Presentation software is a category of application software that is specifically designed to allow users to create a presentation of ideas by stringing together text, images and audio/video. The presentation tells a story or supports speech or the presentation of information.
Presentation software can be divided into business presentation software and general multimedia authoring software, but most presentation software applications already provide tools that allow users to create both professional-looking business presentations and general multimedia presentations.
Presentation software is also known as a presentation program.
Presentation software is generally used for creating slideshows that display information. The software has three main components:
- Text editor for inputting and formatting text
- Facility for inserting graphics and other multimedia files
- Slideshow system for displaying the content
Before the advent of presentation software, presenters commonly used an easel to hold posters that contained illustrations to support the report or a slide projector to display graphics printed on a transparent plastic film. These methods were inflexible; for example, changing small things in the printed materials used could result in mismatched graphics or illustrations, sometimes requiring redoing the entire thing. With presentation software, not only authoring but also correcting illustrations can be done easily.
Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Apple’s Keynote are two of the best-known commercial presentation software applications in the market.
The Best Presentation Software
- Google Slides for collaborating on presentations
- Zoho Show for built-in broadcasting tools to stream presentations
- Slides for sharing team presentation assets
- Prezi for animated, non-linear presentations
- Microsoft Sway for quickly changing your presentation style
- Canva for creative presentations
- Adobe Spark for turning presentations into video
- Swipe for interactive presentations
- Slidebean for automatically making slides from an outline
- Evernote Presentation Mode to turn notes into a presentation
- Deckset for easy Markdown-powered presentations
- Keynote for beautiful templates
- PowerPoint Online for a simplified PowerPoint in your browser
- Google Slides
It is a traditional presentation app designed around collaboration. It works much like PowerPoint and other presentation apps you’ve used in the past, only Google Slides runs in your browser, for free. Select a theme for the slideshow, then add standard slide layouts and insert text, graphics, and slide transitions from the menus. The new Explore sidebar can suggest layouts that fit the content of your slide, for an easy way to polish your presentation. You can then present from any browser or Google Slides’ mobile apps.
Google Slides really shines when it comes to collaboration. Share a link to your presentation, and anyone you want can add details to your slides, write presentation notes, and anything else you want in your presentation. Add comments as in Google Docs to share feedback, then check back to see what was changed with Google Slides’ detailed revision log. It’s one of the best ways to collaborate on a presentation.
- Zoho Show
The newly redesigned Zoho Show is a clean take on traditional presentation apps. Slides on the left, tools on the right, and the slide you’re working on in the center. You can add new slides with standard layouts, move text and images around on slides, and keep your style consistent with themes. You can collaborate with your team, with comments added to a sidebar for each slide.
When you’re ready to show your presentation, you can flip through your slides in any browser as normal. You can also share a link to your slides so any attendees can download a copy for themselves. Or, you can broadcast the slideshow, streaming your slides online with live chat to talk with participants. It’s an easy way to present your ideas online or in person with the same presentation.
You know your boss gave a presentation about your blog stats last year, and the same presentation would work this year if you could just drop in your company’s new logo and this year’s stats. Slides is designed to let everyone in your team build from each others’ presentations. You can save a shared library of designs, graphics, logos, and more to include in presentations, and can search through everyone’s completed slide decks to find the details you want to reuse.
Then, when you go to design new slides, Slides editor makes it easier to keep things aligned with its built-in grid. Drag images, text, and more, and the editor will make sure your presentation doesn’t come out messy. It’s a bit more like a website editor than your standard presentation too—you can even customize your slide template with CSS, and present your slides online.
Tired of standard slideshows? Prezi is anything but that. It’s more like a mindmap, with a large canvas that contains your entire presentation. You can have large graphics that connect everything—perhaps a galaxy, city map, ocean ecosystem, or detailed graph—with your points and graphics nested inside. The presentation starts zoomed out to give the big picture, then Prezi will zoom in to focus on the details as you go through your presentation, zooming out and back into a different point as you move on (which you can see in Prezi’s presentation templates.
