Google Presently

September 18, 2007

Google officially released Presently, the presentation application for Google Docs. I’m not sure if I’m more enamored with the application or the nifty little YouTube presentation about Google Docs.

In an earlier post about Google Presentations (since renamed) I wondered out loud if Google would remember to provide an “export” feature to support offline presentations. They have in the form of “Save as Zip”.

From a techie point of view, Presently is HTML styled with CSS and tied together with Javascript rather than using a “richer” environment like Adobe Flash. Good for them. At first glance, Presently does seem to be the first truly web centric application for presentations.

Given that the underlying format is HTML/CSS, Presently has a few very powerful editing features. Presently allows “Text Boxes” to be inserted into a slide. These Text Boxes look and behave like their equivalents in PowerPoint. When selected, a Text Box is surrounded by a dashed line with grab handles at the corners allowing you to resize. If you mouse over any of the enclosing dashed lines the cursor changes to a “move” icon and you are allowed to change the position of the entire box. Depending on your chosen theme, a slide will have default Text Boxes, say one for the title and one for the body.

Editing text is similar to many visual online HTML editors for things like Wikis and Blogs. You can change the font, add bullets or numbered lists, change paragraph alignment, and indent/outdent. The only pecularity I found was that “TAB” adds an indent rather than switching from one text box to the next (say title to body).

Where Google Docs really shines is collaboration. Microsoft has its Sharepoint offering which targets enterprise intranets, but Google Docs allows ad hoc groups to collaborate from anywhere with internet access.

Presently takes collaboration one step forward not only allowing collaborative editing (like Docs and Spreadsheets) but allowing live presentations. Once you click “Start Presentation”, you get the full window presentation as expected but you also get an “Audience” GTalk-like buddy list with a generated URL. You can send out the URL to the audience members and when the presenter changes the slide it is automatically changed for everyone in the audience.

So Presently is also a very simple but useful Web Conference application in addition to a collaborative online presentation editor. If you don’t need the whiteboard and/or application sharing features of more powerful Web Conference applications like WebEx and Microsoft Live Meeting then Presently is a simple and inexpensive way to host meetings.

I’m liking it. Kudos to Google.