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PowerPoint Gets New Tools To Spiff Up Your Presentations

Gone are the days when Microsoft waits for entirely new versions of its software products to make updates — and the latest PowerPoint upgrade is once such example. After hitting the market two months ago as part of the Office 2016 suite, Redmond is rolling out a new wave of monthly updates for Office 365 subscribers.

In November, PowerPoint is front and center. The updates include tools — Designer (pictured, above left) and Morph (above right) — that help regular Joes build designer grade layouts and transitions, according to Microsoft. Office Insider, a preview program, is also part of the November wave.

“PowerPoint Designer and Morph are new intelligent tools that work for you by automating the creation of slides and presentations, helping everyone get more out of Office,” said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, in a statement. “With a cloud-powered recommendation engine and smart animation technology, these new PowerPoint capabilities help anyone create polished slides and captivating motion effects with just a few quick steps.”

Designer-Grade Slides Anyone?

Can anyone really create designer-grade slides? With drag-and-drop image tools it appears to be a lot easier than with previous versions. Designer prompts you with ideas to make your presentations visually attractive. Just pick the one you like best and roll on to memorizing your presentation.

Microsoft isn’t taking all the credit for the nifty tool. The company leaned on graphic designers to come up with over 12,000 blueprints. Leveraging cloud intelligence, the software analyzes the best portions of your images to make design recommendations.

Koenigsbauer offered an example: “If the visual contains a natural scene, Designer can zoom, crop and frame it. But if the image contains a chart, it focuses in on the relevant region to ensure the important data is highlighted. Designer then selects from the 12,000-plus blueprints to provide multiple layout options to help you make the most of your image.”

Transitioning PowerPoint

For its part, Morph creates cinematic motion, animating between your slides — whether they’re 3-D shapes or words and characters. All you have to do is duplicate the slides you want to “morph” together, then position the objects so they animate the way you see it in your head and click “morph.”

Morph doesn’t just animate regular text or images, it can also animate 3-D shapes or be applied at a word or even character level, including text wrapping, according to Microsoft. Simply duplicate slides you want morphed together, move the objects based on how you want them to animate and click the “morph” button.

We caught up with Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, to get his thoughts on the new updates. He told us this is indicative of Microsoft’s overall direction to leverage functionality that’s working well.

“PowerPoint is a product that has been a little stale and it’s evolving,” Miller said. “When Sway came along, people thought it was a new version of PowerPoint so it’s good to see some new functions as part of this iterative development cycle.”

Sway is a story-telling app that Microsoft has billed as an “entirely different way to express yourself and bring ideas to life.” You could think of it as PowerPoint built from the ground up specifically for the Web and mobile devices, according to Microsoft. Sway adapts to fit the device you’re using for the ideal interactive presentation.

Overall, Microsoft is transitioning PowerPoint from a misused text-heavy presentation tool to a platform where users can create dashboards with visualizations and graphics that tell the story, Miller said.