Microsoft PowerPoint

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Microsoft Office PowerPoint (Windows)

Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 in Windows Vista
Developer: Microsoft
Latest release: 12.0.4518.1014 / November 6, 2006
OS: Microsoft Windows
Use: Presentation
License: Proprietary
Website: PowerPoint Home Page - Microsoft Office Online
Microsoft Office PowerPoint (Mac OS X)

Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2004 in Mac OS X v10.4
Developer: Microsoft
Latest release: 2004 v11.3.2 / February 13, 2007
OS: Mac OS X
Use: Presentation
License: Proprietary
Website: PowerPoint 2004 for Mac
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Microsoft Office PowerPoint is a presentation program developed for the Microsoft Windows and Mac OS computer operating systems. Being widely used by businesspeople, educators, and trainers, it is among the most prevalent forms of persuasion technology. It is a component of the Microsoft Office system.

Contents

[edit] Operation

In PowerPoint, as in most other presentation software, text, graphics, movies, and other objects are positioned on individual pages or "slides". The "slide" analogy is a reference to the slide projector, a device which has become somewhat obsolete due to the use of PowerPoint and other presentation software. Slides can be printed, or (more often) displayed on-screen and navigated through at the command of the presenter. Slides can also form the basis of webcasts.

PowerPoint provides two types of movements. Entrance, emphasis, and exit of elements on a slide itself are controlled by what PowerPoint calls Custom Animations. Transitions, on the other hand are movements between slides. These can be animated in a variety of ways. The overall design of a presentation can be controlled with a master slide; and the overall structure, extending to the text on each slide, can be edited using a primitive outliner. Presentations can be saved and run in any of the file formats: the default .ppt (presentation), .pps (PowerPoint Show) or .pot (template). In PowerPoint 2007 the file format is .pptx.

[edit] History

In late 1983, Rob Campbell and Taylor Pohlman founded Forethought, Inc in order to develop object oriented bit-mapped application software. In 1984, they hired Bob Gaskins, a former Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, in exchange for a large percentage of the company's stock. He and software developer Dennis Austin led the development of a program called Presenter, which they later renamed PowerPoint[[1]].

The about box for PowerPoint 1.0, with an empty document in the background.
The about box for PowerPoint 1.0, with an empty document in the background.

Forethought also acquired the rights to a DOS based application called Nutshell, which later became the enormously successful FileMaker.

PowerPoint 1.0 was released in 1987 for the Apple Macintosh. It ran in black and white, generating text-and-graphics pages for overhead transparencies. The first color Macintoshes soon came to market, though, and a full color version of PowerPoint shipped a year after the original. Later in 1987, Forethought and PowerPoint were purchased by Microsoft Corporation for $14 million.[1] In 1990 the first Windows versions were produced. Since 1990, PowerPoint has been a standard part of the Microsoft Office suite of applications (except for the Basic Edition)

The 2002 version, part of the Office XP Professional suite and also available as a stand-alone product, provides features such as comparing and merging changes in presentations, the ability to define animation paths for individual shapes, pyramid/radial/target and Venn diagrams, multiple slide masters, a "task pane" to view and select text and objects on the clipboard, password protection for presentations, automatic "photo album" generation, and the use of "smart tags" allowing people to quickly select the format of text copied into the presentation.

Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 did not differ much from the 2002/XP version. It enhances collaboration between co-workers and now has the feature "Package for CD", which makes it easy to burn presentations with multimedia content and the viewer on CD-ROM for distribution. It also improved support for graphics and multimedia.

The current version, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, released in November 2006, brought major changes of the user interface and enhanced graphic capabilities.

Being part of Microsoft Office has allowed PowerPoint to become the world's most widely used presentation program. As Microsoft Office files are often sent from one computer user to another, arguably the most important feature of any presentation software — such as Apple's Keynote, or OpenOffice.org Impress — has become the ability to open PowerPoint files. However, because of PowerPoint's ability to embed content from other applications through OLE, some kinds of presentations become highly tied to the Windows platform, meaning that even PowerPoint on Mac OS cannot always successfully open its own files originating in the Windows version. This has led to a movement towards open standards, such as PDF and OASIS OpenDocument.

