SlideRocket Blog

Zenter (revised)

By Nat Robinson on June 28, 2007

Everyone we know has told us that Google acquired Zenter. Everyone. We were already competing with Microsoft, so what’s the big deal?

Here’s what Om Malik has to say about it:

Google has snapped up yet another start-up – Zenter, which is building online presentations.

The problem is that unless Google figures out a way to create a seamless integration between these online apps, these will all have limited utility. The other aspect of the Google Apps which the search giant needs to address is usability and interface. A lot of people like their minimalist approach to UI, but not me personally. Similarly, like many GMail users we are still unconvinced about Google’s ability to provide an always-on service, and ensure the safety of data.

I found an interview with Wayne Crosby, one of the founders of Zenter, from a few months back in which he notes:

Zenter relies heavily on JavaScript to provide a rich end user experience. We looked at several libraries (Dojo, jQuery, Prototype, etc.) and in the end developed a meta-language on top of JavaScript to meet our needs, using a tiny part of Prototype.

So when we talk about Zenter we’re talking about a Web application written in Ajax with the standard Web 2.0 limited feature set on a light background (why are all Web 2.0 applications created on a white or light-colored background?). Here’s a screen grab:

Zenter Screen Shot

Now launch your copy of Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote and take a look at the screen. Are we really talking about the same thing here? Does it look like Zenter can truly replace one of the leading desktop presentation applications? Your next assignment is to launch Google Spreadsheets, upload something from Excel, and start editing. Does it feel like Excel? Does it have all the features? Is it really a replacement?

As far as we can tell, Web sites created in Ajax just don’t feel like desktop applications. Mitch likes to point out that, “lack of features is not a feature,” and I agree. Where can we find the next generation presentation application that lives in the browser and can also run offline? The one where we don’t have to sacrifice features just because it lives online? The one that truly revolutionizes the way that we create, manage, deliver, and share presentations?

Wayne Crosby of Zenter goes on to say in his interview that

Presentation Software is a proven multi-billion dollar industry that has not had a significant feature upgrade in 15 years. I then asked myself, “What would make it sexy, innovative, and revolutionary? If PowerPoint were built today without the desktop limitations of yester-year what would it look like?”

We think that it’s going to look like SlideRocket:

    1. SlideRocket is feature-complete and feels like desktop software

    2. SlideRocket’s creation tools are professional quality and let you work with rich media

    3. SlideRocket’s lets people and organizations manage large slide libraries and collaborate on presentations

    4. SlideRocket delivers presentations as a Web link, as a Webinar (similar to WebEx but better because the load time is much less and animations and sounds play smoothly), and offline in a conference room

    5. SlideRocket’s community helps users quickly assemble world-class slides

Here’s a link to a short SlideRocket presentation so you can see what I’m talking about (you can run this in any Mac, Linux, or Windows browser with the Adobe Flash 9 Player installed).

We’re looking forward to our launch, with or without competition from Google.

- mike

Fun With Text Boxes

By Nat Robinson on June 14, 2007

SlideRocket has powerful tools for laying out and displaying text. Here we’ll talk about how to create a text box that has a border and is partially transparent, and how to apply a subtle dropshadow to the text inside. The finished result will look like this:
Sample text box

To start, create your text box and make sure that the “Styles” tab is selected along the top-right corner of the screen. The next four steps are highlighted in the image below:
1. Set your fill to “Color” and click the color chip.
2. Pick your color and drag the “Opacity” slider at the bottom of the color picker to make your text box partially transparent.
3. Set your stroke to “Solid”, pick a color, and set the weight of the stroke to place the border around your text box.
4. Format your text with color, size, horizontal justification, and vertical justification (in this example the text is right-justified and centered vertically).

Sample text box

The steps to apply the dropshadow to your text are highlighted in the image below:
5. Click the “Effects” tab in the top-right corner of the SlideRocket screen
6. Click the “Add Effect…” button, choose the DropShadow effect, and adjust your settings to taste (we’ve lowered the opacity for a more subtle dropshadow).
Sample text box

- mike

Themes and Layouts

By Nat Robinson on June 9, 2007

We’ve torn apart the themes and layouts engine and are in the process of putting it back together. Here’s how it’s going to work:

Themes & Layouts

If you look in the right-hand corner of the screenshot above, I am editing my “Themes & Layouts” rather than my “Slides”. Starting from the lower-left corner, I am editing the “SlideRocket” theme and the thumbnails represent all of the layouts contained within the “SlideRocket” theme. Each layout may be edited independently, and I have assigned “Gray-dient” as the default background for my “Title Slide” layout.

Themes are applied to an entire presentation, and contain layouts, backgrounds, and styles. Each account will inherit themes that we provide, themes that are shared within your organization (if you have one), and themes that are shared in the broader SlideRocket community (meaning that you can grab themes from other people and bring them into your account).

Layouts are applied to individual slides, and control where text, images, etc. are placed. We currently have an interface to assign placeholders to layouts, and these placeholders are filled in on a slide-by-slide basis anywhere a layout is used. For example, you would fill in the title for a slide using a layout with a text placeholder that says “Insert Title Here”.

Backgrounds may be changed independent of layout, which provides tremendous flexibility. You can choose a default background for each layout, but it’s easy to change the background for any given slide. A background may be a solid color, a gradient, an image, a Flash animation or video, or a placeholder that changes per slide.

Styles have not been implemented yet, and they will allow you to control the font formatting for each slide. This will allow you to quickly change all text on a slide from black to white, for example, if you change the background from something light to something dark.

We have also discussed having overlays that would allow you to float items over the other contents of slides. This would be great for corporate logos or navigation bars, for example.

- mike