PowerPoint is the best-known software for creating slide shows, whether they're used in a grade school history class, for a corporate sales pitch, or in conference speeches. As with the rest of the Office 2007, the changes to PowerPoint are ambitious and drastic. The new interface rearranges every function you may have memorized, and the file formats are different. Plus, while you can hide the Ribbon by double-clicking on a tab, there's no going back to a "classic" view of PowerPoint that better resembles 2007's predecessors.
Our installation of various Office editions on Windows XP computers took between 10 and 20 minutes, which was quicker than previous editions of Office. You'll have to be online to access some services, such as Help and How-To as well as Clip Art and document templates. Our reviews of Microsoft Office 2007 detail the installation process and the particulars of each edition.
Interface Once PowerPoint is up and running, you'll find that each command is in a new place. The new program is more visually focused, so colorful icons describe many features. PowerPoint 2007 adopts the tabbed, top-heavy Ribbon toolbar also found in Word and Excel 2007. The File menu is gone, its commands moved beneath the Office logo in the corner. We were perplexed by the arrangement of some features on the Ribbon, mostly with features that we expected to be on the Insert tab. New Slide is on the Home tab, not on Insert, for example. Many tabs won't appear until you select an item on the page. Clicking on a picture triggers the Picture Tools formatting tab to display. The same process applies when working with images, sounds, charts, drawing tools, and SmartArt. If your computer already has software installed that integrates with Office 2007, PowerPoint and other applications will display an Add-Ins tab. In our case, the Add-Ins tab showed commands from a third-party video-capture application.
There are some useful little tweaks as well. Right-clicking the mouse when hovering over text within a slide will display a mini formatting toolbar and drop-down menu. Right-clicking the mouse within a chart brings up editing tools specific to the chart. Power users can press the ALT key to display keyboard shortcuts. We find the strongest selling point of PowerPoint 2007 to be the dynamic galleries of images that put a variety of three-dimensional styles at your fingertips and render them live on the page before you click.
Features Designed to help you get a point across with images, PowerPoint 2007 makes some useful adjustments. Drop-down menus of styles, WordArt, and slide animations let you roll your mouse over them to preview a change on the page before you finalize it. You won't need a design degree to create a good-looking slide show. The color themes are more attractive overall than in 2003, and once you pick one, your theme will apply to the other preview galleries. There are loads of new document templates, many of which you can find at Microsoft's Web site, and you can customize your own. Next to the more elegant-looking styles from PowerPoint 2007, slide shows made in PowerPoint 2003 might look pretty flat.
However, some newbies to 2007 may find it tricky to grasp the ever-changing galleries, which can be clumsy to work with. For example, you must precisely arrange your view of a page when applying styles to prevent the drop-down menu from obscuring the changes. Sometimes we couldn't benefit from the live previews because a small picture on the page was hidden by its connected style gallery. We found SmartArt less than intuitive to use. This feature lets you create attractive flowcharts, pyramids, and other diagrams, but when we selected bulleted text to convert to SmartArt, the big button on the Insert tab didn't do the trick. The correct conversion button was a tiny item beneath the Home tab (you can also right-click the mouse).