From school classrooms to Apple product launches, slideshow presentations have quickly become the standard accompaniment to lectures. You can’t give a speech without a slideshow, it seems. And they all feel same. Presentations are dominated by Microsoft PowerPoint and Apple Keynote, apps that are all but omnipresent.
There are good reasons they’re so popular: PowerPoint and Keynote come packaged with Microsoft Office and new Macs, respectively, and they’ve been around for a long time. They’re also full of valuable features, from dozens of slide templates to a variety of polished transitions. But knowing how to take advantage of all they offer gets so complicated that there are entire books and courses about them.
Making a delightful and well-designed presentation shouldn’t be so hard. That’s the aim of a wave of new presentation software, including simpler online versions of PowerPoint and Keynote themselves. These new tools are easier to use, give you the ability to collaborate with others—sometimes in real-time—and allow you to edit your presentation on any internet-connected computer.
What Makes Great Presentation Software Great?
There are occasions that call for a beautifully crafted presentation. That’s when you should call a designer or use a service like SketchDeck to craft professional PowerPoint or Keynote slides. Most of the time, though, you just need a simple way to present your thoughts, and perhaps let your colleagues contribute. That’s where these new presentation apps excel.
When looking for apps to include in this roundup, we selected tools that:
- Make it quick to build a presentation
- Have a clean design that’s simpler than the traditional PowerPoint
- Include unique features that bring something new to the table
- Let you easily collaborate on presentations
With each presentation app listed, you’ll find a screenshot and description of the app, what it does best, and its starting price. Most of these apps are free, but even if there’s a cost, the product is priced competitively with PowerPoint and Keynote.
What you won’t find in this list are apps only available for mobile, apps with an emphasis on video, or apps built specifically for sales presentations.
The Best Presentation Software
- Google Slides for real-time Google Docs collaboration
- Zoho Show for built-in broadcasting options
- Slides for a modern take on presentations
- Prezi for animated, non-linear presentations
- Canva for creative presentations
- Swipe for audience engagement features
- Haiku Deck for great mobile editing
- Slidebean for automatic slide creation
- Deckset for easy Markdown-powered presentations
- Evernote Presentation Mode to turn notes into a presentation
- PowerPoint Online for Microsoft Office compatibility
- Keynote for iCloud for beautiful templates
The Best Apps to Share Presentations
- SlideShare for sharing your presentation
- Speaker Deck for embedding presentations on your site
- SlideDog for mixing in multimedia and live-sharing
- Poll Everywhere for polling your audience
- Presentain for easy presentation recording and posting
- Present.me for publishing an online presentation
Google Slides for real-time collaboration
Google Slides has become the gold standard of collaborative cloud-based presentation software. It’s a part of the popular Google Docs suite, and is a solid—if bare-boned—presentation app. After selecting a pre-made theme for the slideshow, you’ll make your presentation in a simple online app that’s similar to other Google tools. You’ll find most of the standard presentation software features, including animations and slide transitions, and it’s very beginner friendly—anyone should be able to pick up Google Slides and quickly begin making presentations.
Google Slides really shines when it comes to collaboration. All you need is a Google account to be added to a Google Slide presentation to begin making real-time edits. Collaborators can chat with the built-in IM functionality, so group projects become a lot easier. Additionally, all edits are logged, so you can view all revisions made by your collaborators.
Google Slides Pricing: Free; extra storage from $1.99/month for 100GB
Zoho Show for built-in broadcasting options
Zoho Show is part of the Zoho Docs suite, an online alternative to Microsoft Office and Google Docs. It offers a no-frills way to make slideshows from your web browser. Zoho Show’s interface is reminiscent of both newer and older versions of PowerPoint, with a tabbed interface and simple drop-down menus. If you’re used to PowerPoint, you will love how Zoho Show lets you create content instantly by clicking into pre-made text boxes to add text to slides and apply themes with a single click.
Its best feature, though, may be “broadcast”, which lets you remotely present slideshows in real time to anyone on the web. Viewers can view the broadcast in their browser after you’ve shared it with an email or link, and when combined with a conference call, it can make for a great remote lecture tool. Even if you’ll be presenting in person, you could use this to practice your presentation ahead of time.
Zoho Show Pricing: Free; extra storage and features from $5/month
Slides for a modern take on presentations
If you want to get creative and customize your own slide themes, the simply named app Slides is perfect for you. This HTML5-based presentation tool lets you create your own slide styles using beautiful fonts, shapes, smooth transitions, and color sets that look great in any modern browser. These presentations are then hosted on the web and can be shared with ease.
Slides’ best feature is its clean interface—modern and fresh, with a unique design that shows tools as you need them in a sidebar. It doesn’t require digging through menus to get to special design tools, which is something that can’t be said for other presentation apps.
If you’re a web developer or designer, Slides is especially great for you. It includes code syntax highlighting out-of-the-box, and with its Pro plan, you can add custom CSS to your presentations for easy styling and branding.
Slides Pricing: Free for public presentations; $5/month Lite plan for private presentations and more; $10/month Pro plan for collaboration and more; $20/mo Team plan for custom branding.
