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Google Unwraps Presentations

Not even a week after I reviewed Google's word processor and spreadsheet, the company launched a presentation program that gives it a full set of Web-based productivity tools. The news came out in a blog posting Monday night, followed soon after by an e-mail from Google's public-relations department. (Note to Google PR: This is information I could have used a week ago. I'm just sayin'...)

After a quick tryout, the new Presentations program looks like a solid but unpolished counterpart to the other Google Web programs. Like its siblings, it does an extraordinary job of making a Web site look and work exactly like a disk-based application: You can move and resize images and text boxes by dragging them around with the cursor, just like in Microsoft's PowerPoint, and right-clicking invokes a short menu with context-sensitive commands ("new slide," "change theme," "send to back," "send to front" and so on).

Presentations doesn't provide much design flexibility, though. You can choose from just six fonts and five slide layouts, and you can't change the background color or pattern at all except by picking from one of 15 prefab themes like "Chalkboard" or "Pink n' Pretty." You can insert your own images if they're under 2 megabytes each, but only if they come from your hard drive--you can't copy them over from an album saved on Google's own Picasa photo-sharing site. Odder yet, in my test Presentations rejected several JPEGs on the grounds that they were in an "invalid image format."

Presentations can import PowerPoint files up to 10 megabytes in size; two fairly dense marketing presentations came through with only cosmetic problems, such as an incorrectly indented line of text. It cannot, however, save your work as a PowerPoint file. Instead, it keeps everything in HTML format, which makes online sharing easy but makes offline storage slightly awkward, since saving a slide show to your desktop gets you a .zip archive of separate image and HTML files.

Have you tried Presentations yet? How's it been working out for you?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 19, 2007; 10:29 AM ET
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