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Microsoft PowerPoint 12 (beta 1)

PowerPoint 12 reorganizes its interface and dresses up presentations with a vast library of templates.

Microsoft PowerPoint 12 (beta 1)

• See the PowerPoint 12 slide show

Overview: Microsoft is redesigning the interface of PowerPoint 12 to mirror the changes being made across the Office 12 suite, allowing Word 12 and Excel 12 to share the same charts and diagrams. Dumping the toolbar boxes and the drop-down menus of the past, each PowerPoint 12 window features a tabbed banner, called a ribbon, that surfaces commands in response to your task at hand. The early beta version of PowerPoint 12 that we tested reveals a new graphics engine, code-named IGX, that aims to turn up the wow factor on your presentations. See our slide show for images of PowerPoint 12's new look and feel.

Upside: Happily for presentation creators who are tired of the look and feel of earlier versions of PowerPoint, version 12 spices up its graphics with more depth and shading and offers a slew of new colors, templates, libraries, and fonts. PowerPoint 12 can save custom layouts--helpful if you want, say, your company's trademark orange-and-gray color scheme to appear across multiple files. PowerPoint 12 makes previews live as you mouse through the selections in galleries. As with Word 12, you'll be able to highlight a chunk of text in PowerPoint and instantly convert it to a chart or a diagram.

Downside: As with Word and Excel within Office 12, people who upgrade from earlier versions are likely to face an uphill battle getting used to the major interface overhaul. And although PowerPoint 12 (beta 1) provides various new choices for decorating slide shows, it misses the opportunity to improve in other areas. Splashy new graphics aside, we don't notice any better ways to integrate multimedia content, such as music or videos, into PowerPoint files. Nor does this update offer better time-tracking or other tools to help you manage your presentations in real time.

Outlook: As PowerPoint 12 moves through the early stages of beta testing, we wonder whether the initial shock of relearning where to find functions of PowerPoint 12 (beta 1) will wear off and be replaced by the greater efficiency Microsoft is touting. Yet among all of the programs within Microsoft Office 12, the new image galleries and templates seem most relevant to the image-conscious PowerPoint. Our slide show offers you more images of PowerPoint 12's new look and feel.

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