PowerPoint might be the de facto standard for making presentations, but there isn’t a version for tablets yet. Haiku Deck not only fills that void but brings a new approach to the art of making good presentations. Haiku Deck lays a strong emphasis on visual appeal, and its standout feature is a built-in Creative Commons image search which puts an extraordinary number of high-quality images at your disposal. The resulting presentations look great and feel fresh—we didn’t realise how fatigued we’d become of the usual, common PowerPoint templates till we saw Haiku Deck’s demo.

The extremely limited options for creating charts

The interface is fairly simple, although clear text labels would have been nice. You get five free themes and another 11 are available for purchase at Rs 110 each. A theme is nothing more than a default background image with complimentary fonts and colours (which you can’t change). The background image can be swapped out for anything you find through the Creative Commons search, a photo from your device’s library, or a photo taken on the spot. The image search is simple enough to use. Just type in a few words related to your theme or the visual you have in mind, and you’ll see thumbnails of some amazing photos and illustrations—a world apart from PowerPoint’s templates and clip art. Alongside the results, you’ll see a column of keywords that you can tap on to further refine search results.

Images can only be used as backgrounds, not arranged on a slide, which means all text goes on top of them and you can have only one per slide unless you edit them into a single image using another app. Video isn’t supported at all. Text layout options are limited to simple blocks, bulleted lists and numbered lists. Text is clearly meant to be subservient to images. You have a few choices as to where titles will appear on a slide; mostly around the edges. You can turn on dim background strips behind the text to help it stand out against a busy image, but that’s it. As far as presenting data goes, there are only two basic charting options: a bar chart and a pie chart. Once again, design takes precedence over information—there are no tables and no possibility of doing calculations. Both chart types are created by dragging bars or segments till they are the desired size. Colours are locked by the theme and you can have only eight data points per chart. There’s no way to label axes, and data labels are just as basic. The concept works for putting basic points across and could even help force you to keep things simple, but PowerPoint and Excel jockeys are going to be sorely disappointed.

You can see the license and attribution info for each image you use.

You can see the license and attribution info for each image you use

All you have to do to start a presentation is tap an icon on screen. Slide transitions are animated and, of course, the animations are also non-customisable; thankfully, they’re slick and subtle. In presentation mode, swipe sideways to move between slides and tap once to bring up editing and sharing options. You can output to a TV or projector using AirPlay or any of Apple’s wired display output accessories. Clicking the 'Share' button lets you publish the deck to an online gallery. You can choose whether the deck stays totally private, visible to people who have the URL, or visible to everyone. Once published, you'll see an option to export the deck to PPTX format, which will let you import it into PowerPoint or Keynote on any PC or even on your iPad itself. If you go to the gallery URL, you'll also see an option to download the deck as a PDF, as well as share it to Pinterest, Reddit, or LinkedIn. It isn't clear why you have to first export to the Web before the PowerPoint option even becomes visible, and Haiku Deck doesn't highlight this extremely useful function at all. Finally, decks can be embedded on your own website, or, of course, shared via Facebook and Twitter. There’s also a gallery of the best decks created each week, which you can browse through within the app. If you sign in with a Facebook or Twitter ID and set your own decks to 'Public' visibility, they'll be considered for inclusion in the gallery too. However, for all its social aspirations, the app doesn’t let you collaborate with others to create or edit decks. The gallery isn’t arranged by topic or theme, which means it isn’t meant to help you find information or do research. The only real reason to go through it is to appreciate others’ creative artwork.

We like Haiku Deck for being imaginative and rethinking how presentations can be made on a tablet device. Clearly, the app works much better for lighter topics, photo slideshows and quick demos or walkthroughs than data-heavy presentations. It’s also a great example of a non-intrusive freemium product—at no point are you forced to endure ads or nagging prompts, but the additional designs are there if you want them. The developers promise an Android version soon, which should help make it even more popular.

The Gallery shows some of the most creative decks.

The Gallery shows some of the most creative decks

Download Haiku Deck for iOS here.

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