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Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a popular computer-controlled presentation program for the Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh operating systems.

It is among the most prevalent forms of persuasion technology, with some 30 million presentations being made with it every day, according to Microsoft.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Concept
3 Criticisms and Effects on Today's Business
4 Recent Features
5 Actual effectiveness
6 See also
7 External link


Although now a Microsoft product, PowerPoint was originally developed by Bob Gaskins, a former Berkeley Ph.D. student who envisioned an easy-to-use presentation program that would manipulate a string of single pages, or "slides". In 1984, Gaskins joined a failing Silicon Valley software firm called Forethought and hired a software developer, Dennis Austin. Their prototype program was called "Presenter". Due to trademarking issues, its name was changed to PowerPoint. PowerPoint 1.0 was released in 1987 and was originally only available for the Apple Macintosh, and only in black-and-white. It generated text-and-graphics pages that a photocopier could turn into overhead transparencies.

Later in 1987, Forethought and PowerPoint were purchased by Microsoft Corporation for a price of $14 million. In 1988 the first Windows and DOS version was produced. It has since been a standard part of Microsoft's Office suite of tools.


In PowerPoint and other presentation software in general, objects such as images and text being placed on each slide retain their position regardless of other objects already placed. This approach is intuitive for beginning users. This differs from desktop publishing software, where the flow of text or images on the page may be affected by the images or other objects placed on the page.

Criticisms and Effects on Today's Business

Supporters and critics of this software alike generally agree that PowerPoint has reduced the time that many presentators previously spent in making slides and images to explain their point visually to a wide audience. Not only is it used in business, it is also widely used by educators and trainers who need to deliver a message and make an impression on their audience. However, PowerPoint's ease of use has not been without its drawbacks.

For instance, the widespread use of Powerpoint for presentation has given rise to a trend in some business circles for increasingly elaborate presentations, with extensive use of artwork, animation, and even multimedia. This is similar to the introduction of desktop publishing, which led to more elaborate small-scale publication. Many people have decried this trend as the "triumph of presentation over content", as satirized in many Dilbert cartoons, and led several prominent executives in the information technology industry, amongst others, to declare their offices "PowerPoint-free zones". Others have also criticized the software for its tendency to cause users to conform their presentations and thoughts into briefly summarized essences, presented in abrupt bullet-point sequence. Furthermore, many users tend to rely on the software to explain their point for them to the audience, rather than as a tool to supplement their own ability to express their thoughts. The flashy preset animation features, convenient for the typical user but relatively cut-and-dried in versions up through 2000, have also been the brunt of criticism.

A University of Toronto management professor, David Beatty, goes even further: "PowerPoint is like a disease. It's the AIDS of management." He advises spending 85% of one's time on figuring out what to say, and that only 15% be spent on how.

3M has strongly discouraged the use of PowerPoint, according to Beatty, because "it removes subtlety and thinking", and the company believes that it causes people to stop doing what they are paid to do, to focus on pretty pictures.

The "PowerPoint arms race" is apparently causing many laptop and operating systems sales. This of course is good for Microsoft.

Noted visual presentation guru Edward Tufte has condemned it in no uncertain terms.

In higher education, Cathy Adams, Grant MacEwan College Computing Science instructor observes "to a lecturer with PowerPoint, everything looks like a bullet." PowerPoint, she says, modifies subtly the thinking processes of student and teacher alike.

Recent Features

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" to allow users to quickly select the format of text copied into the presentation.

Actual effectiveness

Recently questions have been raised as to the usefulness of such "features":

Jim Gray, a communications coach, says: "If you go speak to a group and have PowerPoint, the worst thing you can do is to diminish yourself by immediately starting your powerpoint and making yourself a technical support person for it... you need to tell a story from A to Z, it needs to have a beginning, middle, and end. With Powerpoint it's a collection of disparate, loosely disguised points, under the guise of a story." This suggests that one of the appeals of PowerPoint is that it presents a kind of image of objectivity and neutrality that people associate with science, technology, and "bullet points".

Thus, they may accept literally any story from the speaker, and go home with the copies of the slides, believing that the slides actually describe or back the story.

Whether this is more effective than a legitimately convincing pitch one spends more time on, or some more prose-like summary, is not a question so far studied.

See also

External link