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The best presentation software in 2021

By Kiera Abbamonte · April 29, 2021
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If you've ever had to present a product, host a webinar, or do any kind of public speaking, chances are you made a slideshow to go along with your presentation. The good news: many of the presentation apps available today offer huge improvements on the old standbys you're used to.

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The latest presentation apps have made it easier than ever to format slides and create professional-looking slideshows without giving off a "this is a template" vibe. Even PowerPoint alternatives like Google Slides have updated key features to make it easier than ever to collaborate and create presentations quickly, so you can spend more time prepping for your actual presentation.

The newest crop of online presentation tools also go beyond the classic slideshow experience, with new features to keep your audience's attention, streamline the creation process with AI, and turn slide decks into videos and conversations.

We tested more than 20 of the top presentation software solutions out there to bring you the best of the best.

The best presentation software in 2021

  • Google Slides for collaborating on presentations

  • Canva for a free presentation app

  • Ludus for creative presentations

  • Beautiful.ai for AI-powered presentations

  • Prezi for non-linear, conversational presentations

  • Powtoon for video presentations

  • Genially for interactive, presenter-less presentations

  • PowerPoint for Microsoft users

What makes a great presentation app?

When looking for the best presentation apps, we wanted utility players since slideshows are used for just about everything, from pitch decks and product launches to class lectures and church sermons. With that in mind, here's what we were looking for:

  • Pre-built templates: The best apps should have attractive, professional-looking templates to build presentations in a hurry.

  • Sharing and collaboration options: More people are working remotely. Whether you plan to share your webinar slides later, or you just want to collaborate with a coworker on a presentation, it should be easy to share files and collaborate in real-time.

  • Flexibility and customization options: Templates are great, but top presentation apps should enable you to customize just about everything—giving you the flexibility to build exactly what you need.

  • Affordability: Creating compelling presentations is important, but you shouldn't have to bust your budget to make it happen. With capable free tools on the market, affordability is a top consideration.

Already have slides and want a great way to share them instead? Here are the best apps to share presentations.

The best presentation app for collaborating on presentations

Google Slides (Web, iOS, Android)

Google Slides

Google Slides—part of the Google Workspace family of apps—is a traditional presentation app designed around collaboration. It works much like PowerPoint and other presentation apps you've used in the past, only Google Slides runs in your browser, for free. Select a theme for the slideshow, then add standard slide layouts and insert text, graphics, and slide transitions from the menus.

Within its presenter view, Google Slides has a great Q&A tool to make your presentation more interactive. Turn it on, and it'll add a banner with a link to the top of your presentation. People can visit that link to ask questions in a separate window and upvote other people's questions. Hosts will see incoming questions through a separate tab within the presenter view.

Google Slides really shines when it comes to collaboration. Share a link to your presentation, and anyone you want can add details to your slides, write presentation notes, and anything else you want in your presentation. Add comments, similar to Google Docs, to share feedback. You can track changes with Google Slides' detailed revision log, so you don't have to worry about a coworker messing with that chart you painstakingly created. It's one of the best ways to collaborate on a presentation.

An added bonus: Google Slides integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like update charts based on form responses or new spreadsheet rows, or even customize a template when you win a new deal in your CMS.

Google Slides Price: Free

The best free presentation app

Canva (Web, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)

Canva editor

Canva offers one of the most robust free plans of all the presentation apps we tested. The app delays account creation until after you've created your first design, so you can get started building your presentation in seconds. Choose from an almost overwhelming number of beautiful templates (nearly all available for free), including those designed specifically for education or business use cases.

Anyone who's accidentally scrolled too far and been bumped to the next slide will appreciate Canva's editor interface, which eliminates that problem altogether with a smooth scroll that doesn't jump around. Choose from a handful of preset animations to add life to your presentations, or browse the library of audio and video files available to add.

Present directly from Canva and let audience members submit their questions via Canva Live. Once you share a link to invite audience members to your presentation, they can send questions for you to answer. As the presenter, you'll see them pop up in your presenter view window, so you can keep the audience engaged and your presentation clear.

Canva Pricing: Free plan available; Pro plans start at $9.99/month and include additional features like Brand Kit and custom design templates.

The best presentation app for creators

Ludus (Web)

Ludus

Ludus is for creative folks who find presentation apps to be limiting and want their slideshow to be a work of art.

Ludus really shines with its third-party integrations. You name it, they've got it: from YouTube and GIPHY to Google Fonts and Figma, so you can pull content from other sources to create a stunning presentation.

Graphic designers will especially love Ludus. You can edit and break apart SVG files, upload your own font files, or even copy and paste files from Sketch and Adobe Illustrator. There are also some pretty advanced features that any web designer or illustrator would be familiar with, like gradients and code blocks, making this a good choice for graphic designers, art directors, UX designers, and the like. But you don't have to be a Photoshop pro to use these features; Ludus starts new users off with a guided tutorial, which gently introduces some of its more complex features.

Paid plans allow you to password-protect your presentations, use a remote control, share and collaborate as a team, and even embed on Medium and Notion.

Ludus Price: Free 30-day trial; from $14.99/month (billed annually) for the Solo plan with access to all features, unlimited presentations, and unlimited storage.

The best presentation app for AI-powered presentations

Beautiful.ai (Web, Mac, Windows)

Beautiful.ai presentation auto-layout

If you're like me, editing granular spacing issues is the absolute worst part of building a presentation. Beautiful.ai uses artificial intelligence to take a lot of the hassle and granular design requirements out of the presentation process, so you can focus on the content of a presentation without sacrificing professional design. Look at the GIF above as an example: when you drag an element toward a specific area of the slide, it'll automatically drop it into place for you.

