PowerPoint – A Document Creation Tool?

We frequently hear about how you should never use PowerPoint to create a document; many times referred to as a Slideument. Slideument was a phrase coined by presentation expert/guru Garr Reynolds. It is used to describe a PowerPoint or slideshow that is overloaded with information and looks more like a document than a slideshow that is then presented to an audience.

I fully support this view and belief that PowerPoint should never be used to present slideuments/documents. What we often forget is the key difference between presenting a document and creating a document. We should never present a document, that is we should never create a slideument. However, that doesn’t mean we can;t use PowerPoint to create documents. They could be saved as a PDF and used as a handout, brochure, report or whatever.

You might say, well PowerPoint is a presentation tool and not a document creation tool. We shouldn’t use it for something it wasn’t meant for. Instead we should use a tool made for document creation.

That is all nice and well but let’s take a moment to look at what tools we have for creating documents. Most people have only one; Microsoft Word. Some other people might have Adobe InDesign.

Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign is an awesome tool for creating documents. It is a true page layout tool. However, it is a feature packed software that is not intuitive to use without fairly significant training of the user. It is not really a tool that you can just open up and start using. At least most people can’t. Because of this and because most people don’t have Adobe InDesign this is not a real alternative. If you do create a large amount of documents then maybe buying InDesign and signing up for a class is the right thing to do, but for most presenters it is not worth the time and effort to learn this tool.

Microsoft Word
Most people that use PowerPoint have Microsoft Office installed and thus Microsoft Word available on their computer. In my opinion Word is great for writing page after page of text but as soon as you try to add any kind of graphical elements to the document Word gets a mind of its own. Typically Word thinks it knows best where graphical elements should be places as opposed to where you are trying to place them. I do not consider Word a page layout tool it is more like a text capture tool. So this is not a great alternative for people either.

Basically people have tools they know how to use that are very poor tools for document creation or they don’t have time, energy or desire to learn a new great tool for document creation.  Therefore people have created a new path, using a tool that they are familiar with that has many elements similar to a page layout tool; PowerPoint.

PowerPoint basically gives you a blank page (after you apply the blank slide template) where you can add elements like charts, tables, text boxes, images etc. anywhere you like just like in InDesign. InDesign obviously has many more features and is much more robust and suited for document creation than PowerPoint, but PowerPoint is a good substitute for most people.

Now if there were only a way to lock down the ability show those documents as slideshows it would be perfect 🙂