Prezi for animated, non-linear presentations
Prezi is a new take on the traditional slideshow. Combining animation with the information you’d include in a traditional presentation, it’s a simple way to make a dynamic, non-linear show that’s far more than just a slideshow.
When creating a Prezi, you’re prompted to select a theme that goes with the topic of your presentation and add content to frames within the presentation. These frames can be animated signs, planets floating in space (pictured), or a slew of other objects depending on the theme you choose. Frames take the place of slides; they still have text and headings, but their backgrounds are all shared and technically everything is part of one large slide.
As you proceed through your presentation, Prezi will zoom in and out of the background to show each of your frames. Instead of a parade of static images, your presentation will be a dynamic visual tool, perfect for keeping your presentations interesting even if your subject matter is dull. And you’ll have spent less time making the Prezi than you would have spent picking out boring PowerPoint transitions for each slide.
Prezi Pricing: Free for public presentations; $7/mo “Standard” plan for private presentations; $19/mo “Plus” plan for offline editing and advanced tools; $59/mo “Premium” plan for training, phone support, and analytics.
Canva for creative presentations
Though Canva is primarily a design app, you can make some pretty wicked slideshows with it. The app includes a large library of stock images, backgrounds, and specially formatted text boxes that, with a bit of creativity, can be used to make polished image-focused slides. The whole interface is drag-and-drop, so you can tweak your slideshow to look exactly the way you want.
Canva also has a wide range of built-in layouts for any occasion: from professional presentations to travel guides. These layouts can be customized using the same drag-and-drop tools and are be great starting points for corporate branded presentations.
Canva Pricing: Free, with paid images and layouts starting at $1
Swipe for interactive slides
Swipe, another great tool for simple presentations, lets you quickly make slides by dragging and dropping in the multimedia elements you want to include. It then lets you pick solid color backgrounds and add text with Markdown formatting. Then, present your presentation online, letting others follow along in real time.
We’ve seen those features before in other separate apps, but bringing them together makes for a compelling—if basic—presentation app. But then, in a surprising twist, it also lets you add polls to your slides to gather live feedback from your audience. While you’re giving your presentation, anyone following along on their own device can answer your poll and the results will be shown in real-time.
Swipe Pricing: Free for 2 presentations; starting at $15/mo for unlimited presentations and extra features.
Haiku Deck for great mobile editing
Haiku Deck is a basic presentation software with a limited selection of themes, slide layouts, and formatting options. Its navigation is extremely simple with all of the options and tools available from the home screen. If you’re wanting a no-frills presentation creation experience, you’ll love this app.
When you create a presentation on Haiku Deck, you have the option of uploading it to the service’s gallery of presentations. This searchable library is available for viewing for free and is a great way to share your knowledge with the world.
But Haiku Deck’s most useful and unique feature is their artificial intelligence tool, Haiku Deck Zuru. Zuru works with an outline or existing presentation and builds your slides for you, assembling slide formats and choosing images and styles. This tool is ideal for someone who needs a sleek presentation but doesn’t have the time or skill to assemble the slide deck themselves.
Haiku Deck Pricing: Free for 1 public presentation; private plans starting at $9.99/mo for the basic plan.
Slidebean for automatic slide creation
If you want to skip the tedious process of formatting presentations, Slidebean is right up your alley. When starting a new presentation, all you have to do is curate the text, images, and videos you want to include. Then, select a theme and Slidebean will create a presentation for you, complete with formatting.
After making final edits to your slideshow, you can choose to download your presentation or present it from the web. This—combined with Slidebean’s quick slide creation—makes the service a great option if you find yourself needing to create a presentation in a pinch.
Slidebean Pricing: Plans start at $24/mo.
Deckset for easy Markdown-powered presentations
If you keep good notes but dislike the process of turning said notes into presentations, Deckset for Mac is just what you need. Simply take notes in your favorite text editor, format them with Markdown (pictured), and separate them into sections with dashes. Then import them to Deckset, select a template, and Deckset will do the rest—it takes your notes and creates slides without any help, making for no-hassle last-minute presentations.
If you’re a writer who uses Markdown, you’ll love how easy Deckset makes it is to turn your writing into a presentation. And if you’re a developer and need to present code to an audience, you’ll dig how Deckset will automatically recognize your code and apply syntax highlighting in your presentations.
Unlike the other apps in this list, Deckset is a Mac app that lives on your desktop, so it doesn’t have the cloud-backed simplicity of working from anywhere or collaborating with others. Deckset’s simplicity, however, is hard to beat, and if you save your work to Dropbox or use a collaborative writing app to draft your presentation notes, you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Deckset Pricing: $26.99 on the Mac App Store
Evernote Presentation Mode to turn notes into a presentation
Or, there’s another even simpler way to turn your notes into a presentation: the new Presentation Mode in Evernote Premium. Just write your notes in Evernote as normal, complete with lists, attached files, and formatted text. You can use just one note or select several notes together and Evernote will automatically make a table of contents for your presentation sections.
