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Review of Prezi presentation tool

with one comment

I have been playing around with Prezi (http://prezi.com/), the online presentation tool. It’s a cool thing that lets you create presentations that are visually different from Powerpoint/Keynote. Like all these tools it will let you create bad presentations very quickly. If you want to create something compelling and appealing it will take planning and thought. Looking at the presentations on their site most people go way overboard on the zooming and rotation and the result is confusing and disorienting.

Summary:

A cool tool but the design environment is very constraining and frustrating. Great for educational and light usage but not really suitable for large-scale or every day scenarios.

Pros:

  • Zoom/Pan/Rotate: These give a new alternative to the standard Powerpoint feel.
  • Parallax Background: A nice effect. They call it 3D but it’s really just parallax of the background image.
  • Simple to Use: It’s easy to create simple presentations.
  • Cost: If you don’t mind all your presentations being public you can use the free version. The paid versions are not cheap in the long run.

Cons:

  • Still Linear: They say is it non-linear and 3D but it is not. It is a zoom-able 2D canvas and can only create one path through the presentation with no branches or loops. It’s a linear flow through a 2D space. You can jump to different parts of the path if you can see them on the screen but constructing a truly non-linear path is clunky.
  • Basic Editing: No ability to directly set the size or rotation of objects using a properties editor. It’s hard to get objects exactly the same size and shape and rotation. It has a small color palette with no color gradients.
  • Z-Ordering: Prezi supports z-ordering but there is no way to control it. If you want to change to z order of an object you have to copy/delete/paste the object and any that overlap it until you have the right ordering.
  • Text Editing: Text controls are too rudimentary for a presentation tool. Text has a very small color palette with no way to set RGB values except at the theme level – you have to go to CSS editing to get better control.  No way to stretch text except proportionally. To get good control over text you need create text objects in Inkscape or Illustrator and import them into Prezi.
  • Designer: Selecting objects and basic navigating can be extremely frustrating. A toolbar for basic operations would be really helpful.
  • Animations/Build: Only one – build (appear). No build-outs. If you want to combine builds with overlapping frames some things are hard/impossible as you cannot control which frames “own” which objects.
  • Transitions: Only three – Slide, rotate, zoom. You cannot choose which, Prezi chooses for you based on the arrangement of your slides. No ability to set the speed of the transition you have to rely on the side effects of the slide arrangements. In auto-play mode you can only set the same timing for every transition in the deck, not for each individual transition.
  • Viewer controls: On a computer you use the left/right arrow keys to move, and once you get to the end you can right-click/control-click to rewind. On a tablet you cannot swipe, you click on the left/right edges which means you cannot put click-able objects close to the edges (to jump to other parts of the path). Also on tablets there is no rewind option, making it awkward for demo/booth usage.
  • No Save-As: Seriously? If you are about to embark on major modifications to a presentation you have no way to manage backups. You have to download a copy locally and then modify it and push it back to the server to overwrite your changes.
  • Vector Graphic Support: For a graphical tool that supports zooming and rotation, vector graphics are important. The only import vector formats Prezi supports are PDF and SWF – you cannot use SVG or AI or EPS. Using vector graphics that include transparency is really hard.
  • No Ability to Turn Off Transitions: Online meeting tools like Webex, Netmeeting etc will have major problems with the transition animation. There is no way to remove transitions and just jump between the frames.
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Written by James

March 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm

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One Response

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  1. Well thought out and researched article! As a longtime Prezi user, I find it important to reflect on a new user’s impressions of the tool and you had plenty of great input.

    A couple of suggestions for a few points:

    Z-Ordering: While still basic, there is a “Send to back / front / forward / backward” option when you right click on an object to help you with your ordering. Definitely would be great to see a more advanced version like PowerPoint’s though.

    Viewer Controls (on tablet): I use the Prezi app on my iPad all the time and find it a very useful tool. To reset your presentation, hold down the left button (back button) for a few seconds and your Prezi will revert back to the first frame. Also, I’m pretty sure you can change a setting outside of the actual app that puts it in presentation mode so it will auto-loop the Prezi on the tablet.

    Save As: I agree that it would be nice to have more control of the saving function, but as you indicated, you can create copies of your Prezi before trying anything major so you can always revert back to the previous version. On large projects, I sometimes end up creating 10-15 versions of the Prezi just in case I find something went wrong and want to revert.

    Thanks again, it was a great review!


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