[edit] Cultural effects

A frame from a PowerPoint presentation made by Colin Powell at the UN before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
A frame from a PowerPoint presentation made by Colin Powell at the UN before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Supporters & critics generally agree that the ease of use of presentation software can save a lot of time for people who otherwise would have used other types of visual aid — hand-drawn or mechanically typeset slides, blackboards or whiteboards, or overhead projections. Ease of use also encourages those who otherwise would not have used visual aids, or would not have given a presentation at all, to make presentations. As PowerPoint's style, animation, and multimedia abilities have become more sophisticated, and as PowerPoint has become generally easier to produce presentations with (even to the point of having an "AutoContent Wizard" suggesting a structure for a presentation - initially started as a joke by the Microsoft engineers but later included as a serious feature in the 1990s), the difference in needs and desires of presenters and audiences has become more noticeable.

[edit] Criticism of PowerPoint

One major source of criticism of PowerPoint comes from Yale professor of statistics and graphic design Edward Tufte, who criticizes many emergent properties of the software:[2]

  • Its use to guide and reassure a presenter, rather than to enlighten the audience;
  • Unhelpfully simplistic tables and charts, resulting from the low resolution of computer displays;
  • The outliner causing ideas to be arranged in an unnecessarily deep hierarchy, itself subverted by the need to restate the hierarchy on each slide;
  • Enforcement of the audience's linear progression through that hierarchy (whereas with handouts, readers could browse and relate items at their leisure);
  • Poor typography and chart layout, from presenters who are poor designers and who use poorly designed templates and default settings;
  • Simplistic thinking, from ideas being squashed into bulleted lists, and stories with beginning, middle, and end being turned into a collection of disparate, loosely disguised points. This may present a kind of image of objectivity and neutrality that people associate with science, technology, and "bullet points".

Tufte's criticism of the use of PowerPoint has extended to its use by NASA engineers in the events leading to the Columbia disaster. Tufte's analysis of a representative NASA PowerPoint slide is included in a full page sidebar entitled "Engineering by Viewgraphs" [2] in Volume 1 of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's report.

Critics of the prewar planning by the U.S. Department of Defense prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 also point to a reliance on PowerPoint presentations as a poor alternative to traditional military briefing methods. A report [3] issued by The National Security Archive at George Washington University in February 2007 released declassified PowerPoint slides relating to prewar assumptions and also criticized the reliance on PowerPoint itself as a presentation medium. The report included quotes from two senior officers regarding PowerPoint:

Lt. Gen. McKiernan later told Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks (Fiasco, p. 75):[3]

"It's quite frustrating the way this works, but the way we do things nowadays is combatant commanders brief their products in PowerPoint up in Washington to OSD and Secretary of Defense... In lieu of an order, or a frag [fragmentary] order, or plan, you get a set of PowerPoint slides... [T]hat is frustrating, because nobody wants to plan against PowerPoint slides."

Retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich told Ricks (Fiasco, pp. 75-76) that PowerPoint war planning was the ultimate insult:

"Here may be the clearest manifestation of OSD's [Office of Secretary of Defense] contempt for the accumulated wisdom of the military profession and of the assumption among forward thinkers that technology -- above all information technology -- has rendered obsolete the conventions traditionally governing the preparation and conduct of war. To imagine that PowerPoint slides can substitute for such means is really the height of recklessness."

[edit] Versions

Microsoft PowerPoint 4.0 - 2007 Icons
Microsoft PowerPoint 4.0 - 2007 Icons

Versions for Microsoft Windows include:

  • 1993 PowerPoint 4.0 (Office 4.x)
  • 1995 PowerPoint 7 for Windows 95 (Office '95)
  • 1997 PowerPoint 97 (Office '97)
  • 1999 PowerPoint 2000 (Office 2000)
  • 2001 PowerPoint 2002 (Office XP)
  • 2003 PowerPoint 2003 (Office 2003)
  • 2006-2007 PowerPoint 2007 (Office 2007)

Note: There is no PowerPoint 5.0 or 6.0, because the Windows 95 version was launched with Word 7. All of the Office 95 products have OLE 2 capacity - moving data automatically from various programs - and PowerPoint 7 shows that it was contemporary with Word 7.

[edit] References

  1. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; Microsoft Buys Software Unit", New York Times, July 31, 1987. Retrieved on December 2, 2006.
  2. ^ Edward Tufte. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within (Second edition). Graphics Press, 2006. ISBN 0961392169
  3. ^ Thomas E. Ricks. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Penguin Press, 2006. ISBN 159420103X

[edit] See also

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