Editing slideshows in Prezi takes a bit more work than in a traditional slide-based presentation app. You’ll first add new sections to your main slide, then edit the details inside a zoomed in part of that section—complete with text, video, and more subsections to zoom in further if you want. It’s a fractal turned into a presentation.
- Microsoft Sway
PowerPoint’s detailed tools make it powerful—and distracting. You can build almost anything in PowerPoint, from a data-filled slide to a brochure for your business. But that flexibility also means it can be hard to get a basic presentation text and images lined up nicely. The new Microsoft Sway app helps by focusing on your content instead.
Start out by adding details to a Storyline or outline that can include text, images, links, and more with simple formatting options. Then, choose if you want your presentation to use standard slides or a more magazine-like right-to-left scrolling layout, and pick one of the built-in themes to format your content. It’s an easy way to turn a handful of notes and images into a unique presentation where everything isn’t forced into individual slides.
Want more customized slides, without having to create graphics on your own in Photoshop? Canva is designed for to make all types of design-focused documents: book covers, menus, magazine covers, posters, resumes, and more. Tucked among those options is a Presentation format complete with a tool to present your finished presentation right from the design app.
Canva is built around its included stock images, backgrounds, and specially formatted text boxes and page layouts that help you make polished, image-focused slides. Graphs are easy to customize, too, with premade layouts where you can add labels and numbers in a table to tweak the graph for your data. Search for any item you need then drag it into your slide or document, then click on that item to tweak its options from the menu in the top of the page. You can then share the presentation publically or present it right from Canva.
- Adobe Spark
Presentations don’t have to be individual slides you click through one at a time. They could be animated video—and Adobe Spark makes that as simple as building a PowerPoint. Designed to build graphics, web pages, and video stories, it’s the latter tool that’s a handy way to make a presentation, especially if you want one that runs itself.
Each slide is built around a graphic, which you can upload or find online via Spark’s integration with Unsplash and other popular free stock photo sites. You can tweak the image’s design with filters, then add text over the images and set how long that slide should be displayed in your presentation. Add each of your other slides, then in a few clicks you’ll have a presentation video ready to auto-play during your talk.
Already have things you want to put into your presentation—a PDF report, YouTube or Vimeo video, image, GIF, or a text outline? Swipe can turn those into a presentation in seconds. Drag your files into the editor and Swipe will add each to their own slide. Add a Markdown-formatted text file—or add a new Markdown slide manually and type in your text—for a quick way to turn your lecture notes into slides. It’s not as customizable as other presentation apps, but Swipe makes it so fast to turn existing files into a presentation, it’s worth the simplicity.
Then, you can add a Poll slide with multiple choice questions for a quick way to get audience feedback. Share a link to your presentation at the beginning of your talk, and attendees can scroll through PDF files, watch videos, and look at everything else in your presentation as you talk. They can also tap their response in your poll slides, with the answers showing up in real-time on the big screen.
- Evernote Presentation Mode
There’s another even simpler way to presents your notes: Presentation Mode in Evernote. Just write your thoughts in Evernote, complete with lists, attached files, and formatted text. Add images and PDFs to their own notes, or to the end of your main note.
When it’s time to present, select the note or notes you want to present, click the projection screen icon, and Evernote will automatically make a table of contents for your presentation sections. It’ll turn your notes into full-screen slides that, while not as simple as the slides from most other presentations, are typically easy enough to read from anywhere in the room. There are no transitions or animations, but Evernote does include a virtual laser pointer so you can point out the most important stuff.
If you want to skip the tedious process of formatting slides, but want to build detailed presentations that combine multiple items on each slide, Slidebean is right up your alley. All you have to do is write an outline of sorts, typing in headings, uploading images, and entering details for graphs. Then, select a theme and Slidebean will create a presentation for you, complete with formatting.
Slidebeam’s automated slides will try to arrange everything on slides for you, or you can rearrange the elements, dragging them around on the grid. Click an item to edit it if you need—or go back to the Outline mode to add more details. It’s an effective way both to make presentations more quickly and include more data on each slide than you could easily in most other presentation apps.