Presentista is currently in beta testing stage.
What does it do?
Presentista is an online platform for creating presentation visuals. Positioned as a PowerPoint alternative, Presentista is similar to Prezi, but is more compact. The software allows you to create and store a Flash-based presentation ‘canvas’. This canvas serves as a poster board to which presenters can add information, rather than using slides.
Presentista is cloud-based, so it can be used anywhere in the world, from any computer with internet access. Users can simply log in to their Presentista account from any computer to access their saved presentations or create a new one.
Presentista is currently in beta testing, which means that many of its features are yet to be fully developed.
As Presentista is based in a web browser, there’s no installation for it. Users just sign up via presentista.com, which is currently free and takes less than a minute. Be aware that Presentista relies on Flash, so if you plan to present on an iPad or iPhone this wouldn’t be a solution for you. At the moment the website gives no details of whether there are plans to develop it for iOS in the future, but we can hope this is something they are looking into following the beta stages.
Functionality and Ease of use
Upon signing up to Presentista you are prompted to watch a few short help videos, which are helpful to get you started. Presentista is very simple to use once you’ve grasped the basics. Simply double click anywhere on the canvas to add text, and select this to bring up a box that enables you to adjust the transition order, or rotate, duplicate or move the object.
As well as allowing you to upload files from your Desktop, Presentista gives you the option of searching for video and images directly from YouTube, Flickr and Google images. Of course, there are copyright issues with using images sourced from Search Engines, and users should always check that they have permission to use media found online. Once uploaded, users can resize, rotate and reorder images and videos, so you can place them wherever you like within your presentation’s canvas.
The transition between different pieces of information on the canvas is called the ‘flow’. When managing flow, you can easily specify what will move in the flow in a specific order; this is done by clicking on the flow icon. You can also select the type of transition. Again, these options are limited but there should be more variation when Presentista is out of the beta testing stage.
I did encounter some issues with inserting images on different computers, surrounding existing images changing when new ones were uploaded. This seemed to rectify itself on a later date. Unfortunately, with no support readily available, we’re unable to verify why this happened.
What’s right with it?
Presentista’s biggest strength is that it’s simple and easy to use. The software has been designed with the user in mind, and this is very clear once you start playing around with it. Adding elements to your canvas is a simple two-step activity, and the in-built transitions mean that users don’t have to worry about how to move from one piece of information to another.
One of the aims of Presentista was to create a universally available application that was unhindered by the machine used to run it. Currently this is achieved by being available in a web browser. There are promises to produce a desktop version of the software, but I haven’t seen any sign of this as yet. I also encountered difficulties on different computers, and as Presentista is Flash-based, it cannot play on iPads – something that may prove a problem in the growing tablet market. However, we can hope these developments are planned for the future.
As a platform, Presentista encourages the presenter to only include limited information on the presentation canvas. While the information included is difficult to make truly visual (only being able to import images or video means that the presenter’s options are limited), the small bite-size chunks of content Presentista results in help to avoid information overload for the audience.
What’s wrong with it?
Presentista is built using Flash, which is a big problem if you have an iPhone, iPad or other tablets that don’t enable Flash. This issue could be overcome by enabling conversion to HTML5, so let’s hope that this is a development the makers are considering for the future.
Not currently being able to save presentations to your hard drive could pose another issue. Users have to log in online to view it, which would prevent presenters from retrieving their presentations if they didn’t have internet access. This is a risky tactic for presenters as internet connections can be unreliable, so isn’t something that presenters could safely rely on to deliver with at the moment. Presentista communications mention a desktop version, but I haven’t come across this in my testing.
Uploading images from your desktop is not problematic, although png images do not seem to function correctly, as they are not transparent. While adding images directly from Google and Flickr might seem like a good idea, it actually results in huge copyright issues for the presenter. Image search also doesn’t seem to function correctly, which can make it difficult to find relevant images. Integration with an image database such as iStock would prove far more useful.
Due to its Beta phase, Presentista currently lacks in design features, which can be annoying if you want to tailor your presentation design. There are currently only three different transition effects and five different text styles, and no customisation options available – you can’t even select standard font or colour options for text. We’re hoping to see lots more design options in the next phase, including standard design tools such as align features or gridlines. It would also be hugely beneficial to be able to create basic shapes, and use these to produce diagrams that really visualise the point the presenter is smoking.
The most worrying thing about Presentista is that aside from transitions, there are no animation features. At present the only way to include any type of animation is by embedding a YouTube video, which does not enable effective integration with the presenter’s patter. Animated diagrams are one of the key elements to increase engagement and make an effective presentation, and just using static images and text greatly hinders this. Even a simple appear/disappear animation would enable presenters to build diagrams, thus enabling the use of Visual Cognitive Dissonance and greatly increasing audience engagement levels.
There is limited help and support available, which is disappointing for software in beta phase. Clicking ‘help’ within the application only brings up the demonstration videos, when including a ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ address or similar would greatly improve usability. This lack of support meant that when I encountered technical difficulties, I had no idea how to combat them.
Should I use it?
Presentista is a simple, easy-to-use tool for presenters, but can’t currently be considered as a serious alternative to PowerPoint.
While Presentista is great at what it does, unfortunately, just like Prezi, Presentista is just another PowerPoint alternative that misses the point. Instead of slides that presenters click through, Presentista has a board that the presenter moves around. It does not solve the fundamental problem, which is how to present information in a visual, engaging way. However, the nature of the canvas means that if the presenter is someone who’s accustomed to using bullet points, using Presentista should generate an improvement by encouraging him to include less information in his visuals, and to think more about how the information is arranged visually.
In summary: Presentista is an easy way for amateur presentation designers to step away from bullet points, but further improvements are needed to make it a truly effective presentation platform.
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Edward Balchon, Malcolm Pirnie
Working through the questions and undergoing a process of laying our presentation bare to the experts at m62 was a hugely beneficial process. It enabled us to clarify numerous points in terms of how they are received, which ultimately has led to an end result which suits a far broader range of audiences.