4 Free Tools to Help Get Your PowerPoint from Good to Great

Continuing the recent trend of PowerPoint in the news, I stumbled upon an article in USA Today that provided some tips and advice for designing more engaging presentations. While the advice was good, for me, more dos and don’ts aren’t really helpful. Having moved beyond the basics, I’m looking for cool techniques and new tools to augment my PowerPoint designs and help me take them from good to great. Ideally these tools are easy to use and help me to create better-looking, highly effective content more quickly – and free is always good, too.

If you’re like me and you’re always on the hunt for free and easy ways to amp up the volume to 11, I’ve found the following free tools are a great place to start.

Tool #1: Oomfo for Charts & Graphs

Sometimes you can’t avoid a data-driven presentation and making nice-looking charts & graphs in PowerPoint is more than a bit tedious for those of us who don’t excel at Excel A powerful PowerPoint plug-in, Oomfo walks you through the process of creating charts, step-by-step — but it does so in a way that’s supportive for chart newbies and graph geeks alike.  Why should you care about how your charts look?  Because data-driven presentations are rife with “Death by PowerPoint” potential and your audience needs the visual clarity Oomfo’s pre-built graph and chart designs provide.

Take this quick video demo from Oomfo to get started with creating your first chart.

Tool #2: Wordle for Text-Heavy Slides

 
Much like data-heavy slides, occasionally it can be hard to avoid creating a text-heavy, boredom-inducing slide and sourcing for the perfect stock image to tell the story just isn’t practical.  In those instances don’t default to bulleted lists!  Use all those words to your advantage and build a word cloud to act as an artful backdrop to your presentation.

First, check out this short video to get started with Wordle.

Then, watch this short Screenr I put together with some ideas for how to add more emphasis to your word cloud using PowerPoint’s picture tools and animation effects.

Tool #3: Screenr for Software Demos & How-Tos

In the growing arena of free screen capture tools Screenr is the best of the best.  With Screenr you can quickly and easily do screen captures with audio for use in a blog, website, or in PowerPoint.  Here’s a quick demostration on how to use Screenr:

And here’s how to embed a screenr in your PowerPoint:

Tool #4: Cacoo for diagramming or flow charts

Not all of us have (or know how to use) Visio and creating flow charts with individual drawing objects in PowerPoint is painful.  Thankfully there’s Cacoo – a fast, fun drawing tool for building diagrams, wire frames, and flow charts collaboratively or on your own.  I’ve played around with several other nice collaborative diagramming tools like Creately and Gliffy, but Cacoo’s intuitive interface seals the deal for me.

See for yourself.  Check-out the following tour of the Cacoo interface and then visit their website to sign up for a free account and play around with the tools. When you’re done creating, you can save your diagram to an image file format and then drop it into PowerPoint.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like some of these from the Mindflash archives:

What free or low-cost tools are you using?  Share your ideas with us and leave a comment.

Trina Rimmer is a learning and communications consultant with twelve years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training. When her skills aren’t being tested by her children, you’ll find her helping others to develop their own training design muscles.