5 cool PowerPoint slide design tools

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Do you want to give your PowerPoint presentations a visual boost? Want to get away from the “I did it in PowerPoint” that you (and everyone else) get by using PowerPoint’s built-in templates? Do you need a timeline slide or help finding graphics to illustrate the content of your slide?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, take a look at these five great free design tools. They can help you improve your PowerPoint presentations and speed up the design process.

Free PowerPoint Design Tools

1. VisualBee

VisualBee is a handy PowerPoint add-in that optimizes your presentation and also generates images for your slides based on the content of your presentation. Once the software is installed, open your PowerPoint presentation and, on the new VisualBee tab, click Improve the presentation.

Figure 1: VisualBee gives your presentation a visual overhaul and finds relevant images to illustrate your slides.

When the Enhance Presentation dialog box appears, choose a template to use from its gallery of styles. You can hover over the thumbnails to see each design in more detail if you want. Pick a template and VisualBee goes through your presentation and applies the template, locates and inserts the appropriate images into your slides, and adds animation effects.

You can then preview the slides and edit them using the available options, including replacing the image and changing the layout. When you are finished, click Save the presentation to save a copy with the newly updated design.

VisualBee is available in three versions:

  • Basic (free): Include a VisualBee logo on your slides and limit you to 10 slides per presentation.
  • Standard ($ 39.90; paid annually): Provides an unlimited number of unbranded slides per presentation.
  • Pro ($ 79.90; paid annually): Adds your company logo to your slides and includes a corporate image library and image finder. If you do a lot of presentations, the Image Finder alone makes this app a huge time saver. It finds images to illustrate your slides using the content of your slides. You don’t have to think about which search phrases to use, it does the job for you.

2. Note and remark

Although Note & Point has not been updated for at least six months, it remains a handy collection of presentations selected because they feature good design aesthetics. You can browse the site for inspiration and download lots of slide sets as PowerPoint slideshows or PDF galleries.

Score and mark PowerPoint presentations

Figure 2: Note & Point, an online storefront of well-designed slide sets, is a wonderful source of inspiration and ideas.

If all you need is a little design inspiration, then Note & Point is a handy reference site. The site only offers high-quality presentations, which means you don’t have to wade through a poorly designed quagmire to find visual gems.

3. Brainshark PowerPoint animation templates

If you are looking for slide animation effects, Brainshark is a good place to start. This site offers a bunch of free animation templates, and all you have to do is register to download them for free. You can use the site’s handy viewer to preview the animation effects. You can choose the animation effects you want and then click in the viewer to download the .pptx files which you then open in PowerPoint.

Brainshark PowerPoint Design Tool

Figure 3: Brainshark’s free animation templates help you animate the slides in a visually interesting way.

You will find animations for planners, calendars, clocks, icons and shapes, timelines, visuals, text, graphics and cards. The site offers high quality entertainment, so you are sure to find something to enhance your presentations.

4. Office timeline

Typically used to present historical data, milestones for future product launches and other business projects, calendars can be very useful in a presentation. However, PowerPoint does not offer a way to create a timeline slide.

Office Timeline fills this glaring gap by providing a timeline tool that you can run from within PowerPoint. The application installs as a PowerPoint tab and to run it choose Office timeline > New. A wizard dialog box offers the choice of Metro, Gantt, Steps and Interval timeline types, and once you’ve made your selection, follow the wizard’s steps to enter data, such as milestones and tasks, for the timeline. Select the colors and styles you want, then click to finish. You can also click the green check mark to insert a basic timeline and then customize it using the options on the ribbon.

Office Timeline PowerPoint Design Tool

Figure 4: If you need a timeline for historical data or project management, Office TimeLine is a handy tool to use.

Office Timeline timelines are beautiful, and the wizard makes it easy for anyone (even someone unfamiliar with project management terms) to create time-based visuals for presentations.

5. PowerPoint Labs

The free PowerPoint Labs add-in, like Office Timeline and VisualBee, installs as a tab in PowerPoint. This gives you access to visual effects for your slides, including highlighting text and images, image animations, and more.

PowerPoint Labs Design Tool

Figure 5: PowerPoint Labs offers a range of animation effects for working with text and images on slides.

A two-minute demo video on the download website shows you what this add-on can do. You will also find animated images that illustrate a single effect that you can create with the add-in. Watching the demos is helpful, as the add-in doesn’t give you much advice.

If you need more information, visit the online help page and download sample slides that you can study to learn how to create the effects yourself. Overall, this tool is very powerful and will help you design sophisticated animation effects more easily than using PowerPoint’s own animation tools. However, it will take an investment of time on your part to learn how to use it.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist who writes regularly for small business and IT publications in the United States, Canada, South Africa, United Kingdom and Australia. You can learn more about her on her website, HelenBradley.com

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