For quite a while I'm already searching for a good online presentation tool. This started already when I was living without a laptop and more recently again when I found Prezi as a great alternative. However I work in an environment where Microsoft PowerPoint is the standard, complete with a strict corporate template.
Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised when I was using the SkyDrive website and I received an invitation to try the Office web applications. It made me feel special, rewarded and happy, because I'm very curious and have high expectations. The invitation might have been there already for a while, unfortunately I hadn't noticed it yet because I usually use Gladinet to access the file storage. This time however I was using a Mac and needed to get a file and used the website. I immediately started to experiment.
The good stuff
1. The application feels solid (I didn't experience any crashes) and is responsive in most situations (all on Safari on the Mac).
2. It really looks nice, fresh and modern.
3. I really liked the 'Where is the Save button'. Your presentations are automatically saved and you never have to worry about loosing some changes.
4. The view mode is really useful if you store a lot of presentations on your SkyDrive... as I actually do.
The Not so good stuff (where I still expect a lot improvements before launch)
1. The functionality is extremely limited. Many of the essentials are still missing, for instance copy/paste of slides between presentations, maintaining Master Slides, Changing the slide layout after creation... and a lot more.
2. The above means that I cannot yet use web application to create my presentations.
3. I'm still not convinced that the ribbon is the right solution. I'm not talking about the usability, but it just takes too much screen real estate and this makes the Online application useless on a smaller laptop (those that you use for traveling around).
4. I miss web collaboration features. I can't share, view and edit the presentation with others, but isn't that the power of the web and the reason for a presentation?
Some people told me that the Office web apps should not be seen as a replacement for the desktop version, but as a supplement. It's handy for making some last minute changes, correcting spelling mistakes etc. Well when I have to make last minute changes it usually is more about reshuffling and/or copying some slides from an other deck etc. The current online version would not help me.
Instead I've some suggestions for some real supplemental features:
1. Collaboration around the presentation. For instance I request someone to review and this person has the ability to add notes to the slides.
2. View the presentation together and discuss content with IM (preferably web based too)
3. Embedding of the viewer in other web applications to allow publication of a presentation on another website or blog.
To summarize I do believe Microsoft has made a good start and a foundation for real web based Office applications is created. The current preview is still very far away from a fully functional web based PowerPoint and I'm curious to follow the progress and anxiously waiting for added functionality and the day I can finally say goodbye to my desktop applications.
Note: I've not reviewed Word and Excel, because I've no need for writing documents and creating extensive calculations sheets. I do however frequently create presentations.