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My experiences working with Google Docs Presentations

posted under category: General on March 5, 2009 by Nathan

I gave a recent presentation for the AZCFUG on Ant and Groovy. One interesting point about it was that I used Google Docs to do the whole presentation, including creating it, presenting it and publishing the slides the next day. Here are my thoughts, weighed out in a pro / con table.

The BadThe Good
Lack of fancy special effects or animations, only a single text fade in effect.No eye-gouging awful effects, the text fade looks nice.
Somewhat slow editing, just due to the fact that it's online instead of local, and it's HTML and Javascript instead of a native desktop application.Not so slow that it matters, will improve with the faster javascript engines coming in 2009.
Also, the features keep coming as the tools improve, no need to wait for the next $900 release of MS Office, incremental changes are just weeks away.
Have to be online to use it.Collaborative editing, collaborative viewing (I didn't use either of these, but may, in the future). Can access the presentation from anywhere on the internet.
Presentation mode has awful white lines on the top and right side, and a black utility bar at the bottom (I was using Firefox).The fact that it even has an online presentation mode is great.
The utility bar is very handy, not terribly in the way.
Can't control the presentation next/previous from the presenter's screen (when presenting with dual-screens). Controlling the presentation on the primary screen requires clicking on the slide, where the cursor gets in the way, or by clicking on the arrows in the lower left corner. These arrows can get in the way of the content. Either way, I would rather not have the cursor on the presentation screen at all.Speaker notes pop up in a separate window for dual-screen presentations.
Unlike Flash's full screen mode, it doesn't go back to the embedded size when it loses focus.
Unlike QuickTime or other embedded media players, it is very predictable.
Published slides required an iframe tag on my HTML Strict doctyped web site. Would have liked to foce visibility of my speaker notes on the published embedded slideshow.Published presentation was 1 line of HTML and was all HTML based (as opposed to Flash). Can publish on a web page, but viewers can get closer and use the full-screen view, see the speaker notes and even download it.
Exporting to a PPT file lost my gradual loading effects (eg. show 1 bullet at a time).It can export to PDF and PPT with fair enough quality. I had done this for a just-in-case-the-internet-fails backup. Plan B would have been degraded, had I needed it.
Less features than PowerPoint.Less annoyance than PowerPoint.
Had all the features I needed, not much more to get in my way.
It was evident, in stark opposition to PowerPoint, that this was about content and presentations, not about useless frustration, lining up pixels or worrying about fonts.
Limited design templates.Current template selection was adequate, I found one I liked.
Minor UI annoyances:
  sometimes wonky box selection
  smallest font size too large
  limited link type selection, no linking to slides, documents
  no shift-drag for straight line object moving
Great UI examples:
  drag & drop slides
  context menus always had the right actions
  so solid and easy, I didn't even consider using the help system
Interface was not customizable like MS Office, move toolbars, etc.Not bothersome, as it felt so good that I wouldn't want to change it around.

Overall, I had a great experience. Google Docs is constantly moving forward and this latest version of their presentation system was fantastic. I will definitely be using it in the future.

Nathan is a software developer at The Boeing Company in Charleston, SC. He is essentially a big programming nerd. Really, you could say that makes him a nerd among nerds. Aside from making software for the web, he plays with tech toys and likes to think about programming's big picture while speaking at conferences and generally impressing people with massive nerdiness and straight-faced sarcastic humor. Nathan got his programming start writing batch files in DOS. It should go without saying, but these thought and opinions have nothing to do with Boeing in any way.
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