As an executive and regular public speaker, I use PowerPoint frequently. I have tried a few alternative products for creating presentations and recently I created a deck using SlideRocket for a big staff meeting.
The quality of the presentation tool sparked some interest from my colleagues and I was asked if SlideRocket is a viable replacement for PowerPoint.
Maybe for some people, but definitely not for everyone.
On the plus side, I can search Flickr from within SlideRocket. With PowerPoint, I must visit the Flickr Website, search, browse, save the image locally, insert it into PowerPoint, and then repeat the process. You can also query stock photos, music, and cartoons that are available from various for-a-cost providers like AudioMicro.com, Andertoons.com, and Fotolia.com. This time-saving feature alone is a good reason to use SlideRocket.
The SlideRocket asset library is another useful significant efficiency improvement. Rather than forcing users to upload individual images on a per-presentation basis, the asset library is shared across all presentations. Even the assets from imported PowerPoint decks are automatically stored in the asset library. Assets can also be shared with others by simply dragging and dropping them into the shared folder.
Two key differentiators of SlideRocket are the ability to host meetings for up to 50 participants and collaborative editing. Both are killer features. I really like the ability to invite others to view and edit my presentations.
The real strength of SlideRocket is related to portability, access, and distribution. Having files accessible from anywhere via the Internet is a big deal for me. Too many times I have found myself rushing to transfer a large PowerPoint file from one computer to another just prior to a presentation. Often when transferring a PowerPoint file, the computer has different versions of PowerPoint or even a different host operating system. In either case you must be wary of formatting being altered and this has, for me, led to some embarrassing situations.
SlideRocket, on the other hand, exports to SlideRocket Portable Presentation for Windows and Mac. This is a self-contained executable file that ensures you can expect zero surprises from your presentations because you're guaranteed your presentation is exactly as you created it. You can also export to PowerPoint and PDF, although these will not necessarily export with parity. Lastly, SlideRocket makes it stupid simple to export your presentations for easy sharing on the Web. Moreover, there are integrated analytics to track views.
On the downside, I found the SlideRocket editor tedious. Some core features offered a less-than-desirable user experience. One example is creating bulleted lists, which borders on painful. Also, I seem to have uncovered a bug related to large image resizing. Finally, the elegance of copy/paste across Microsoft Office applications on the desktop is sorely missed when editing in SlideRocket, especially with respect to charts and graphs from Excel. My presentations are commonly laden with graphs, charts, and Microsoft Excel data. SlideRocket is not going to compete with Microsoft PowerPoint + Excel any time soon, if ever. In general, the editing experience was clunky in places and buggy in others.
There was a lot of ugliness when I imported PowerPoint files (PPTX). Formatting was lost, images moved slightly, and most of my charts and graphs were illegible. This might be better with older versions of PowerPoint, but in my experience the import bordered on useless. The only value I derived from import was importing my images into the asset library. Other than the import and occasional editor bugs the experience was pretty solid.
SlideRocket has a free version. I encourage you to try it out. However, the only versions I could consider using, given my requirements, are the commercial versions. Pricing is $24/user for the Business plan or $12/month for the Individual plan. This puts the annual price tag at $120 for an individual and $1,200 for a five-person team. You can review the feature differentiation at the pricing page. Microsoft Office Home costs $150 and includes Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote. So SlideRocket is a significant premium that will be difficult for many penny-pinching executives like myself to justify.
I donít foresee SlideRocket replacing PowerPoint for most executives. However, I can see it being valuable for companies that rely on presentations during the sales cycle or as a tool for presenting deliverables. The ability to collaboratively edit slide decks and then present these to clients has the promise of a killer app for interactive agencies and consulting companies.
ó Aaron Roe Fulkerson is co-founder and CEO of MindTouch.