The Microsoft PowerPoint reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Microsoft PowerPoint

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Microsoft PowerPoint is a popular 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: according to its vendor, Microsoft Corporation, some 30 million presentations are made with PowerPoint every day.

PowerPoint in edit mode, showing a list of slides (left), the active slide being edited (top right) and speaker notes for the slide (bottom right)Enlarge

PowerPoint in edit mode, showing a list of slides (left), the active slide being edited (top right) and speaker notes for the slide (bottom right)

Table of contents
1 Operation
2 History
3 Cultural effects
4 See also
5 External links


In PowerPoint, as in most other presentation software, text, graphics, movies, and other objects are positioned on individual pages or "slides". Slides can be printed, or (more usually) displayed on-screen and navigated through at the command of the presenter. Transitions between slides can be animated in a variety of ways, as can the emergence of elements on a slide itself. 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.


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 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", but was changed to PowerPoint to avoid a trademark problem.

PowerPoint 1.0 was released in 1987 for the Apple Macintosh. It ran in black and white, generating text-and-graphics pages that a photocopier could turn into overhead transparencies.

Later in 1987, Forethought and PowerPoint were purchased by Microsoft Corporation for $14 million. In 1988 the first Windows and DOS versions were produced. PowerPoint has since been a standard part of the Microsoft Office suite of applications.

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.

Being part of Microsoft Office has allowed PowerPoint to become the world's most widely used presentation program, even if not the best one. 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 Impress -- has become the ability to open PowerPoint files.

Cultural effects

Supporters and critics generally agree that PowerPoint's ease of use 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. That same ease of use means that others may be encouraged to make presentations who otherwise would not have used visual aids, or would not have given a presentation at all. But 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), the difference in needs and desires of presenters and audiences has become more noticeable.

One major source of criticism of PowerPoint comes from Yale professor of statistics and graphic design Edward Tufte. In his essay The cognitive style of PowerPoint, Tufte criticizes many emergent properties of the software:

Tufte's criticism of the use of PowerPoint has extended to its use by NASA engineers in the events leading to the Columbia disaster.

Although many of Tufte's points seem to be well-taken, a number of experts strongly disagree with his analysis for a variety of reasons - see the article "Five Experts Disagree with Tufte on PowerPoint" here.

Cliff Atkinson, a management consultant at Sociable Media, has written extensively about organizational issues related to PowerPoint, including interviews with experts from the fields of marketing, cognitive science, law, information design, and more.

University of Toronto management professor David Beatty says: "PowerPoint is like a disease. It's the AIDS of management." He advises spending 85 percent of one's time on figuring out what to say, and only 15 percent on how. He also reports that 3M has strongly discouraged the use of PowerPoint because "it removes subtlety and thinking", and the company believes that it causes people to focus on pretty pictures rather than doing what they are paid to do. Other prominent executives in the information technology industry have declared their offices "PowerPoint-free zones".

Meanwhile, some have celebrated the abilities of PowerPoint for artistic purposes. David Byrne, for example, created artworks with PowerPoint for his book and DVD Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information.

See also

External links