– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Thing 16

Thing 16 of 23Things for Research is Sharing Research Online – which for me meant Exploring Prezi.

I like the look of Prezi. Zooming around a big canvas is impressive, and the freedom from slide format sounds interesting – my slides are always going over the edges in Powerpoint. But how much more can it really do than Powerpoint? How much better is a good prezi than a good Powerpoint? (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a good powerpoint) And how much Prezi learning is needed to make a Prezi significantly better than Powerpoint? Is that investment worthwhile?

Well, here is a link to my first Prezi. It is not complete – I haven’t filled in the text under the Cataloguing frame, which is the important and complicated one, because I had a whizzy idea or two that I didn’t make time to figure out. (I didn’t embed it as apparently Prezi and WordPress have some issues to iron out there, or at least WordPress does.)  Well, actually it’s the second – the first one was hopeless; you can probably see that on Prezi too, but don’t bother. As with all these things, the how-tos are fine but really you have to dive in and fiddle about for ages to get to grips with what’s going on. The ‘How to make a great Prezi Prezi’ is lovely, but it should be called ‘This is what a great Prezi can be like once you are really really good at it’ (not least because a couple of the basic editing tools have changed their appearance and workflow a bit). Eventually I figured out a few of the basics, like what does not work, and it’s not until that happens that specific how-tos become useful, e.g. ‘how the dickens do I rotate these stupid footprints? this is easy in Powerpoint!’

My conclusion, having clicked impatiently through a good few of them, is that the vast majority of Prezis, like the vast majority of presentations prepared with any e-tool, are not great quality. There is capacity within Prezi to do some interesting fresh things, but most don’t use Prezi’s features to greatest capacity or best effect – so most of the time those features are wasted. For this topic (all I could think of for the moment – do good Prezis require innovative subjects?) Powerpoint would have been just fine, and perhaps better. Certainly quicker for me! Maybe this looks a bit newer, but so what, this is not a film. Maybe I’ll come up with a topic that screams Really Cool Prezi at me.

In fact, I already have one of those. I”m giving a much-illustrated talk at a conference in a couple of weeks, and I wish I could use Prezi for it because it looks so slick, and the zoomy quality would be useful, but I’ll be sticking with ye olde Powerpoint this time because I just do not have time before then to sit down and learn enough to make a Prezi look really good. It makes me wonder who does. Seriously, I’d have to fiddle with this for a seasick-making week before I was sufficiently good at it to make it enough better than Powerpoint to be worth spending a week on. (I had to do that with powerpoint too, years ago, but there was no predecessor to Powerpoint and I was a student then…) Also, how would you print a Prezi? those boring slide notes prints can be really useful at (and after) conferences.

And Prezi, for goodness’ sake improve your search function! I couldn’t even find my own Prezis without logging in!

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