I cannot help it, but I am surprised almost everyday with the movement of the web. The other day I have reviewed iRows, an online spreadsheet service that provides amazing functionality. Now today I come across Thumbstacks, a service that actually allows a user to create presentations, very similar to what you would see when using the popular office application, PowerPoint, but online. I have seen online presentations before (Eric Meyer’s S5), but this is a very impressive solution. You can create fully designed presentations in an easy drag and drop interface online and share your presentations with anyone. I created a test slideshow and besides the interface looking a little different from what I am used to with PowerPoint, it really covered many of the features that I would normally use in PowerPoint. It does lack a few features like slide transitions and sounds, but I personally find those as little annoyances anyway. Alright, lets take a look at what Thumbstacks has to offer.
You first have to sign up and create your own account to save your presentations to. Once you are all set, head on over to the Presentation Builder and you will see something similar to the above screenshot. You will see a toolbar along that top that will provide most of your formatting options, along the left will be your slides (starts you off with two), and on the right will be your workspace, or stage if you prefer, that you will edit your slides in. Everything is very nicely layed out and is an overall simple interface to work with, although you may notice that some functionality cannot be performed unless you right click. For example, right clicking on the left slides bar, you will be able to add/remove slides or even set a theme to your presentation. Also right clicking on the stage will allow you to add text or image objects to your slide. It would be nice to have an easy, “Add Slide” button or something on the slide column, but right click seems to get the job done rather well. Also, something that isn’t really pointed out is that you can click and drag the slides up or down to put them in the order you want.
Your slide workspace is where all your content, images, headings, and everything else gets layed out and Thumbstacks has made it very easy for you to work on slides. You will notice that a lot of the functionality is possible by drag and drop or by right clicking on the workspace and objects. Position any element where you want, any size that you want. You can even select multiple objects at once by click and dragging on the slide background and making a box fully around the objects or by holding shift and clicking on each object seperately. Double clicking on a text object will allow you to edit the text and add formatting to it using the top toolbar. Also, if you are looking for more options with your objects, right click on it and select “Object Properties”. You will also see that you can position elements to the top, below other objects, etc., by right clicking.
I was impressed how you can easily create multiple slides and add text blocks and images to them, but then I was even more impressed when I saw the theme and background options. Thumbstacks allows you to easily add a background image or style to any slide and also allows you to even select a theme to base the whole presentations appearance on, like you would see in PowerPoint. Adding a background is as simple as adding an image to a slide. On the bottom of a slide, you will see “Edit Slide Background.” Then you can simply add objects as you would on a slide. For example, you could upload an image, set it as a tiled graphic, and resize the object to fit your slide. Very simple. But if you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating your own backgrounds for slides, then you can assign an already made theme to them! Just go to the left slides column, right click, and select, “Change Theme.” A dialog box will then open with a list of themes that you can select. I chose the Underwater theme and it worked perfectly. I wonder if we can expect more themes or possibly be able create our own themes to use in the future.
As you work on your slides, Thumbstacks will automatically save your progress so you wont loose any of your work. There were times that I went to go view another site and accidently closed the Presentation Builder, but then I would come back to find all my work was still there, thankfully. Once I closed it accidentally for the first time, I decided to save the project. You simply click on the save icon and pick a name. Once saved, it will then be available in your “My Presentations” area to easily view and change later on. So now you’ve got a great presentation online. So how do you share it with others? You can either export it as an HTML document or you can publish your presentation. Go to the Presentation Builder, open your presentation, and click on the icon that looks like a world with a chain (link icon). A dialog will come up that will let you publish your presentation and give you a permanent address to give out for anyone to view your presentation.
(Directs you to Thumbstacks demo presentation)
Now all that is left to do is to view and share your presentation! Presentations are viewed in a browser and opens in a full screen window. If it doesn’t go full screen for you, I’d recommend setting your browsers view mode to full screen because then it will look just like a normal presentation from an offline application. You get your basic functionality with left and right buttons (mouse or keyboard) for navigation through slides and even adds one last black slide like PowerPoint does saying the presentation has ended. If I wasn’t aware the presentation was built online, I would have never known that it wasn’t from software like PowerPoint.
As I have said, it is amazing what is possible on the web these days and Thumbstacks definitely shows that. For its first release, it worked very well. The Presentation Builder works in Firefox and IE at this time and the presentations can be viewed in IE, Firefox, or any standard based browsers. I was quite pleased with what you can do to your slides, but it would be great to see more features like transitions, bullet highlighting (like you see in Eric Meyer’s S5), and an option to save your own themes to use again at a later time. Thumbstacks is an excellent solution for making presentations that not only looks great but works just like your average presentation software. Would you agree? If you’ve made a presentation, I would be happy to see what you’ve come up with!