Four tools for non-linear presentations

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Article from Issue 144/2012
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Thousands of users sit through talks twiddling their thumbs while looking at bullet point parades against garish backgrounds. Four tools in the current test prove that presentations can be visually appealing, dynamic, and even exciting.

Most people listening to a lecture will not openly ask the heretical question: “Is he just using PowerPoint, or does he have a message?” However, it does reveal a dent in the market leader’s halo. The software isn’t necessarily to blame, even though it does tempt lecturers to create slides as cues, rather than underlining their message with meaningful visual information. It is more of a problem with the rigid format in PowerPoint, OpenOffice Impress, and the like, and it is always hard to keep track of a presentation with complex slides.

When an artist and a computer scientist got together in 2007 to define an alternative to dusty deserts of slides, they had no need to reinvent the wheel. Adam Somlai-Fischer and Peter Halacsy polished up the old kindergarten technique of wall collages by adding a clear guide line, and Prezi is their interactive presentation workspace for the browser. The platform-independent tool served as a template and inspiration for the other test candidates and is thus the first to enter the ring. From the rich choice of open source me-toos, the test team also picked the browser-based tools dizzy.js and impress.js, as well as the Inkscape add-on Sozi. All of our presentation experiments used Firefox 14.0.1 and Inkscape 0.48 on Linux Mint version 12.0 and Ubuntu 12.04, as well as Chromium 18.0 (only on Ubuntu 12.04).

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