The editor is a little different from most presentation apps, but it's still intuitive—and you'll start off with a quick two-minute tutorial. When creating a new slide, scroll through "inspiration slides" to find a layout you like; once you choose, the app will pull the layout and automatically adapt it to match the design of the rest of your presentation.

With 10 themes, several templated slides, over 40 fully-designed templates, and 23 different color palettes to choose from, Beautiful.ai strikes a perfect balance between automation and customization.

While traditional collaboration features are limited on the free plan, paid plans are reasonably priced and offer sharing and collaboration options that rival collab-focused apps like Google Slides. And speaking of Google, you can connect Beautiful.ai with Google Drive to save all your presentations there.

Beautiful.ai Price: Free for unlimited slides, 60+ "Smart Slide Templates," collaboration features, and more. Paid plans start at $12/month and include revision history, secure sharing, and whitelabeling.

The best presentations app for conversational presentations

Prezi (Web, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)

Prezi interface

Struggling to squeeze information into a basic, linear presentation? Give Prezi a try. Unlike nearly all other presentation apps on the market, Prezi Present doesn't restrict the structure of your presentation to a straight line. The editor focuses on topics and subtopics and allows you to arrange them any way you want, so you can create a more conversational flow of information.

With the structural flexibility, you still get all the same customization features you expect from top presentation software, including fully-editable templates.

Plus, Prezi comes with two other apps: Prezi Design and Prezi Video. Prezi Video helps you take remote presentations to a new level. Using the desktop app, you can record a video where the presentation elements are displayed right over your webcam feed. Record and save the video to share later, or connect with your video conferencing tool of choice (including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and more) to present live.

Prezi Pricing: Free 14-day trial and a free plan that includes up to 5 visual projects; paid plans start at $5/month.

The best presentation app for video presentations

Powtoon (Web, iOS, Android)

Powtoon editor

Powtoon makes it easy to create engaging videos by orienting the editor around a slide deck. Editing a Powtoon feels just like editing a presentation, but by the time you finish, you have a professional video. 

You can edit your slides at any time, and when you hit play, a video plays through your deck—the feel is almost like an animated explainer video. Each slide includes the animations you choose and takes up as much time as is needed based on the content on the slide. Powtoon figures the timing automatically, and you can see in the bottom-right of the editor how much time is used on your current slide versus the total presentation. If you ever want to present as a slide deck, just toggle between Slideshow and Movie.

You'll likely need to subscribe to a paid plan to get the most out of Powtoon—like creating videos longer than three minutes, downloading them as MP4 files, and whitelabeling your presentations—but doing so won't break the bank. Plus, you'll unlock tons of templates complete with animations and soundtracks.

One of our favorite Powtoon features is the ability to orient your video: you can choose horizontal orientation (like a normal presentation) or opt for vertical (for mobile) or square (for social media). When your presentation is ready, you can publish straight to YouTube, Wistia, Facebook Ads, and any number of other locations.

Powtoon Pricing: Limited free plan available; Pro plans start at $19/month and include whitelabeling, priority support, additional storage, and more.

The best presentation app for interactive presentations

Genially (Web)

Genially editor

While many presentation apps are built for presenter-led decks, Genially's interactive features and animated templates make it easy to build a self-led presentation. A variety of interactive buttons enable you to show viewers additional context on hover, skip to any page of your deck, and navigate to external links.

The app offers a bunch of searchable templates, including some for business proposals, reports, social media presentations, and more (though most of those are available on premium plans only). Genially also includes Smart blocks—templated blocks of content for elements like data visualizations, image galleries, and more.

Our favorite feature is the brand settings. Premium users can set universal branding guidelines that include your logo, color scheme, fonts, images, backgrounds, and more. Think of them like a custom template, created and customized by you, that the whole team can use. Once set, your team can easily create on-brand presentations that automatically apply your brand settings, without even thinking about it.

Plus, Genially supports additional content like training materials, infographics, interactive images, and more—all subject to your brand presets.

Genially Pricing: Free plan available with unlimited creations and views and access to templates; paid plans start at $7.49/month and include additional download options, offline viewing, advanced collaboration features, and more.

The best presentation app for Microsoft users

Microsoft PowerPoint (Web, Windows, Android, iOS)

PowerPoint editor

Full transparency: Microsoft PowerPoint wouldn't make the cut for this list on its own. But for those who can access it for free on their Microsoft devices or with an existing Microsoft 365 subscription, it's a perfectly capable option.

The OG of presentation software, PowerPoint enables you to do just about anything you need to build a basic presentation. You can choose from about a dozen templates, with more advanced designs available with Premium subscriptions.

Check out Design Ideas after adding your content to see layout and formatting options for the slide, recommended by "Office intelligent services." While this feature isn't truly AI-powered, it does make it quick to see how different layouts and designs will look with your content. You can also add temporary markups to slides as you present: your audience will see them, but they won't be permanently added to the slide.

Microsoft 365 subscriptions include access to both the desktop and web versions of PowerPoint, so you can create anywhere, with or without a download.

PowerPoint Pricing: Both the web and desktop versions are included with Microsoft 365 subscriptions, which start at $5/user/month for Business Basic or $69.99/year for one personal license. The desktop version is included for free on Microsoft devices.

This post was originally published in October 2014 and has since been updated with contributions from Danny Schreiber, Matthew Guay, Andrew Kunesh, and Krystina Martinez.

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Kiera Abbamonte picture

Kiera Abbamonte

Kiera’s a content writer who helps SaaS and eCommerce companies connect with customers and reach new audiences. Located in Boston, MA, she loves cinnamon coffee and a good baseball game. Catch up with her on Twitter @Kieraabbamonte.

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