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Create free presentations without PowerPoint

Can't afford Microsoft's venerated program? Or maybe you want to build slide decks that really stand out? Try one of these PowerPoint killers.

prezi-sample.jpg
Prezi

Everybody likes to make fun of PowerPoint, but when it comes to expressing your ideas, making your pitch, and so on, the slide deck remains one of the most effective tools.

That said, PowerPoint isn't exactly free, and I suspect most seasoned users would agree it hasn't evolved much over the years. What if you want to integrate, say, a live Twitter feed in your presentation, or move beyond static slides?

Good news: There are plenty of PowerPoint alternatives, some of them free, some of them capable of adding considerably more pizzazz to your materials. In addition to the obvious PowerPoint clones -- Google Docs, OpenOffice Impress, Zoho Show and so on -- make sure to check out these three free outliers:

Bunkr

Price: Free

Claim to fame: Media-rich presentations

Summary: Currently in beta, the newly rebuilt Bunkr lets you whip up presentations inside your browser, but with a twist: It's designed to incorporate not just your own content (text, photos, etc.), but also a wide range of Web stuff.

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Bunkr Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Thus, for any given slide, you can embed photos from your cloud-storage services, video from the likes of YouTube and Vimeo, feeds from Instagram and Pinterest, charts from Infogram and Chartblocks, audio from Spotify and Soundcloud and so on. This might be single most Web-savvy presentation tool ever.

It is not, however, the most versatile. Although you can choose from a smattering of background colors for your entire presentation (not individual slides), there are no font or transition options, at least for the moment. (Bunkr is currently in beta.)

Even so, Bunkr offers a fast and easy way to produce media-rich slide decks.

Haiku Deck

Price: Free (in-app purchases available)

Claim to fame: iPad-powered (but also Web-based)

Summary: If you've ever tried to build a presentation from scratch, you know that half the battle is finding interesting and/or informative visuals to drive home your message. Haiku Deck solves that problem by providing quick and easy access to millions of Creative Commons images, with premium Getty images available for purchase if needed.

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Haiku Deck Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Cooler still, Haiku Deck automatically queues up a list of available options based on words you've added to your slides. Tap the one you want, and bam: the perfect background.

The tool started out as an iPad app, but there's now a Web-based version as well. If you're looking to build slides that are heavy on imagery, this is the place to start.

Prezi

Price: Free; Pro plans start at $10/month

Claim to fame: Animated presentations

Summary: Prezi is the anti-PowerPoint, a presentation tool that doesn't just flip or swipe from one slide to the next. It flies, Google Earth-style, from one set of data to another. Sounds simple, but when you see it action, you'll loathe the idea of going back to static slides.

This is better shown than explained, so take a look at this sample:

You can build your presentations in your browser, but if you want to work offline, you'll need to download a version for Windows, Mac, or iOS. The service is free, too, though business users may want to consider one of the premium plans. These start at $10 per month (or $59 annually) and include private presentations, considerably more storage, custom logos and 24-7 support.

Unless you create a lot of materials, a presentation subscription service may seem like overkill. But Prezi really does add some cool visual flair to the experience, and if it helps you dazzle your audience, well, it might just be worth it.

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