Wonder Tools — Create Superb Slides

New ways to move beyond PowerPoint

I’m Jeremy Caplan, a journalist and educator at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. You’re reading my newsletter with resources for productivity & creativity.

This week marks the launch of the new Journalism Creators Program I’ve been working on. Tuesday we welcomed 20 stellar journalism innovators from around the world. For the program, I’ve been developing new presentations and exploring new ways to create visuals, which leads to the subject of today’s brief post…

Spring 2021 Update — here’s my follow-up post on the top new slide platforms

Tools for making great slides are flourishing.

Pitch.com is the best new tool for collaborating on slides with colleagues. It’s still in beta, so you have to request access to try it out. It’ll be public soon. Its features and capabilities are improving steadily. Tomorrow, October 16, Pitch launches a Pro version for beta users for $10 a month. A free option will remain. I’ve been using the free beta version, which is terrific. It’ll remain free for those who don’t need all of the professional features, like video uploading.

Working with a colleague on a slide deck today, I marveled at how far Pitch takes us from the old days of emailing decks back and forth. Even Google Slides feels old-fashioned next to Pitch, though GSlides still works well and remains a great free choice.

Apple’s Keynote* remains the best desktop software for designing slides, but it offers only a few professional-quality templates, and has weak Web offerings for accessing or collaborating on presentations remotely. Pitch.com, by comparison, has a wide range of fantastic templates designed for contemporary presentations, which are less about bullet points and more about powerful images supported by sparse summary text.

A few things I love about Pitch

  • Mix and match. When crafting a presentation, you can draw on slide templates from anything in Pitch’s library, which has a superb array of sleek designs.

  • Set up your own templates. Rather than starting from scratch, save a deck you like as a template to re-use styles, logos, images and other materials you frequently include across your team.

  • Easy-to-add visuals. A little menu sits atop your slide where you can quickly hit a button to add charts, images, icons, stickers, or embed YouTube, Vimeo or Loom videos. You can find free-to-use images (from Unsplash, Icons8 and Giphy) right within Pitch, rather than having to open up multiple tabs to find things elsewhere.

  • Import data. You can insert charts into slides by importing data you have in Google Sheets or Analytics right from within Pitch.

  • Workspace and workflow. If you have a team that makes and shares slide decks, there are a bunch of features that are helpful, like setting consistent styles shared across presentations, and assigning particular slides to a team member. You can even mark slides as approved, in need of editing, etc.

  • Desktop version. If your browser windows get cluttered like mine, you may like being able to download Pitch to work from your desktop (though it’s basically a Chrome app, not a full-fledged independent piece of software).

  • Shortcuts. Editing a Pitch deck is quick with keyboard keystrokes (Command-K summons a quick menu, just like Superhuman).

Pitch.com is still in development, so it lacks some features it’ll likely have down the road. No animations or transitions yet. (Those bells and whistles are often overused and distracting, so no big issue there). One feature I’m waiting for is the ability to export slide decks as gifs, videos, and image sets, to incorporate in other contexts. You can already embed slide decks on Web pages or in Notion or Coda, which is great.

Other excellent slide creation tools

Beautiful.ai and Projector and Canva are among my other favorite tools for slides.

  • Here’s why I like Projector so much. Like Pitch it has outstanding templates and has a super-easy and flexible tool palette. Projector has the additional distinction of offering design tools for creating social graphics, not just slides.

  • Beautiful.ai’s editor is awesome at automatically adapting a layout to fit your content. It also boasts stellar pre-made charts and graphics that you can customize as needed.

  • …And I wrote here about Canva, which has new features for creating slides and presenting them live.

    Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend. - Jeremy

* p.s. Keynote remains a fantastic design tool for those not interested in Web-based subscription software and those not eager to learn Illustrator, Photoshop, Figma, or other such pro tools. It’s versatile in letting you output slides into PDFs, short videos and gifs, as well as a stack of individual images. Keynote also has two nice brand-new features:

  • A handy new Zoom-friendly feature (“Play slideshow in window”) lets you present full-screen slides without taking over your whole screen. For anyone without a second monitor, it’s a crucial feature other presentation tools need to quickly add for remote meetings.

  • You can now finally embed YouTube videos inside Keynote slides.