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By Bonnie Bills | Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Office 2010 for Business: Focus on PowerPoint

lynda.com has been rolling out courses on Office 2010 since the suite launched to business customers last month, and I’ve been talking with our Office 2010 authors about their experiences with this latest version. In today’s Q&A, I talk with David Diskin, author of PowerPoint 2010 New Features and PowerPoint 2010 Essential Training.

Q: PowerPoint 2010 released to the general public last week. Why should users consider upgrading?

A: There are actually quite a few reasons. In fact, of all the new Office 2010 apps, I think PowerPoint got the best enhancements. Features that a lot of users have been asking for are finally here. For example, one of the most common questions I get asked as a trainer is How can I convert my slideshow into a DVD or put it on YouTube? Before, you couldn’t without expensive, buggy third-party tools. Now, it’s built right into the Save menu and is super easy to do.

There are a bunch of other enhancements, too, and many of them are subtle. One of them is the new way transitions are rendered—transitions are the animations you see when going from one slide to the next. PowerPoint 2010 takes advantage of your fancy video card to make the movement smoother, less jagged, and gives you a bunch of new 3D options which are really neat to look at.

Q: What’s the best new feature in PowerPoint 2010 for making presentations more visually compelling?

A: Just one? Alright. It’s the new background removal tool for images. You know how you bring a photo or logo onto a slide, and it’s got a background that you don’t want—like a white square or other artifacts like a skyline or the rest of the scene? PowerPoint 2010 offers a slick new feature to remove the background from an image in just a few clicks. It lets you get really creative with your own photos, stock photos, or logos by removing the parts you don’t want. It’s amazing to see it in action and so easy to use.

Q: PowerPoint 2010 has new capabilities for sharing a presentation over the web. What are the issues to be aware of when using this feature?

A: That’s right, you can now upload your presentation temporarily to Microsoft’s servers and send a link to anyone you want for a live presentation over the web while you do a conference call. When you click next on your PC, everyone’s screen automatically slides forward too.

This feature has a few limitations, though. For example, it doesn’t yet work with embedded video or audio, and your transitions are all converted to Fade. Animations work, and so do all your images, graphics, charts, and diagrams. And there are no worries about fonts. But the problem most people will see right away is that your mouse pointer (plus the pen, laser, and highlight features) don’t broadcast. So, you can’t point with your mouse to the connected audience.

I think for their first attempt at something like this, they’ve done a good job, and I’m sure we can expect some enhancements down the road.

Q: In addition to training people in how to use Office, you help businesses craft PowerPoint presentations. What’s your top tip for making more effective presentations?

A: Keep the slides simple. I always see slides crammed with too much content and that just doesn’t work. The audience doesn’t know whether to listen to the speaker or read the slide. If you have a lot to say, summarize it on the slide and give the audience handouts or refer them to your website for the details.

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