9 years, 9 months ago

Consultant’s Tooling: Using Google Slides over PowerPoint

There are certain good tools, which are so good that it is really hard to let go of them for something else or new. In my worklife, I have three favourite tools, which are an embedded part of my daily workflow:

  • Vim
  • FreeBSD
  • PowerPoint

Yes, an esoteric mix indeed, but very effective nonetheless. I use FreeBSD on the server, Vim for programming and notes (with a link to Dropbox), and PowerPoint for everything consulting/presentations.

Recently I have been working for a client, which has replaced the Microsoft Office suite completely with Google Apps. Gmail, Docs, Drive, Slides, Hangouts, the whole lot. For a heavy PowerPoint user it has been somewhat a transition to suddenly have to create slides in a Web browser. The big selling point for Apps is by far the excellent collaboration features, which means that you can work with a client on a pack in real-time with full version control. That is really nice.

That said, I have also experienced a lot of challenges and blatantly obvious annoyances from working with Google Slides over the past couple of weeks. Some of these are:

Annoyance #1. Inability to edit margins and padding in text boxes

This is really frustrating when developing content grouped using boxes. It is hard to create any ‘air’ between boxes without having to manually edit the width and height of the box.

Annoyance #2: Lack of automatic slide numbering(!)

Google, this is really embarassing, it has to be fixed immediately. Users are screaming for this feature. When working on an important board pack the other night at 2 am, I found myself having to manually copy and paste slide numbers into the pack before distributing it. Very unproductive.

Annoyance #3: No diagram elbow connectors

When drawing charts and flows – or even E/R diagrams – I often use elbow connectors to declutter a diagram and make it look orderly. Google Slides can do connectors but it has to be without elbows. You can do straight lines or curves but it honestly doesn’t cut it.

Annoyance #4: No ability to baseline versions

Google Slides has, as with other Apps, very good version control. However, as many people start working away on the same document, the version audit trail becomes very busy. Granted, you can switch between major revisions and everything, but it is purely based on timestamps. It would be nice to be able to baseline a version using a simple version number (similar to tagging in CVS), which would make it very easy to quickly revert to a major version.

Annoyance #5: No ruler

Google Slides has no ruler. When editing text boxes in PowerPoint I can edit the indentation using a simple horisontal ruler and quickly apply that to other text boxes as well using the style paste function. No ruler to rule them all, just yet.

Annoyance #6: No width/height sizing buttons

In PowerPoint 2007+ there are two text boxes, which allow me to quickly adjust the dimensions and proportionality lock of elements down to the exact mm.

This is not available in Google Slides and it makes precision work very cumbersome. Instead I have to rely on the automatic sizing and alignment suggestions (the blue lines that appear when you drag and resize content for alignment), but they don’t always behave as expected. Please give me the precision tooling, Google!

These are some of my basic concerns, which needs to be fixed before Google Slides can really be said to be a professional presentation publishing tool for consultants and the like.