PowerPoint 2002

PowerPoint 2002 isn't a radical departure from its predecessor, but it packs a lot of new and improved features.

What's Hot

* Smart Tags make resizing text and applying layouts easier.

* Task Panes provide one-click access to design templates, colour schemes, animation, and revision changes.

* New collaboration tools simplify the presentation review and revision process.

What's Not

* The software contains no new canned presentations.

* AutoContent Wizard doesn't let you choose specific slides.

Thankfully, changes in viewing options between PowerPoint 2002 and previous PowerPoint releases dramatically reduce the amount of jumping around required to assemble a presentation. In previous versions you had to change views to see thumbnail images of your presentation. The revised Normal view has each slide's text and a thumbnail view of its graphics under tabs on the left side of the screen.

PowerPoint's Task Panes provide simple, one-click access to design templates, colour schemes, animation options, and revision tools. Though the choices for presentation templates and colours are mostly the same as what PowerPoint 2000 offered, using Task Panes to preview the options and keep track of your favourites requires less effort. New task panes for canned and custom animations make it child's play to cycle through the options until you find the animation effect that looks best.

Enhancements make presentations simpler

Editing the content of your presentation is easier with PowerPoint 2002's new Smart Tags. They give you instant choices for automatically resizing text (to accommodate changing a chart from one column to two, for example) and applying layout options (such as adding a table to a bulleted list).

PowerPoint 2002's new Diagram feature allows you to create and edit organisation charts and other diagrams directly on the slide--a much faster and less cumbersome procedure than the one used in previous versions.

Other new enhancements make it easier to share and collaborate on presentations with others via the Web. A new Send for Review option automatically activates the proper reviewing tools and attaches the presentation to an outgoing e-mail message. After your colleagues send back their comments, the improved Compare and Merge feature lets you easily combine all of the comments and implement the changes you want.

At long last, PowerPoint has added a Print Preview. You can switch between various views--such as slides, handouts, and notes--and change between landscape and portrait view. This is a welcome enhancement, especially since PowerPoint slides can soak up a lot of colour ink.

Dependable delivery, automatic file repairs When you're rushing to meet a deadline, there's nothing more aggravating than losing all of the last-minute changes you made to your presentation because of a system crash or another unexpected error. PowerPoint, like other Office XP applications, will often give you the option of saving your current files when an error occurs. The system doesn't work with all crashes, but when it does work it can save you a lot of frustration.

In addition, PowerPoint provides an Error Report dialog box for reporting an error to Microsoft (or to your own corporate IT department) for follow-up action. You can also now protect your work with a password, allowing others to view the presentation but not make changes.

Of course, the most important thing about a presentation is its delivery. To make certain your talk goes as smoothly as possible, PowerPoint has added a new Presenter view. With it (and a PC that supports multiple monitors), you can show the presentation through a projector while the screen on your notebook shows you what bullet or slide is coming next and displays your speaker notes in a scrollable box on the bottom of the screen. The Presenter option also provides a thumbnail view of all your slides in a scrollable column on the left side of the screen, to simplify jumping around in your presentation.

What's not to like in PowerPoint 2002? Fans of the program's canned presentations may be disappointed by the lack of new options. The same two dozen business, marketing, and finance topics are provided for jump-starting a presentation. And you still can't choose which slides to include in your show until after the AutoContent Wizard is finished. But, at least in this application, the overwhelming positives of the upgrade outweigh those small downsides.

E-mail client and PIM in one? Check out our report on Outlook 2002.

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Richard Jantz

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