PowerPoint 2013: New Features
With the preview of PowerPoint 2013 becoming available this week, our designers have been spending their spare moments playing with the software. We’ll have lots more in-depth comments coming up over the next few weeks, but for now, here are our design team’s initial thoughts on PowerPoint’s new layout and features.
2013 in essence has not fundamentally changed in comparison to 2010, and in part also 2007. It naturally has been given a more modern facelift, one that is more minimal than its previous versions, but this minimalism doesn’t at first glance seem as intuitive and it will take most users some time to become familiar with the new stylised iconography. The modern style is complemented by the removal of the bolder borders on the windows.
In terms of the layout of the program, this is relatively unchanged. The ribbon, slide viewer window, zoom slider and animation pane are all placed the same as the previous versions. The format shape and format picture dialogue boxes that used to be separate from the normal interface now display in the same way as the animation pane, making them far more user friendly by giver the user more working space.
Working space seems to be one of the main thinking points in 2013. The ribbon has been made larger, presumably with the aim of making touch control easier. There is also a touch mode which adds a little more space around buttons and icons so you can tap them more easily on a touch-enabled screen – a great addition for those making edits on a tablet. The notes section now has a useful toggle on/off button, so it’s easy to hide away when working on the slide.
Charts are finally easy to use. 2013 has 3 buttons next to each chart, each letting the user easily change chart elements such as axes, labels and legends, pre-set chart styles and colours and chart filters such as values and names. This is a great benefit to the user, and a welcome addition.
The merge shapes tool has been added to. Along with the original union, combine, intersect and subtract options, the user can now fragment a series of shapes that are laid over the top of each other to create new shapes. This is a real benefit to the occasional PowerPoint user that doesn’t have access to vector design programs, as they can now create more complex graphics previously unavailable using shape union subtract.
When it comes to images, there’s a new tool that allows the user to insert images directly from online sources such as Office.com, Bing search, SkyDrive, Facebook and Flikr.
As a default, Bing image searches prioritise their images to those licensed under creative commons, thus removing any confusion around the legality of the image used in your presentation. This will be particularly helpful for casual users looking for free images to include on their slides. Skydrive offers 25gb worth of free storage space, so will be a useful tool to someone building presentations often, as they can store all the common assets they use and access them any time they have an internet connection.
An eye dropper tool has been added, which allows the user to pick the colour of anything in the main window and apply it to a chosen shape or line. This means that colours can even be taken from images and used in the surrounding slide design, and makes many design aspects quicker and easier for users.
Presentation mode has had a radical revamp. The view is now similar to Keynote, which gives the presenter the option to edit the slides live while presenting.
The user can also preview the next slide, giving them better ability to add a cleaner flow of speech between each slide. A useful tool has also been added which allows the user to zoom in and out while in presenting mode. This will be useful when needing to look at detailed document images.
In summary, 2013 should not affect the user’s ability to design slides. It seems that Microsoft have noticed that 2010 was not broken, so did not need fixing. Instead they have looked at improving the productivity of the general user. Images are quicker to insert, shapes are easier to manipulate and presenting the slides has become more interactive and more user friendly. All this together will make the user more productive, which is ultimately what software improvements should do.
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Brian Fenix, Client Principal, Hewlett-Packard
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