SlideRocket gets interactive with polling, comments

Flash-based presentation tool has a few new tricks, including interactive polls, user commenting, and an enhanced analytics tool.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
Sliderocket logo

Web-based presentation creation tool SlideRocket is rolling out a handful of new features today, all of which are aimed at business users. Together, they promise to make it easier to see how the people you're sending a presentation to are viewing it, as well as help those involved in its creation get and manage feedback both before and after it goes out.

That first bit of collaboration is a new commenting tool, which lets a presentation maker ask the viewer, or any colleagues, to leave a comment on any particular slide. Viewers can place these anywhere on a slide, as well as draw an arrow to something if it's related to that comment. The presentation creator then gets an e-mail, or an alert within SlideRocket, that that message has been left, and can use that information to make changes.

Comments that have been left on slides look like this:

Comments on a SlideRocket slide.
The new commenting feature being used on a slide. Presentation owners and collaborators can sort through these by user or by slide. Sliderocket

For a slightly more democratic way to ask for feedback, or get data from presentation viewers, there's also a new built-in forms and polling system. Polls can be stuck on any slide, and run the gamut from yes or no questions, to fill-in the blanks. Those answers can be sent back to the presentation-maker and anyone else who's collaborating.

The new polling tools.
The new polling tools. Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

These two new elements are managed in two different places. For the comments, anyone who has creation access can cull through them in the presentation editor. SlideRocket even breaks comments down by user, so you can pull out just the ones from a boss or client before getting to the ones from colleagues. As for the polls and questions, the data from these gets sent to SlideRocket's analytics page, which breaks down structured information with charts and tables.

With these two new features, the analytics tool becomes far more useful than it was before, since it's able to break out all sorts of data points like how a user responded to a poll or question, alongside data like where they're from and how long they spent on any particular slide. SlideRocket views this, along with the commenting, as a way for companies working on something like a pitch to hone slides and spend more time focusing on the parts that get less user attention.

Beyond analytics, notifications for views, comments, poll and form interactions, and just about everything else are now more tightly organized within SlideRocket's dashboard. Anytime something new happens to a presentation, the owner and any collaborators will get an alert about it in one place, which arguably makes it easier to manage changes compared to e-mail alone. The entire history of that presentation is also tracked here, letting users roll back any slide, or the entire presentation back to an earlier version if need be.

One thing to note is that SlideRocket still makes nearly exclusive use of Adobe's Flash. This means presentations that have been made with its Flash-based tools (like the one embedded below) cannot be created on a device like the iPhone or the iPad. SlideRocket's video player, however, makes use of HTML5.

According to SlideRocket's CEO Chuck Dietrich, the reasoning for continuing to stick with Flash revolves around the service's tool set. "We sure hope HTML5 will get there, and I hope we don't relive the battles of the browser wars," he said. "We could care less whether we're on Flash or HTML5. We just want to give customers the best experience and have it run on any device."

Dietrich said that SlideRocket has worked and will continue to work with outside companies on integrating HTML5 technologies, but that in the meantime the company isn't willing to bet all the chips on a horse that hasn't been proven. "We're waiting for more standardization," he said.

Commenting and polling will be available to paid pro members of SlideRocket's service beginning today. Users of the company's free service will get a more limited version of the analytics and polling tools.

Previously: SlideRocket isn't yet PowerPoint's undoing. But it might be