Tool Name: Prezi
Launch Date: May 2009
Developer Website: prezi.com
Reviewed by: Cassandra Nelson
Review Date: February 6, 2013
Tags or Keywords: presentation, cloud, zoom, visual, collaboration, sharing
Review: Prezi is a cloud-based software used to create “3D” visual presentations, called (big surprise) prezis. According to its website, Prezi is “a presentation tool that helps you organize and share your ideas” and that “makes sharing ideas more fun and engaging.” Essentially, it’s like PowerPoint on steroids, or rather crack; it doesn’t necessarily make you play the game better, but it definitely makes the game more intense.
Unlike PowerPoint, where the presenter is limited to a linear progression through a series of static slides, Prezi provides its users with a much more dynamic experience. Users place all of their information and ideas – texts, images, hyperlinks, animations, etc. – on a single, expansive canvas, and then connect the major points and topics using “paths.” Each item added to the presentation can be rearranged, resized, rotated, reformatted, and/or regrouped to change the overall look and flow of the presentation. Prezi also offers a variety of fonts, themes, and templates that allow its users to customize the general style of their presentation to fit their wants and needs. Finally, Prezi offers a unique zooming feature that allows its users to zoom in on key details and provides its viewers with a “3D” experience. (I use 3D in quotation marks here because, while the zooming feature does create a certain sensation of depth that is obviously absent in traditional presentation software such as PowerPoint, it neither creates true depth nor produces images or texts that appear to be jumping off the screen.) This dynamic element not found in PowerPoint makes Prezi generally more interactive and engaging.
Once a user has gotten her presentation satisfactorily pieced together, she can share it with her audience. Since Prezi is a cloud-based software, it can be accessed from almost any computer with Internet access, making presentations readily available in a variety of settings without the hassle of having to keep up with a thumbdrive or other external storage device. However, it is still possible to store personal copies of prezis on a pc or thumbdrive as a security measure, and it is not necessary to download any software before playing them back. Prezis can be presented to a localized audience using a computer projection, or they can be shared on the web for others to view at their leisure. One nice feature of Prezi is that prezis can be created using a 4:3 aspect ratio so that they can be arranged according to how they would appear if projected.
Depending on which plan a person purchases, prezis can be made either private or public. As the term suggests, private prezis can only be viewed or presented by their creator/s. Public prezis, on the other hand, are open for viewing by anyone using the website. With the creators consent, users can even “borrow” images, sound effects, animations, and like content from other people’s prezis for use in their own. Prezis can also be used for collaboration and co-presentation by up to ten people using the Prezi Meeting tool, which is included with all Prezi licenses. This makes prezis perfect for business presentations as well as student presentations, lecture aids, and possible use in collaborative digital humanities projects (perhaps for use at conferences or other instances where data is being presented to the public).
Getting started on Prezi is easy; all one really needs is an e-mail address. For those who are only looking to produce a few prezis and for whom privacy is not a concern, Prezi has a free version available for use that provides 100MB of storage and does not allow for the privacy setting. Another nice bonus of Prezi is that anyone who signs up using an e-mail address from an educational institution gets the option of using a free version of Prezi that provides 500MB of storage and allows for prezis to be made private. There are two other versions of Prezi that provide additional storage space and other support and editing features and that can be purchased for either $59/year or $159/year. For those already registered on Prezi, there is also a free app available for iPhones and iPods. Once a person has registered, he or she simply has to follow the tutorials and start creating.
Despite all of its pros, Prezi does have some cons. The major con, and the only real problem that I have personally had with the product thus far, is the focus it places on the visual aspect of a presentation. People have a tendency to overuse the zoom feature, causing their presentations to seem erratic, disorienting, ill-conceived, and ill-prepared; they’re constantly zooming in and out, moving from one side of the canvas to the other, focusing on a point for only a few seconds, and leaving the audience feeling dizzy, nauseous, and just visually overwhelmed. Additionally, the emphasis placed on visual stimuli gives users a tendency to focus more on the layout and look of their presentations rather than the actual content. This emphasis on the visual can also prove problematic for the visually impaired if the presentation is not accompanied by an effective speaker or audio clips. Thus, it would seem that no matter how good the tool is, its effectiveness is ultimately determined by its user.
Due to its dynamic and engaging style of presentation as well as the fact that it’s easy to learn, convenient to use, and basically free of charge, Prezi is probably the best presentation tool/software available right now. In my personal experience as a student, I have found it extremely helpful as a visual aid and as a means of communicating my thoughts to others. I hope that it becomes more popular and better utilized among educators, students, and scholars, especially those in the humanities and digital humanities.
To see the prezi version of this review, click on the following link: Tool Review- Prezi
Ease of Use: Prezi is relatively easy to figure out, especially if one watches the tutorials, and is very easy to use if one has mastered the basics and if one uses one of the pre-made templates.
Cost: Prezi is free to students and teachers. Also, there is a basic Prezi package providing minimum storage and basic editing features for free as well as a few package options ranging from $59/year to $159/year.
Requirements: Prezi is designed to run well on almost any “contemporary” computer. However, Prezi performs fastest on Windows computers, with Mac OS X coming in second, and Linux being the slowest. Also, Prezi supports most major browsers (Explorer 8+, Firefox 3+, Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera) but is designed to work best with Firefox 3.6+, Safari 4+, and Google Chrome 4+. Since it is developed in Adobe Flash and Adobe Air, it does require an Adobe Flash plug-in. Prezi Desktop works well with most Windows (XP or better) and Mac (OS X v10.6, v10.7, and v.10.8) systems but is not supported on Linux systems. Last but not least, Prezi is available as an app for iPads and iPhones, though you cannot create paths in your Prezis using this app.
Rival or Comparable Tools: PowerPoint and Keynote
Other Reviews: PC Magazine Review
Interview with James Geary about Prezi
There is also an interesting video on the Prezi homepage in which several people discuss the benefits of and possibilities for using Prezi.
Overall, I think this is a very informative and well-constructed review. I feel that it does a good job of explaining what Prezi is and how it can be utilized both in the classroom and as a means of working in the digital humanities. It is especially helpful that you suggested possible uses for its implementation, though I would have liked a little more information about how the Prezi Meeting tool works. It seems like it is sharable amongst multiple users, but I am curious as to whether or not all users have full access to editing the Prezi, what must be done to share the Prezi, and how the software tracks changes in this mode. Also, are there any digital humanities projects that are currently making use of Prezi as a means of making their work public?
I like that you contrast Prezi with Powerpoint to emphasize how Prezi might be a more useful (or at least more dynamic and visually appealing) tool, though since you mention that Keynote is also similar, it might be useful to also have a brief note on how it compares to Prezi as well. I think the “Prezi is like Powerpoint on crack” simile is a little unnecessary, both in the positive and negative reviews of Prezi. Also, the list of negatives seems to focus solely on the visual element of the tool being improperly used. Are there any other downsides to Prezi?
You mention that Prezis can include “texts, images, hyperlinks, animations, etc.” I think it might be useful to expand on this a little and provide more examples of the way that Prezi makes including a wide variety of multimedia in presentations easy. You might consider including links to Prezis that demonstrate this, especially since you mention these kinds of Prezis at the end of your review.
As a final, minor note, there is a small typo in the last paragraph of the proper review. The sentence “In my personal experience as a student, I have found extremely helpful as a visual aid and as a means of communicating my thoughts to others” seems to be missing a word.
Great review, Cassandra. The link to your Prezi tool review on Prezi doesn’t seem to be working any more, though.
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