We're big fans of Web-based productivity apps here at Webware, but we also like tools that bring Web 2.0 features, such as easy collaboration and access from anywhere, to the apps we know and use already. Xcellery (see Xcellery review) does that for Excel, and a new app, SlideAware, does a similar thing for PowerPoint.
SlideAware has two components. First, there's a plug-in you add to your PowerPoint toolbar (it doesn't work for Office 2007 yet, so I couldn't test this component). The plug-in lets you zap your PowerPoint presentations directly to the SlideAware service.
From the SlideAware Web site, you can create simple URLs for each of your presentations. When somebody wants to watch or join a presentation, all they have to do is go to the URL. Either you (the presenter) can have control over which slide is presented onscreen, or the user can walk through the presentation. It's not immediately obvious how to select the control mode, though, and you can't change control during a presentation. In other words, if you're leading a presentation, you can't hand the steering wheel to the viewer midstream.
I like the protection and stats that SlideAware provides. You can protect presentations with passwords, put expiration dates on them, or limit the number of views before a slide show becomes inaccessible. You also get a nice stats viewer that shows you how long your viewers are spending on each slide (for the viewer-led shows only). Mostly, I like that it's easy: from within PowerPoint, you can kick off the process to make a presentation Web-accessible. However, you can only upload a slide show to the service from the plug-in. There's no upload feature on the site itself. That's an annoying omission.
The service is still young and there are important features that have yet to be added. The SlideAware team plans to add annotation features, for example. Also in the works, a work-group library feature that will provide teams with a better way to manage PowerPoint libraries and boilerplate presentation templates.
Despites its light feature set, PowerPoint users may find SlideAware extremely useful. It essentially Web 2.0-enables Microsoft's product. Until Microsoft provides that feature itself (which it may well do), it's a very good option.
The services is free at sign up. Paid subscriptions will allow corporate branding on the presentation viewer, access to the statistics feature, and unlimited presentation storage.
SlideAware was demonstrated to the audience at the Under the Radar conference. The audience also was exposed to a competing vision, best represented by another product, Spresent. The product (see previous Spresent review) is a very good online presentation tool, but instead of taking your library of PowerPoint presentations and making it ready for the Web, Spresent offers a more cohesive online experience since it was designed from scratch for the online platform. For best results, users need to create their presentations on the Spresent site. You'll get neater slide shows than what SlideAware can display, but it means learning a new presentation tool. Founder Alexander Kouznetsou and I had a loud discussion about the benefits (which he was pitching) and pitfalls (me--or the sake of argument) of asking presenters to start over with a new tool. We both felt we won. In other words, we couldn't agree. What's your take?