Best of the Net

Love it or hate it, PowerPoint is here to stay.

Got any doubts? Do a quick Web search. You'll find hundreds of sites supporting Microsoft's presentation software. The selection of sites has jumped noticeably since last year's release of PowerPoint 2002, with its expanded animation technology, new tools for diagramming and rotating images, and improved ways to print and preview presentations.

Although PowerPoint isn't the only slide-show software on the market -- Harvard Graphics Advanced Presentations and Corel Presentations are among the others -- it is very much the king of its universe. Analysts consider PowerPoint the category killer; it accounts for at least 95% of the presentation-software market.

That's why, when we recruited several power users -- and one novice presenter -- to evaluate on-line resources for slide-show software, we sent them only to PowerPoint-related sites. We excluded sites that weren't business related or that seemed too technical or industry specific. Finally, we opted against rating Microsoft's own PowerPoint site.

What was left? A handful of sites that offer free templates, self-paced tutorials, or presentation advice and information. In some cases, of course, those materials are loss leaders, intended to entice visitors into buying, for instance, training programs or bigger collections of templates. But we asked our panelists to focus on the free resources available.

The sites that are reviewed here offer plenty of value for PowerPoint presenters, but -- as is often the case when you get something for nothing -- you may have to hunt around a little to find it.

"Don't be afraid to dig into these sites," says panelist Karina Shaver. "Some have wonderful information that isn't accessible or obvious from the home page."

Anne Stuart is a senior writer at Inc.


The Savvy Entrepreneur's Guide to PowerPoint Resources on the Web

Site
Digital Studio by Sonia Coleman ( www.soniacoleman.com)

What it's good for
High-quality templates, PowerPoint tutorials, presentation tips, and links.

Don't waste your time if
You want a searchable directory of templates or if you're looking for clip art or cartoons.

What our CEOs had to say
"I've bookmarked it," says Eva Rosenberg, praising the site's collection of "sharp, rich, and lustrous" templates.

What you should know
Judges all ranked Design Studio, by graphic artist Coleman, in either first or second place among the sites reviewed.


Site
PresentationPro ( www.presentationpro.com)

What it's good for
Templates, tutorials, links, and "power tips" illustrated in sample presentations.

Don't waste your time if
You want lots of freebies or if you object to registering before downloading those few giveaways.

What our CEOs had to say
"Geared toward the power user," says Karina Shaver.

What you should know
Site sponsor PresentationPro Inc. provides on-line help during business hours; it will even steer users to other resources.


Site
Presenters Online ( www.presentersonline.com)

What it's good for
Tutorials, links, sound files, clip art, and tips on everything from room arrangements to effective closings.

Don't waste your time if
You want cutting-edge content. Some articles date back four years.

What our CEOs had to say
A great site for newbies, Rosenberg says: "Very welcoming, not the least bit intimidating."

What you should know
Site sponsor Epson America Inc. offers visitors special discounts on multimedia equipment but otherwise keeps a low profile.


Site
Presenters University ( www.presentersuniversity.com)

What it's good for
Tutorials, how-to articles, free templates, clip art, and Presentation Pointers E-mail newsletter.

Don't waste your time if
You dislike text-heavy course material.

What our CEOs had to say
Randy Goldsmith and Mahendra Vora praise the site's large library of articles on crafting and delivering great presentations.

What you should know
The site is sponsored by projector manufacturer InFocus Corp. Some offerings are free only for a 30-day trial period.


Site
Website Estates ( www.websiteestates.com)

What it's good for
Attractive free templates and a rich library of links. Easy downloading makes this site especially useful for beginners.

Don't waste your time if
You're seeking advanced presentation tools or if you'd be annoyed by particularly relentless pop-up ads.

What our CEOs had to say
Denise O'Berry calls the site "professional"; Goldsmith says it offers "enough good freebies to justify a bookmark."

What you should know
The site also contains a wealth of public-relations, marketing, and E-business tools, resources, and links.


The Panel

Judges range from Eva Rosenberg, an entrepreneur who's just started making PowerPoint presentations, to Mahendra Vora, a CEO who's used the program since its introduction in 1990. They include:

Randy Goldsmith, CEO, Oklahoma Technology Development, Oklahoma City

Denise O'Berry, president, the Small Business Edge, Tampa

Eva Rosenberg, president, TaxMama.com and TaxAnxiety.com, Northridge, Calif.

Karina Shaver, executive vice-president, the Ardell Group, Del Mar, Calif.

Mahendra Vora, CEO and chairman, Intelliseek, Cincinnati


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