emaze is a free online presentation tool for designing and building presentation slide decks. The tool is positioned as being a cross between PowerPoint and Prezi, built on HTML5. emaze is currently in Beta testing mode and is thus free to trial.
What does it do?
emaze is a web app that allows you to build presentations online using an HTML5-based system. emaze does not require any software to be downloaded and can be used anywhere with an internet connection and an up-to-date browser.
The app functions similarly to PowerPoint, allowing users to build presentation slides using an in-built template, which incorporates programmed design features and slide transitions. Users select a template that dictates design for all presentation content, and then add objects (text, images, videos, or emaze-built ‘shapes’) to a slide.
The comparisons with Prezi come from the in-built 3D effects and zooming transitions available in certain emaze templates. Users don’t need to be designers or understand the workings of the software to take advantage of these features; they can just select the relevant template.
Slide decks can easily be shared online with others, and you can even allow collaboration between team members.
Here’s an example of a presentation we built quickly using one of emaze’s pre-designed templates:
emaze is a browser-based app so involves no installation: simply sign up for an account at emaze.com to begin.
How easy is it to use?
Despite its simple features and pre-programmed design options, emaze is disappointingly clunky to use. It’s easy to create designed slides with 3D effects and transitions, as these are programmed into the templates, but adding and positioning content is fiddly without alignment tools or gridlines to help you perfect the layout. While there are bits of help information available here and there, a video tutorial would be hugely useful.
That said, it is easy to take next steps such as share a completed presentation from within emaze, or to get a link or embed code to share.
What’s right with it?
emaze makes it easy to build pre-designed slides that use templates to provide a professional impression. Users choose from a selection of templates that dictate how their slides will look and feel. When adding new slides, users can either insert a blank slide or choose from a selection that have been pre-populated with content, to aid with the selection of a layout. For those with no design or slideware experience, it is an easy way to produce slides – and transitions – that look good.
emaze offers certain advanced features, such as hyperlinking. As emaze is focused on delivering standalone presentations and sharing them online, the links could be used to refer audiences to references or to sites containing further information on a topic. However, it would be even better if hyperlink tools could be used within emaze to link to different presentation slides, providing an interactive experience.
Perhaps the best feature of emaze is its cloud capabilities. Not only does it provide an automatic platform to host your finished video presentations online, but it enables multiple users to collaborate on the same presentation. You can also easily share your presentation on social media sites from within emaze itself, and of course the advantage of cloud-based app is that it can be accessed from anywhere – as long as you have an internet connection.
What’s wrong with it?
emaze is quite buggy, but of course it’s in beta so we’d expect these wrinkles to be ironed out in the next stage of development.
emaze’s biggest issues are with its options for slide content itself. The lack of animation or the ability to build a slide step-by-step has a huge impact on audience engagement levels. Impressive transitions look snazzy but don’t aid audience comprehension in any way. Its ‘shapes’ are essentially just silhouetted ClipArt, and can’t be used to build e.g. graphs within emaze itself; you’d have to create them using alternative software and then insert them as images.
emaze currently only has twelve templates you can put your own content into, so the likelihood of your presentation looking like someone else’s is pretty high. Again though, we hope that more customisation options will be added in later stages of development.
It’s got Prezi’s nauseating zooms and PowerPoint’s slides, without any of the things that make either of those pieces of slideware work. For example, emaze has a blackboard template that functions in the way that Prezi’s mindmap layout works, but emaze just moves around the board at random, without allowing users to create meaningful connections between different points.
The downside of cloud-based apps, of course, is that you need to be connected to the internet in order to use one – making editing on the go difficult, and presenting away from the office risky.
Should I buy it?
Many of the features listed as superior to PowerPoint’s are secondary and don’t really add to user experience. The ability to share your slides on Facebook or Twitter from within the app, for example, is something that PowerPoint cannot do, but there are many alternative solutions available.
It seems that emaze is trying to be a PowerPoint alternative and a slide platform at the same time – it’s spread itself too thinly and thus has slightly missed the boat on both. There have been a wave of PowerPoint-replacement online apps that have hit the Internet recently, but the ones that stand out are those that have taken steps to do something really different. emaze is certainly an interesting attempt, but really it hasn’t differentiated itself from the pack enough for us to suggest moving away from PowerPoint or even Prezi. Hopefully the improvements planned for the next stage of development will provide the additional customisation options that would make a huge difference to this software.
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