Not so long ago one of my students (John Spencer) introduced me to Jef Raskin’s book “The Humane Interface“. While I have yet to read the book cover to cover, it’s got some interesting ideas in it including the notion of a “zooming user interface” or “ZUI”. Independent of John’s suggestion, another friend of mine (Zach Moazeni) visited our lab recently and gave a talk on Ruby on Rails. Zach gave his talk using prezi.com – a zooming presentation editor which really piqued my curiosity.
During our recent Spring Break (when my students were all basking in the sun down south) I started playing around with Prezi (they do make if free for educational purposes) and so far I like what I’ve seen. I’m teaching Android in one of my courses, so I started using Prezi for some of my lecture materials. Here’s a sample (click on the fullscreen option for best effect):
There are a couple of things I like about Prezi. First is its ability to focus and shift attention on presentation content in a natural flowing manner. Second, it’s sort of a hybrid between a PowerPoint presentation and a screencast. Its more dynamic than the former and more “macro” than a screencast. For example, when I browse the prezi gallery on prezi.com, I find I get more out of these presentations than a standard PowerPoint presentation (because of the ability to focus and shift attention) but find them not nearly as time consuming and tedious as watching a detailed screencast. Finally, the prezi editor is fairly simple to learn and work with, though I’m sure my initial output probably could use some serious refinement!
Prezi is based on Flash so it will work on any PC, Linux or Mac (but not on your iPhone or iPad!!). You can serve up your Prezi presentation online or you can download a read-only copy to distribute yourself. There is also an offline editor, though I prefer the online editor since I can then get at my presentations from any machine.
There are also some features I’d like to see in a future version. For example, when I’m establishing a path through multiple objects within a frame I’d like to be able to “group” that path as a sub path and refer to it at a macro level. As it stands you really can’t create a path until all the information is out on the table. The equivalent of a “snap to” wouldn’t be bad either when creating content.
I’ve posted my Android Prezis on my Screencast and Prezi Tutorials page. I’ll be adding more in the coming weeks. While you’re at it, give prezi.com a test drive yourself. I think you (and your audiences) will find it a welcome breath of fresh air after decades of PowerPoint and similar presentation tools.