The support team at PresenterNet quietly sent out email notifications this week that their technology has been upgraded to allow additional functionality for users.
The big enhancement is that PresenterNet now supports animation effects on PowerPoint slides. Many business presenters use (and abuse) animations to spice up their slides. Support for animations seems to be particularly desirable to marketers.
I tested the new functionality with my standard PowerPoint Torture Test. This combines outrageous amounts of text, graphics, and fancy animations in an attempt to run conversion software through a worst case scenario. PresenterNet uses an interesting approach to uploading and storing your presentations in your conference room. You start with a self-service upload step that transfers your PowerPoint file to their server. Then PresenterNet staff manually run the conversion process that turns slides into the Flash files that are used inside a conference. The company says that conversion staff are on duty from 6am to 6pm California time and they advertise a turnaround time of less than two hours. My slides were complex, but there are only 15 of them and my conversion was completed and ready for use in about ten minutes.
I was pleased that graphics and text all came out with high quality. Edges were sharp, colors were accurate, and there was no color banding on smooth gradients and fills. Images were placed exactly where they had been on the original slide, with no pixel offsets that plague some conversion algorithms. Advancing to the next animation on a slide is simply a matter of clicking your mouse anywhere within the slide area. I like that I don't have to concentrate on clicking a specific screen button that could pull my focus from the content as I'm presenting.
I managed to find three misconversion artifacts. A very minor one was that a movement animation that starts automatically as soon as the slide is displayed in the PowerPoint slideshow required a click to start it in PresenterNet. Hardly worth mentioning, and not something likely to give anybody a problem. Another minor discrepancy showed up in a fancy point-to-point movement animation, where the object briefly redisplayed at the starting position after the movement. A more obvious problem was that some "callout boxes" displayed improperly after being animated, ending up with lines running through the text. Other than those little items, all other PowerPoint features showed off very well, and I would have no hesitation in showing off my PowerPoint content with this software.
The second enhancement is more of a convenience issue than major new functionality. Sometimes you need to convene a conference quickly and you might not have time to wait for PresenterNet to convert your slides. They have a workaround you can use for immediate access to your slides. If you use your PC to convert your slides to PDF format, you can upload the PDF and display the slides without any further conversion.
The drawbacks to displaying PDF uploads are:
- Animations are not supported. Each slide becomes a static image.
- You need a software application on your computer that can convert slides to PDF format. Big businesses will probably use Adobe Acrobat, but smaller businesses can avoid that cost by using cheap/free alternatives such as NitroPDF or PrimoPDF.
I spoke to PresenterNet CEO Doug Wolfgram, who shared two other points with me. The first is that the PresenterNet support staff will work with customers on special PowerPoint display requirements to do hand-tweaking of the content in order to make it display as desired in a conference... Just in case the automatic conversion doesn't give you what you want. The second item is the fact that the company now uses the Wowza Media Server, which he says gives meetings better performance as well as more flexible access for participants trying to watch from behind a firewall.
These recent enhancements should make PresenterNet more attractive and appropriate to a wider range of users and conferencing applications. I'm sure the extra investment by the company will pay off for them.