Thoughts on Prezi

There is a presentation tool out there called Prezi. It gives you some really vibrant and dynamic presentation tools. It’s a totally new and different way to present. It turns Powerpoint on its head. It is fun, and I’ve now done a major presentation with Prezi. But it has it’s limitations, and I will probably do my next presentation in Powerpoint. Here’s why.

Limits. Simple Limits.

Prezi, in many ways, does really great transitions, and it does them automatically. You swoop, swoosh, and fly over your graphics effortlessly. On the other hand, there are some really great tricks that you simply cannot do.

Animation

You can’t make something appear. You can’t put something on the screen and then have it reveal when you press a button. You can have multiple images, each a little more detailed or slightly different from the last, and you can move from one to the next, but that’s not the same. Likewise, you can’t have things disappear or move on demand. If you want an animation, you have to render it to a movie and put the movie in your presentation. Very suboptimal.

Transitions

The Prezi way of flying from thing to thing is great, but that’s it. You don’t have any other controls. You can’t go from thing to thing in any way other than flying there. Fade in, fade out, crossover: not possible. I’m not interested in “star wipe” or anything lame, but there are things that are not lame that you cannot do.

Drawing

The drawing tools are rudimentary and color controls are rudimentary. Again, Powerpoint is arguably overkill here, but there’s a lot of alignment, coloring, rotating, and arrangement that is more sophisticated in other drawing tools.

Screen and Presentation Managment

It puts the typical controls on the screen for next, previous and so on. I find it annoying to have to wait for the controls to fade off the screen when you go into presentation mode. I just put it in presentation mode. I expect it to go there immediately, not wait 5 or 10 seconds for stuff to disappear.

Powerpoint has a nice—but not well known—feature where you can press the period key and the screen will go black. It’s like “mute” but for the presentation. I find it very handy if someone asks me a question, or if I’m off on some tangent that is unrelated to what is on the screen. Prezi has no equivalent.

Remote Control

I’m not sure how anyone controls a Prezi remotely. I use a Mac. My Apple remote works fine with Powerpoint, Keynote, and lots of other software. It doesn’t work with Prezi. If I click the mouse (e.g., using a bluetooth or wireless mouse), that causes Prezi to quit the path and the presentation and zoom out where I clicked. At the moment, I’m stuck using the physical arrow keys on my keyboard because my Apple remote makes iTunes play instead of controlling Prezi.

Video

I have embedded video in my presentation because I wanted some animation that Prezi couldn’t do. (Which is any animation at all). I made a nice, high quality, 640×480 30 frames-per second video of it and added it. Prezi converted that to a crappy, pixelated flash video that it embedded. Now, I’m not using the free version. I’m using the most expensive “Pro” version they offer, and I’m presenting from my local laptop. Space is not a consideration for me. Quality is.

  • I have no quality controls over the conversion.
  • The video doesn’t automatically rewind when it’s done playing. Nor does it loop. I don’t control what it does.
  • The video controls (shuttle, play/pause) sometimes show on the screen. That’s terrible. In presentation mode that should never happen (unless I’m clicking on it trying to make it happen).

In my case, I’m presenting the same talk several times in a row. I have to rewind it, and do it again from the start. I find that the most predictable way to do this is to exit Prezi and restart. Powerpoint does it better.

Summary

It’s a cool tool. It adds style and stands out from the usual way to do things. However, it takes away features that I think are valuable and useful to explaining concepts. If what you’re doing is presenting a lot of static material, it’s a lot better than a bunch of Powerpoint slides. If you have dynamic, interactive material that builds, changes or animates (in a useful and important way), this is not the tool for you.