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Beyond PowerPoint & Keynote: The 20 Best Presentation Apps

Andrew Kunesh
Andrew Kunesh / October 28, 2014

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 apps for presentations, 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 a Great Presentation App?

There are times 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 traditional PowerPoint
  • Include unique features that bring something new to the table
  • Let you easily collaborate on presentations

With each app listed, you'll find a screenshot and description of the app, what it does best, and its starting price. Most of the apps are free, but even if there's a cost, the product is priced competitively with the traditional versions of 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 Apps for Presentations

The Best Apps to Share Presentations


Google Slides for real-time Google Docs collaboration

Google Slides

Google Slides has become the gold standard of collaborative cloud-based presentation apps. 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 app 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

Zoho Show is part of the Zoho Docs suite, an online alternative to everything in Microsoft Office and more. It offers a no-frills way to make slideshows from the web browser. Zoho Show's interface is a mix of 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 the ultimate 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

Slides

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—it's 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, something that can't be said for other new 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, lets you add custom CSS to your presentations for easy styling and branding.

Slides Pricing: Free for public presentations; $6/month Pro plan for private presentations and more; $12/month Team plan for custom branding

Prezi for animated, non-linear presentations

Prezi

Prezi is a new take on the traditional slideshow. Combining animation with the information you'd include in 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. Your audience will see a visual masterpiece of animation and moving objects, perfect for keeping your presentations interesting when your subject matter may be 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; $59/year "Enjoy" plan for private presentations; $159/year "Pro" plan for offline editing

Canva for creative presentations

Canva

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

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. And, it lets you 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

Haiku Deck for great mobile editing

HaikuDeck

Haiku Deck is a basic presentation application 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.

Haiku Deck really shines when it comes to mobile integration. You can make new presentations or continue work on a previously created presentation using the mobile app. Finally, the app has a similar feel to the website, making for a seamless on-the-go experience.

Haiku Deck Pricing: Free

Bunkr for quick sharable presentations

Bunkr

If you're making presentations to share online, Bunkr is exactly what you need. You can make simple slideshows using the application's built-in themes or by creating your own themes using text-boxes and shapes. Bunkr also has one-click support for YouTube and Vimeo for videos and can bring in live Twitter feeds, making it great for trade shows and other events with a hashtag.

Bunkr really stands out when it comes to sharing presentations online. It includes an online gallery of presentations so you can see what others have made and share your own work, or you can easily embed your presentation in your own website. These presentations are shown in HTML5, so any device with a modern web browser can view them.

Bunkr Pricing: Free for one presentation; $2/month for unlimited presentations

Slidebean for automatic slide creation

SlideBean

If you want to skip the tedious process of formatting presentations, Slidebean is right up your alley. When starting a new presentation, all you'll 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 slide show, 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: Free; $5/month for downloadable presentations; $6/month for private presentations and branding

Deckset for easy Markdown-powered presentations

Deckset

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 the 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: $29.99 on the Mac App Store

Evernote Presentation Mode to turn notes into a presentation

Evernote Presentation Mode

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: $5/month Evernote Pro account for presentations mode and more

PowerPoint Online for Microsoft Office compatibility

PowerPoint Online

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 100GB

Keynote for iCloud for beautiful templates

Keynote for iCloud

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 as its desktop counterpart, however, it's great for quickly creating beautiful slideshows on the web, and includes the simple collaboration features you'd expect in a web app.

Out of all of the applications in this list, Keynote for iCloud hands-down offers the best themes and design options. Apple has included pre-made templates for every occasion, with sleek lines and polished graphics, and includes more typefaces than the other apps 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 20GB


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 carries a unique strength.

Kivo for giving feedback on presentations

Kivo

Though many of the applications we've highlighted in this article have built-in collaboration features, they don't offer ways to get feedback on specific parts of your presentation. For instance, if you're working on a slideshow and notice your designer has used an incorrect font in one of the headers, how do you let him or her know?

That's where Kivo comes in. It's an app that lets people add comments to any part of your presentation, and then lets you compare the changes to see how your presentation evolved over time.

To use Kivo, simply upload a presentation or Word document to Kivo's website or import one from Dropbox, and add collaborators. Then, you and your team can add comments to specific parts of your presentation and reply to one another. Once you've added changes, upload the new version and you can compare the changes slide-by-slide.

Kivo Pricing: Free

SlideShare for sharing your presentation

SlideShare

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 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 with your LinkedIn account.

SlideShare Pricing: Free

Speaker Deck for embedding presentations on your site

Speaker Deck

When used correctly, presentations can be a 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

SlideDog

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 your 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 slide show clicker you'll never forget at home.

SlideDog Pricing: Free

Poll Everywhere for polling your audience

Poll Everywhere

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 40 responses; more responses from $15/month; more responses and multiple user accounts from $140/month

Presentain for easy presentation recording and posting

Presentain

Presentain is a presentation companion, ready to help you engage with your audience like Poll Everywhere and—it's stand-out feature—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: Free for 5 presentations and 7 slidescasts; from $9.99/month for more presentations and slidecasts

Present.me for publishing an online presentation

Present.me

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 can come to the rescue. This app allows you to do just this as well as share slides with recorded audio, or simply just slide or a video of yourself.

Present.me Pricing: $3.95/month for 3 active recordings and basic features; $17.95/month for 30 active recordings and advanced 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!

Zapier marketers Danny Schreiber and Matthew Guay contributed to this post.

Credits: Presentation icon courtesy XOXO.

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