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ASAP
Presentation Software
by Rick Smith (November 1995)

Imagine if you could simply type an indented list of topics and subtopics for your presentation, save it in your word processor and in about ten minutes, create a slide show that is the same high quality as the ones you may have seen at a recent CPE seminar or trade show. Wouldn't this be useful?

I opened the ASAP box from Software Publishing (the people who brought you Harvard Graphics and Harvard Chart ) with some anxiety. The software box included only a very colorful 25 page guide for using ASAP to make compelling presentations, a small 6 page quick start guide, 2 diskettes, the registration card and some promotional material. But where was the usual 250 page manual? There wasn't any. The six pages of instructions were a little too brief and I feel that you will need to experiment with the program to fully understand the usage of each item on the toolbar. The floating tooltip help worked erratically. Most, but not all of toolbar items were also available from the 5 pull down menus.

This product does include free technical support and presentation advice for thirty days, by phone or by fax, from your first call to the Hotline. It is available from 9AM to 9PM EST and SPC provides unlimited CompuServe support, available at GO SPCFORUM. Another interesting support option is available for $199 per year per caller and it provides unlimited, 24 hours a day, seven days a week support through a toll-free number and provides assistance for not only ASAP, but other popular software products such as Windows, DOS, Word, WordPerfect, 123, Excel, Quattro Pro, Norton Utilities, WinFax and dBASE.

I installed the program (A:\Install) easily and I was off and running. The program takes about 3.5 megabytes of hard disk space. I imported some text that I had previously created, with 2 titles with 3 bullet points for each slide. When I clicked the preview button, and I looked at the slide I created, I was amazed. I created a great looking slide! I felt I could have easily spent a great deal more time fiddling around with other presentation programs and not achieve results this professional looking. Total time including installation was about 10 minutes on a 386sx16! (486DX33 - about 5 minutes, Pentium 75 - about 4 minutes )

In today's business climate, taking hours to create a presentation is just not an option, as many presentations have a very short lifespan. People are doing just in time presentations for client proposals or changes in the tax laws. Instead of having to write your bullet points on paper, hand this list to a secretary to create a Powerpoint presentation in an hour. ASAP provides a useful way to get your point across quickly, without spending a lot of time and money ($99 street price). Now you won't have to make a few changes, give it back to the secretary again and keep repeating this procedure until you are either eventually finished or simply run out of time and have to make the presentation. With ASAP you can save yourself from the pressure of always changing and adjusting your presentation in the hours before their presentation by getting the presentation completed days sooner. If you need to change items due to latebreaking news, you can make the changes quickly to your presentation even seconds before you go on.

You simply select a slide and with the single click of a mouse, you can choose from the 22 types of layouts included. ASAP contains layouts such as bulleted list, check list, multi-column lists, time agenda, organization chart, stacked pyramid, circular cycle, radiating orbits and quotation. In case you are not sure how to indent the outline for a particular layout, you can simply drag and drop one of those 22 design types into the work area and a new slide is created that can be quickly customized by replacing the generic text with your presentation text. This saves you from wasting time creating a dummy slide, just to see how a completed slide might look. ASAP also includes 6 complete presentations to assist you in the art of persuasive presentations. These miniature, topical presentations help present a complete display of each layout type, items to remember in a basic presentation, agenda for a staff meeting, a company overview presentation, a management update and items to discuss during a problem resolution meeting.

ASAP offers 17 professional color schemes, including two for monochrome displays, two for 16 color displays and older color LCD projection systems and the rest of the schemes for systems that can display readable text using 256 or more colors. With these color schemes, you are assured of having professional results every time you present. 13 different designs are included which change the location of the title and some of the background graphics.

The built-in outliner included with ASAP is very simple to use, but you can also import a file directly from Word or WordPerfect. ASAP also supports RTF (Rich Text Format) and plain ASCII text. If Word is installed on your computer before ASAP is installed, the top toolbar in Word will then include an ASAP button which will help save time by assisting you in directly importing your Word document into ASAP. Once the text of your presentation is entered, you can easily move the slides around, insert new points, promote or demote items and work in either textual outline mode or a graphical WYSIWYG preview mode. ASAP even lets you import Excel Charts, Macrosheets , Worksheets and even sound files.

A simple list, created from a downloaded computer printout, with each department of a client's firm and the employees of that department, could be indented to show the hierarchy of bosses and workers. This list can then be quickly transformed into individual departmental org charts, by clicking on the organization chart button. Other presentation software products create this org chart as a separate entity in the program, not from an imported outline or list. By adding some added titles and graphics such as your firm's name and logo along with similar client information, you have now transformed this simple printout into graphical, departmental organization charts, useful for BPR (Business Process Reengineering) projects. Even though the org chart presentation has the exact same text content as the simple list, the org chart slides will look more impressive to your client, and the graphical format will assist you in getting your point across much faster. You can now compete more effectively for engagements against larger firms which have the additional staff and departments to create these presentations on demand.

I would certainly recommend this program, if you want to get slides and presentations done quickly and efficiently. If you have been frustrated using other programs which create presentations such as Powerpoint or WordPerfect Presentations, ASAP will help take your thoughts and ideas and make them into a slide show presentation faster than these other programs because the program automatically adjusts the size of fonts as more text is entered into a slide and eliminates the need to constantly having to worry about changing font sizes while you change your ideas. You get to create the entire presentation yourself and concentrate on the thoughts and ideas you want to convey to your audience and the content of the presentation, rather than wasting time with the technical mechanics of creating master slides and aligning titles. If you require painstakingly accurate color matching of your slide colors to your corporate colors, rigidly specific design and style criteria, ASAP is not the program for you. But if want a program that can take a few ideas you have and let you communicate them with a persuasive presentation in minutes, ASAP is the answer. All of the slides that ASAP creates look great and its just a matter of personal preference to choose amongst the 4,862 different combinations of layout, design and color schemes.

In case my article still doesn't convince you, or you can't wait to try this program yourself, right now, SPC has made it very easy. You can download a 14-day working copy of the program from their Internet site (HTTP://www.spco.com) or from CompuServe at GO SPCONLINE.

Other Information

Company Data
SPC (Software Publishing Corporation)
3165 Kifer Road
Post Office Box 54983
Santa Clara, California 95056-0983
USA

Customer Service: (800) 234-2500
No Charge Hotline Answers: (970) 522-9064
Technical Support Fax: (970) 522-9074

CompuServe: GO SPCFORUM
BBS: (408) 986-1272

Pros

Easy for novice to transform ideas into professional slide show in minutes

Requires little hard disk space

Automatic adjustment of slide as additional text is entered

4,862 different combinations of layout, design and color schemes

Easy to import files from Word, WordPerfect and Excel

Program is self sufficient (built-in outliner, spell checker and slide show)

Cons

Requires some exploring to fully exploit product's capabilities

Erratic Tooltip help

All toolbar items not available from the pulldown menus

Not possible to add additional layouts, designs or color schemes

No transition effects (wipes, sweeps or other patterns)

Copyright 1995 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

   
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