much greater control over gradient, and it is possible to get very exact effects.

Far less editing is needed to format pictures correctly after inserting them, and it is now easier and quicker to edit live graphs. The WordArt editing menu in particular is greatly improved. Inserting a WordArt automatically opens up the ‘Drawing Tools’ tab, meaning that it is now much easier to edit these in PowerPoint – a function that in 03 required a plug-in.

Time Saving

The new background removal tool is fantastic when used correctly, and can save a lot of time. Simply insert a picture and the Remove Background icon will appear on the far left of the Picture Tools tab. This feature will automatically remove what it perceives to be the background, and the user can then edit these changes using a few simple buttons, with the background adjusting intelligently.

The best new time saving feature in our opinion is the movie trimming capabilities. A lot of presenters now like to incorporate video in their presentations, and in the past we’ve found ourselves having to resort to using flash to achieve the required effect. With these changes, that is no longer necessary.

Another improvement is that you can now insert a screenshot with only two clicks from the main screen. The process is easy, and eliminates the need to mess around with windows; the user can choose the window he wishes to use from an icon in the drop-down menu.

Any Problems?

Some of our testers reported having trouble with editing shapes they had made. It was reported that it was difficult to find the tools to edit the shape once it was created. The most notable problem became obvious when our testers attempted to fill a shape with a picture: the images distorted to fit the shape making the user either manually resize using the options within the picture format options, or resize using the crop tool, then resaving. This problem was also reported for 2007.

The only real issues our testers found where related to the change in menus. The difference from 07 to 2010 is not too significant, but those who resisted the transition from 03 (as many did, owing to several reported bugs in 07) may struggle to make the transition from toolbars to tabs. That said, the menu change has been made with the user in mind, and once users have adjusted to the new system, it seems likely that they would in fact find it simpler.

Conclusion

PowerPoint 2010 has been designed with the user in mind. Most (if not all) improvements, when used correctly, save time and effort when designing a slide. While it is easy to get distracted by some of the showy new features, using the subtler, more technical, functions to create a more professional presentation should require less clicks. Perhaps most importantly some improvements, particularly in video editing, negate the need to use plug-ins or other software, thus saving the user a lot of time.

In all, PowerPoint 2010 shows a lot of promise, and should make creating effective presentations easier for amateurs and professionals alike.

The video below is an example from the PowerPoint team, showing how easily videos can be produced (and put on YouTube) using PowerPoint 2010. This software can do some very impressive things…

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2 Comments to PowerPoint 2010 – Usability

  1. #1

    Rick Grand

    8:11 pm, May 21st, 2012

    More flash, less everyday functionality:
    PowerPoint has become a workhorse for all types of presenters and speakers because of its utility and intuitive useability. Unfortunately, PowerPoint2010 seems to focus on the flash rather than utility of creating, with a minimum of fuss, a content-rich and image-filled presentation. Maybe it depends on the expectations and background of the audience, but if you’re not in sales/marketing most of the new “features” get in way of what you want to do. Most scientific audiences do not want transitions and animations (in fact more than one is the sure way to tank your credibility), but yet three of the nine tabs focus on this stuff, while the workhorse commands are squeezed into two tabs (Home and View) – and the assignment of any single command seems non-intuitive and maybe arbitrary. By the way, all the new movie capabilities still seem to be unable to handle medical imaging, so I’ll continue to use my very functional Mirada plug-in. Finally, reverse compatibility is poor – take a PowerPoint 2033 presentation, open/edit in 2010, save as a 95-03 presentation, and when reopened on a machine still running 2003, the formatting is a total mess. Thanks Microsoft for taking a very workable program and overwhelming it with flash – bells and whistles- at the expense of everyday functionality.

  2. #2

    mark.bullock@m62.net

    2:41 pm, May 23rd, 2012

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    We loved PowerPoint 2003. Really. It was our bread and butter for years but the consensus in the design team now is that we wouldn’t go back unless a client requested we do so.
    While I understand that, at first glance, 2010 may appear to be a prime example of style over substance, it’s superior to its predecessors in so many ways. In the two years since this article was written, the program has been a priceless tool in creating thousands of highly effective slides for a wide variety of markets, often conveying extremely technical content.

    When they released PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft examined what worked and what didn’t in both PowerPoint ’03 and ’07 and built ’10 around the best points of both. In practice we’ve found this has translated into a far more impressive, flexible and stable program than the arguably flawed 2007 whilst maintaining the superb functionality of 2003. The new animations, graphic effects and transitions are there in addition to the program’s core functionality, not at the cost of it, and allow the user the opportunity to produce a more visually appealing slide deck than would have been achievable in ‘03. However, if the presenter feels that less showy slides would be a more effective way of communicating data to their audience, then the tools are still there to produce such a presentation.

    As far as the interface change; it is undeniably a drastic departure from the familiar menus>submenus layout of 2003 and ultimately down to personal preference – it’s not for everyone. As a team we found that, after a short transition period between programs, the grouping together of common functions into tabs actually makes for a more efficient workflow. Also, the ability to create, delete and edit tab groups allows a level of customisation that was never available in ’03. One extremely valuable addition to the toolbox is the ‘Selection Pane’, which allows the user to hide and display elements on a slide as needed when building slides – a superb timesaver.

    Unfortunately, an area in which Microsoft has lost points is compatibility. As you have pointed out, and we mentioned in the article, the different versions don’t get on with each other as well as might be hoped. PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 are similar enough in construction that their outputs will generally work together fine.
    PowerPoint 2003, however, differs from the latter two incarnations in ways which make it problematic to try and use the two versions alongside each other on a presentation. When talking to clients, we generally advise that they decide on a version at the start of a project and we’ll design everything from there on in for use with that edition.

    Lastly – what format are your medical imaging files in? We may be able to offer some assistance on resolving the issue for you.

    Thanks again,

    -Mark,
    Senior Designer @ m62