​PowerPoint in the Cloud

PowerPoint has always been one of my favorite tools. While often used poorly (how many presentations have you endured where the speaker simply read you his or her PowerPoint slides!), it can be a very effective communication tool.

PowerPoint is naturally a paperless product. You present the slides without paper, and you can “send the presentation” to your audience without paper. I am not a fan of those who print their presentation so their audience can take notes – an inefficient method of note-taking and a true waste of trees.

But I wanted to see if the cloud presented an opportunity or a threat to PowerPoint.

Creating with PowerPoint Online

The first task was to create a PowerPoint presentation using the online tools. I am a huge fan of the Microsoft Office Web Apps. They are simple, effective, and require no software on the computer other than a web browser. All web-based.

I use Word online all the time. I am writing this blog post using Word online. Again, the speed and simplicity of it is fantastic.

However, my first foray into PowerPoint Online was a bit of a different experience. I fired up a new PowerPoint presentation on my OneDrive, naming it How the Cloud is Changing the Way You Work. I will be delivering this presentation a number of times over the next few months, so it has to be engaging.

Create basic designs in the cloud, advanced designs on the PC

powerpointMy first thoughts as I started editing my PowerPoint slides:

  1. This sucks!
  2. OK, it doesn’t totally suck, but for the types of presentations I like to do, it isn’t that great.

PowerPoint Online has the basic tools you need to create a basic presentation:

  • Add slides
  • Change fonts, layout, and insert basic graphics
  • Change to a pre-set design for all slides
  • Add basic slide transitions
  • Add basic element animations

The issue is that I really enjoy making engaging slides with lots of multimedia and graphics. The online version of PowerPoint doesn’t allow me to create those sorts of presentations. So I am back to using PowerPoint on my PC, to leverage poweruser features like Master Slides, advanced animations, and embedded video.

But save on OneDrive

Even though I am using PowerPoint on my PC to create my presentation, I am saving the PowerPoint presentation in my OneDrive so I can access my presentation anywhere, any time, on any device.

And edit later online

My next test was to see if I could edit an advanced presentation that I had created using PowerPoint on my PC using the PowerPoint Online version.

The short answer is, yes. I can edit the text content, add a graphic, change positioning, etc. Once the master pages are created using the PC version of PowerPoint, I can easily edit the document in the cloud. The wonderful thing about the experience is that whether I am editing online or on my PC, there is only ever one version of the presentation. And it is always up to date!

Now, I am wondering if I should be leveraging the cloud for the presentation itself. That test is up next.

Presenting with PowerPoint Online

Creating a presentation is one thing. Showing a presentation is another thing completely. The lights are on, the audience is in place, expectations are high, and technical glitches can create a disaster for the entire event.

And it is always in those moments when technology seems to fail.

I am not sure why. Maybe it is a karma thing between nature and technology. Who knows, but trusting my presentation to the cloud seems sketchy at best.

So the test becomes… is there any advantage to running my PowerPoint presentation in the cloud?

There seem to be two scenarios where this might be advantageous.

Scenario 1: The Dreaded Shared Computer

There is a shared presentation computer at a conference. Typically you would bring your USB stick with your presentation onboard, load it onto the presenting computer, and go to work. I have been stung by this in the past, when the version of PowerPoint on the computer was outdated and wouldn’t run my presentation.

Running the PowerPoint presentation online would ensure that you have plenty of time to practice and that the presentation is going to run as advertised. As long as you have bandwidth, everything should work fine.

This scenario also holds for corporate boardrooms. Simply head to the boardroom, fire up the computer in that boardroom, load your presentation through the browser, and present away!

Scenario 2: Online Video

PowerPoint has added a number of features to allow video to be embedded into the presentation. Often we want our presentations to refer to video already hosted in the cloud, on a cloud service like YouTube or Vimeo. PowerPoint has a feature to link a video into a presentation and play the video within a frame on your slide.

Since you need to be online anyway to play the video, it seems natural to have the presentation loaded directly from the cloud. No software or version control. All pre-tested.


My overall impression is that it is early days for PowerPoint Online. It can create a simple presentation, or play a more complex one, but there are risks with that approach.

As always, I love having the presentation stored on my OneDrive, accessible from anywhere. I love having the option of showing my presentation on the fly using PowerPoint online.

I love that simple presentations can be shown easily in a boardroom, no extra software required. Just fire up the browser and go.

But for now, my complex presentations presented to large audiences will be loaded onto my own laptop. Fully tested.

Next week, since I am going away for a few days of downtime with my family, I will be exploring the paperless magazine. 

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