A recent Microsoft television ad for the Surface implies that the iPad can't open PowerPoint presentations. One of the many options for creating, viewing, and editing PowerPoint and other presentations on an iPad is the free CloudOn app, which I described in a post from last June.
The advanced features of PowerPoint and other Office apps are overkill for tablet screens. The iPad needs a presentation app such as the free Haiku Deck that's designed for the tablet's strength: showing pictures.
Haiku Deck emphasizes telling your story in pictures: your own images or royalty-free photos in the service's searchable picture archive. (Note that you have to pay to use many of the archive's images.)
The limited slide-layout options restrict each slide's total word count. Anyone who has sat through a presenter reading full paragraphs from a PowerPoint slide will appreciate Haiku Deck's built-in text restriction.
Image-centric presentations ready to share in minutes
After you download the app, you create a Haiku Deck account by providing your name, an e-mail address, and a password.
Click the plus sign at the bottom of the main Haiku Deck screen to create a presentation. Enter the presentation's name, and press Enter to open the edit screen. The first of the four options in the left pane lets choose a text layout: heading/subheading, bullet list, or numbered list.
You can add a background image by importing it or by selecting one from the service's royalty-free picture library. Enter a keyword in the search box to retrieve thumbnails of images available for free or for a fee.
Fourteen different heading/subheading combinations are provided, but the text boxes aren't sizable and the text size changes automatically based on the number of characters. When you get to the character max, the text scrolls to the right, which puts it out of sight.
Other options let you select one of three chart templates and a solid background color.
If you prefer not to design your own presentation layout, press Theme at the top of the slide-edit window to view a scrollable list of themes: six are free and about a dozen others cost $2 apiece. When I tested the app, I wasn't able to apply a free theme. Also, when I repositioned an image background I had imported the app crashed repeatedly. With these two exceptions the app worked as advertised.
From the edit screen you can preview the presentation's slides by pressing the arrow key in the top-right corner. Move between slides by swiping the screen left and right. The presentation preview doesn't run automatically.
Share presentations via e-mail, social network, or blog
When you're ready to share the presentation, press the share icon in the bottom-left corner of the main edit window or press Share under the presentation thumbnail on the main Haiku Deck screen. The Save & Share options include Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and PowerPoint/Keynote export, which attaches the PPT file to a new e-mail message.
You can also copy HTML code for posting the presentation in a WordPress or other blog, and copy the URL. The Save & Share window shows a Web preview of the presentation and lets you edit the title, change the privacy setting (public, private, or restricted), and assign the presentation a category, such as "Business," "Education," and "Humor."
To view the slide on the Web, sign into your account at haikudeck.com and select the presentation in your gallery. In addition to viewing the presentation in the browser, you can give slides optional titles and add notes to the slides.
The Haiku Deck gallery features dozens of presentations created by individuals and businesses. My favorite is How to Write With Style (Adapted from Kurt Vonnegut).
Haiku Deck's lack of slide transitions, animation, audio, and video make the free app unsuitable for the Big Presentation to those Very Important People, but if you're just stitching together a few points into a short narrative, Haiku Deck's simple, image-centric slides will help you command your audience's attention.
At the least, Haiku Deck means an end to slide recitations in the guise of a presentation. (For more on improving the effectiveness of a PowerPoint presentation, see my post from September 2001.)