Then, when it’s time to present, just open your notes, click the slide screen icon in the toolbar, and Evernote will turn them into an easy-to-read presentation. There are no transitions or animations, but there is a simple virtual laser pointer so you can point out the most important stuff.
Evernote Pricing: $69.99/year for Evernote Premium to access presentation mode.
PowerPoint Online for Microsoft Office compatibility
If you’re not ready to ditch PowerPoint completely, but still want something simpler, online, and cheaper, PowerPoint Online is right up your alley. This free web app from Microsoft gives you all the basic features of the desktop version of PowerPoint, for free, in your web browser. The app’s interface is almost identical to that of PowerPoint 2013 and offers PowerPoint’s familiar drawing tools and iconic templates.
Because PowerPoint Online syncs your presentations to OneDrive, you can start a making presentation using a desktop copy of PowerPoint and then edit and present using PowerPoint Online. This is especially useful if you have multiple computers and only one license for Office.
PowerPoint Online Pricing: Free; extra storage from $1.99/month for 50GB
Keynote for iCloud for beautiful templates
Like PowerPoint Online, Keynote for iCloud is an online version of its popular desktop namesake. Its interface is very similar to the app’s mobile iteration, Keynote for iPad, and the “iCloud” in its name means it syncs presentations to both the mobile and desktop Keynote app. While Keynote for iCloud may not have all of the features of its desktop counterpart, it is great for quickly creating beautiful slideshows on the web, and includes the simple collaboration features you’d expect in a web app.
Apple has included pre-made templates for every occasion, with sleek lines and polished graphics, and includes more typefaces than any other app in this list. Additionally, Keynote for iCloud’s transitions and animations are extremely smooth, just as in its desktop counterparts.
Keynote for iCloud Pricing: Free with all Macs and iOS devices; extra storage from $0.99/month for 50GB
Share Your Presentations
Now that you’ve created beautiful and informational presentations, you’ll want feedback on your work before the big day. Then, you’ll want an easy way to share your presentations with the world.
There are plenty of great apps for this, too. From collaborating with others to distributing your slideshows, each of these tools has a unique strength.
SlideShare for sharing your presentation
If you’ve made an awesome presentation that you’d like to the world to see, upload it to SlideShare. It’s the presentation social network owned by LinkedIn and is to presentations what YouTube is to videos.
Your slideshow will be added in the website’s database of presentations—now more than 15 million of them—making it easy for anyone to search through its text and flip through the slides. It’s an easy way to share your knowledge and build a portfolio of content that is connected to your LinkedIn account.
SlideShare Pricing: Free
Speaker Deck for embedding presentations on your site
When used correctly, presentations can be great marketing tools for your website. However, before you can take advantage of this marketing technique, you have to find a way to embed presentations on your website. That’s where Speaker Deck comes in.
In order to use Speaker Deck, you must export your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation as a PDF. Once uploaded, the service will split each page of your PDF into individual slides and give you an embed code. Additionally, your presentation will be available for viewing on Speaker Deck’s catalog of slideshows.
Speaker Deck Pricing: Free
SlideDog for mixing in multimedia and live-sharing
Sometimes presentations can go beyond your slide deck, needing to incorporate websites, PDF, videos or even slides from another presentation app. That’s when SlideDog can become your best friend. This app was made to make your presentations seamless, no matter how nervous you are at showtime. On top of allowing users to put multiple media formats in a timeline, the tool offers live-sharing and interactive features, such as polls and feedback forms.
SlideDog also comes with a companion smartphone remote app that lets you control your presentation without touching your computer. You can use this remote to change slides, switch presentations, and even play and pause videos. Think of it as the slideshow clicker you’ll never forget at home.
SlideDog Pricing: Free; pro features from $8.33/mo
Poll Everywhere for polling your audience
Poll Everywhere makes it simple to engage your audience with a real-time poll, pulling in responses from mobile phones, Twitter or web browsers. You can employ it either as a standalone polling app alongside your presentation or if you’re a PowerPoint user with Windows, you can tie it into the software with Poll Everywhere’s PollEv Presenter App.
Poll Everywhere Pricing: Free for 25 responses per poll; more responses and features starting from $19/month.
Presentain for easy presentation recording and posting
Presentain is a presentation companion, ready to help you engage with your audience like Poll Everywhere. Its stand-out feature lets you record your presentation audio, combine it with a recording of your slides, and upload it as a video online. It’s easy “slidecast” creation that makes clever use of your phone’s microphone.
Presentain Pricing: Pay for what you need—you can choose your Presentain plan based on unlimited use by Day, Week, Month, or Year.
Present.me for publishing an online presentation
If you want to share your slides alongside a video of you delivering the presentation, but didn’t record a live presentation or have one to capture in the first place, Present.me will come to the rescue. This app allows you to do just that—and also has options for slides with audio recording only, slide deck only, or video only.
Present.me Pricing: $9.99/month for 5 active recordings and basic features; $17.95/month for 30 active recordings and advanced features; $49/mo for team features.
Have a favorite presentation tool not listed, a unique tip for one of these apps, or a clever presentation hack, such as relying on Google’s Chromecast? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Credits: Presentation icon courtesy XOXO.