PDFs for Presentation Decks

Since it came to market in 1990, Microsoft PowerPoint has been the go-to software for presentations. It’s used by so many people that we often say we’re going to create a “PowerPoint presentation” instead of just a presentation, slideshow or deck.

Over time, other presentation software applications have made their way to the market. Yet one tool that gets very little attention for its ability to create stunning, shareable presentations is the PDF software application.

When people think of PDF software, they often associate it with creating documentation or forms. After all those are two areas where this type of application shines. The same features that make PDF the de facto format for these use cases, however, also carry over to the slideshow presentation arena.

The problem with presentation software

Presentation software does what its developers built it to do: make it easy for the user to create dynamic, media rich presentations. The main selling point for this type of application, however, is exactly what causes problems with what it produces.

When PowerPoint was in its infancy, using slide transitions and animations, where text and images fly in from all over the screen, was impressive to an audience.

Fast-forward to today and using these gimmicks is best done sparingly. Otherwise, your presentation is in danger of being considered amateurish. The problem is, people still rely on distractions because presentation software makes it so easy to insert them into the deck.

Another feature that makes the presentation software an attractive option is the ease in which the user adds video and audio files. Multimedia is great way to captivate and demonstrate, but it also inflates the file size to the point that it becomes difficult to share presentations via email or even certain file sharing applications.

PDF software to the rescue

Commercial PDF software doesn’t provide users with the capability to bog down the finished product with useless animations and transitions so the urge to use these in a presentation is completely removed from the equation. Using the PDF file format also helps reduce file size making it easier to share presentations; just ask the presentation training experts from Ethos3 who suggest, “simply export the file as a .pdf” if you need to make it smaller.

However, these aren’t the only two reasons why PDF software makes sense for creating a presentation deck. Consider the other features that an option such as a PDF editor like PhantomPDF from Foxit offers:

  • Page customization for visually stunning slides
  • Built in object editing and text formatting tools
  • Support for embedding video and audio files
  • Rich drawing tools to call attention to different areas of a presentation
  • Commenting, editing and collaboration tools built into the software
  • Integration with third-party tools such as Evernote and SharePoint
  • Security through encryption options to protect content from those who shouldn’t see it
  • 508 compliance checks to ensure accessibility

While the choice to use PDF software to create a presentation deck may at first feel unorthodox, consider what the purpose of any presentation is: to get information to the right people. If a tool provides you with all of the capabilities to create lively slides and makes sharing the content both easy and secure, doesn’t it make sense to consider this option the next time you need to present?

5 thoughts on “PDFs for Presentation Decks

    1. FOXITBLOG Post author

      You can create from scratch using the Create Blank button in the CONVERT tab or convert from PowerPoint and modify (edit, annotate, insert, attach, etc.) from there.

  1. Donald Jenner

    Your comments are correct, but miss the real problem. Presentation graphics software is increasingly regarded as another form of word processing software, so that what is put on the screen is the presentation, which is simultaneously read off by the presenter. The other, older sin is to use a print-out of a slide set (easily done; most presentation graphics software readily produces PDFs which can then be printed or otherwise distributed) as a leave-behind. Both these are serious mistakes.

    Your better case is the conjunction of commented presentation files and edited PDFs. Most presentation graphics software offers a rudimentary “notes” format — slide image plus commentary, even a script. This is a beginning point. Outputting such pages to an editable PDF, however, offers some advantages: A truly editable PDF has better formatting and markup capabilities which can be used to make a better leave-behind. This is very important: Most presentations are 15-20 minutes; the leave-behind can extend that to a couple hours of more detailed discussion, better making the case.

    One could do this with word-processing software, but that is a more complex process — too much formatting, and not necessarily the best kinds of tools. The editable PDF is a nice place between the slideshow “notes” page and the full-blown word-processing job. It is, in Goldilocks language, “juuuust right”.

    Full disclosure: I have used presentation graphics software since the mid-1980s (I saw MS PowerPoint in its first, pre-release iteration after MS acquired it from the Apple-FatMac-only version in B/W and did it over in color). I wrote numerous articles on the subject — reviews, how-tos, software manuals — from the mid-1980s to about 2000. I wrote a whole book on desktop graphics, in which presentation graphics was an element. And I used the technology in my university teaching for most of my 35 years in that strange business.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *