For the past two years, PowerPoint has sat on Microsoft's back burner. Version 2002 yields only a trickle of useful new tools--limited to multiple masters, print preview, and easier slide editing--certainly not enough to merit the $109 upgrade from PowerPoint 2000. And if you run Windows 95, you're out of luck: The upgrade won't even work for you. Nonetheless, PowerPoint is still the best slide-show maker on the market. If you're stuck with an older edition (PowerPoint 97 or earlier), or you don't yet own a presentation package, grab 2002 when Microsoft starts selling it in late spring.For the past two years, PowerPoint has sat on Microsoft's back burner. Version 2002 yields only a trickle of useful new tools--limited to multiple masters, print preview, and easier slide editing--certainly not enough to merit the $109 upgrade from PowerPoint 2000. And if you run Windows 95, you're out of luck: The upgrade won't even work for you. Nonetheless, PowerPoint is still the best slide-show maker on the market. If you're stuck with an older edition (PowerPoint 97 or earlier), or you don't yet own a presentation package, grab 2002 when Microsoft starts selling it in late spring.
More of the same
If PowerPoint 2002 gives you déjà vu, that's because it's the spitting image of past versions. Microsoft made some superficial interface modifications--the navigation bar at the left now shows thumbnail views of slides, for instance--but otherwise, PowerPoint 2000's infinitely usable three-pane workspace remains intact. (We like this view because it puts the slide-design display, your supplementary notes, and your presentation outline all on one screen.)
Another important legacy lives on: PowerPoint 2002 uses the same file format as PowerPoint 2000 (and the even earlier version 97), so you'll still be able to open and edit old presentations, and anyone running an older version of the app can use your files too.
A few good moves
PowerPoint looks familiar inside and out. Version 2002 struts fewer new features and tools than any other Office XP app (in the Standard suite). And in many cases, particularly in Print Preview, these features and tools are new only to PowerPoint; they've been available in other presentation makers for ages.
For example, PowerPoint now lets you create presentations with multiple design templates (PowerPoint calls them masters), a boon if you build sophisticated slide shows that switch designs partway through, or if you need to combine two or more presentations into one file. The new Print Preview feature, a humiliating omission in previous PowerPoint versions, finally makes an appearance here; you can now preview print jobs in a variety of formats. But although multiple masters and previewing are significant changes, they don't make this a gotta-get upgrade for PowerPoint 2000 users.
Other newcomers to PowerPoint include image rotation (which lets you flip or twist any image or WordArt object on a slide; get it via the Drawing toolbar or by clicking and dragging the object itself), a design grid that helps you line things up (choose it with the View/Grid and Guides menu), and password protection to keep prying eyes away from your presentation. Finally, 2002's Slide pane (alongside the Outline pane, which debuted in PowerPoint 2000) displays thumbnails of all your slides, so you can easily switch among slides or rearrange their order without resorting to the Slide Sorter view.
Friendly with Office XP
Naturally, PowerPoint 2002 blends in well with the other pieces of Office XP. It can use Word outlines as the foundation for a slide-show organization and grab tables from Excel. Plus, PowerPoint's most useful enhancements come courtesy of Office XP's suitewide additions. As a result, it needs 115MB of disk space when installed solo but only 50MB as part of Office.
The Task Pane is our favorite such cross-suite addition. This new pane puts toolsets in view, saving you from having to dig through menus and dialog boxes. PowerPoint uses its Task Panes to serve up easy-to-use animation, color, layout, and a design toolset. For our money, the Task Pane dramatically boosts productivity and speeds slide editing; we finessed slide animation and layouts in half the time it took to do so in PowerPoint 2000.
Office XP also lends to PowerPoint its document recovery and collaborative review features. If PowerPoint produces a fatal error that threatens to shut down the program, for instance, it first gives you a chance to save the presentation. Want to send your slide shows to others for approval? Now, when you attach a presentation to an e-mail message, recipients using any version of PowerPoint will find the review tools already turned on and ready to use. Once they return the file to you, your copy of PowerPoint 2002 merges the changes with the original via a single click.
Get it or forget it?
If you're using PowerPoint 2000, don't bother shelling out $109 for the upgrade, collaboration tools or no. While we think 2002's enhancements make presentation creation easier, they're not necessities. Still using PowerPoint 97? Then it's time to make the move.