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Google Docs delivers presentation basics

You can create, edit, and preview PowerPoint PPT files in your browser by uploading them to Google's online presentation app, but Microsoft's PowerPoint Web App has more features.

In last Wednesday's post pitting Microsoft's Office Web Apps against Google Docs, I said Google Docs doesn't support PowerPoint presentations. Wrong.

Google Docs wouldn't open my test PPTX file, but the service lets you create and edit presentations in the older PowerPoint PPT format, albeit without most of the desktop app's formatting options. You won't find much in the way of transitions, effects, and other advanced features in Google Docs, either. The best feature of Google's online presentation tool is its clean interface, which isn't a surprise considering the company behind the service.

Google Docs presentation app
The no-frills interface of Google Docs' presentation app puts its limited features within easy reach. Google

Google Docs' presentation app lacks some of the extras found in Zoho Show, and it can't match the tight integration of Microsoft's PowerPoint Web App with its Office counterpart. But to create a quick-and-simple presentation with a handful of plain-vanilla slides, or for a light edit of an existing presentation, Google Docs is the only presentation software you need.

Despite the Office "ribbonette," more similarities than differences
While Google Docs' presentation app puts its formatting and other options on a conventional menu, PowerPoint Web App uses a modified version of the Office 2007/2010 ribbon. The View and Insert ribbons have only a handful of settings; the Home ribbon houses the formatting options, so it functions much like a toolbar. The Picture Tools ribbon appears when you select an image, but it offers just eight picture-format options.

Microsoft PowerPoint Web App
The Home ribbon in Microsoft's PowerPoint Web App holds the service's formatting options. Microsoft

PowerPoint Web App includes many more font choices than the Google Docs presentation app, but both services let you add notes to your presentations, share them with others, and add, remove, or duplicate slides. Google Docs makes it easy to import slides from your desktop; I could find no easy way to do so in PowerPoint Web App.

PowerPoint 2010 lets you broadcast your presentation
It's one thing to share a presentation via e-mail link or attachment, but it's quite another to invite viewers to a live broadcast of your presentation. PowerPoint 2010 lets you do just that, in conjunction with a separate telephone connection so viewers can hear your narration.

In PowerPoint 2010, click File > Save & Send > Broadcast Slide Show > Broadcast Slide Show (a second time). In the Broadcast Slide Show dialog, click Start Broadcast. PowerPoint automatically connects you to a broadcast service and generates a link you can send to recipients via e-mail.

Once the audience has opened the link, click Start Slide Show to open the slide show viewer. The presentation proceeds at your speed. Press Esc to return to PowerPoint, where you can end the broadcast, resume it from the current slide, or restart it.

Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 Broadcast Slide Show feature
PowerPoint 2010 lets you broadcast a presentation that your audience views in a browser. Microsoft

Despite the need to establish a separate telephone link to the presentation viewers to allow them to hear your narration, there's no simpler, quicker way to get your slide show on the road. (The Microsoft Developer Network PowerPoint Team Blog describes many other broadcast options, including a short video demo.)