Microsoft PowerPoint has been making presentations easier and better for many a long year now. The venerable giant of the show-and-tell market has always been essential for a wide variety of roles, including sales, corporate expansion, teaching, and promotions, and has been built around a combination of simple usage coupled with numerous and versatile tools for making the ideal presentation.

Of course, where computers are concerned, there is no scope to stay in the same place - not to move forward is tantamount to drifting backwards. Earlier versions of PowerPoint can't be expected to compete with more up-to-date rivals; this being inevitable, Microsoft have unveiled the bigger and brighter 2010 edition of PowerPoint. However, as important as it is for that vast company to keep up with competitors, it's important to ask whether the 2010 release is right for you. Is it worth upgrading for whatever role you or your company need it to fulfil?

Looking better than ever

The most striking step forward that PowerPoint 2010 makes is in the appearance of your presentations. PowerPoint has always been able to help you produce stylish and attractive shows, but the latest incarnation of the software greatly enhances the visual appeal of your creations. After all, success relies on getting the message across - and no matter how important and insightful your words may be, if it isn't presented in a sufficiently engaging and attractive manner, your audience will not be receptive to what you need them to understand.

Usage of video in presentations has seen major improvements. Videos can now be embedded directly into the piece, and edited, cut and enhanced from within the software itself, making it ever easier for you to ensure that your show is just how you wanted it to be. What's more, as the videos are now an integral part of the presentation you've created, you don't need to worry about managing multiple different files if you share or move your work; everything is now part of the same file.

PowerPoint also now offers tools to edit pictures from within the application itself. If you want a presentation that's rich in images, there's no need to invest in separate (and expensive) editing software to make sure that the appearance is just right. Various and versatile artistic effects and improvements can be added both to pictures and video without ever leaving PowerPoint, and all using the same intuitive Office interface that you're used to. And to polish up the visual appeal of your presentation that little bit further, 2010 brings an enhanced range of dynamic 3-D slide transitions and animations.

Easier to use

If any piece of software is undergoing wide-ranging improvement and renovation, it's essential that extra functionality doesn't result in increased complexity. Fortunately, this hurdle didn't trip Microsoft in the making of PowerPoint 2010. The ribbon interface introduced in 2007 is now easier to use than ever before, being fully customisable so that whatever tools you need to use are always those that are closest to hand. Sharing has also been enhanced, as presentations can now be shown to others in any location, regardless of whether or not they have PowerPoint - your show can be shared as a regular video file, viewable with any media software.

Meanwhile, new co-authoring tools allow any number of colleagues to work together on a presentation, from anywhere in the world; PowerPoint even allows for direct communication between authors, without having to leave the software. And finally, when it comes to sharing the finished article, 2010 provides compression tools to make your files smaller, available simply at the touch of a button.

Of course, it's always worth considering a short training course to help you or your staff get up to speed with the new version of the software, especially if you've limited expertise with previous versions. But once you're familiar with all that PowerPoint 2010 has to offer, you'll find that whatever you need it for, it can markedly improve the quality and effectiveness of your presentation without making your work any more difficult or time-consuming. Today's all-new PowerPoint can play an important role in your future.