Free and Open Source Alternatives to PowerPoint

Get ready to impress your audience with these tools!

While Microsoft PowerPoint is still the go-to technology for a lot of presenters, there are open source options out there that are worth a second look, too. Some of them are geared toward specific audiences and some of them are more general-purpose, but they're all free of cost and free of restrictions.

1. LibreOffice Impress

LibreOffice Impress
What We Like
  • Full featured.

  • Polished and intuitive interface.

  • Simple and familiar to use.

  • Actively developed with regular releases.

What We Don't Like
  • Might have too many features for some.

  • Requires the entire LibreOffice suite.

If you came here looking for the most direct replacement for Microsoft PowerPoint, look no further. LibreOffice is easily the most feature complete and well polished open source office suite in the world today, and that's not likely to change.

LibreOffice Impress offers a traditional interface that users switching from Microsoft will immediately feel at home with. It comes packed with the functionality that you'd typically expect, and offers plenty of power to make fantastic presentations.

The LibreOffice suite comes packaged with most Linux distributions, but it's fully cross-platform, and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux completely free of charge.

2. Calligra Stage

Calligra Stage
What We Like
  • Packed with features and controls.

  • Excellent design options.

  • Great graphical diagram options.

What We Don't Like
  • Interface will feel alien to new users.

  • Definite learning curve.

Calligra Stage is part of the Calligra suite (just like PowerPoint is part of Microsoft Office), and because this project is relatively new, it might feel like there's a lot missing. That said, it does already have some appealing features.

The software is fairly flexible (you can add text, charts, and images), there's a plugin system that lets you expand Stage's functionality, it uses the OpenDocument file format (letting you open your files in programs like OpenOffice and Microsoft Office), and, according to its Introduction page, it has "a special slide overview view during presentations for the presenter, support for many different master slides in one presentation, cool transitions and a useful notes feature."

Calligra is available as source code or as installation packages for Linux, FreeBSD, various other Linux based systems, and OS X from the official Get Calligra page.

3. Apache OpenOffice Impress

OpenOffice Impress
What We Like
  • Feature rich.

  • Polished traditional interface.

  • Simple for newcomers to use.

What We Don't Like
  • Essentially a weaker clone of LibreOffice.

  • Not as actively developed or released.

Yes, there's another "Impress." This one is part of Apache's OpenOffice suite. At one point, OpenOffice was the main open source office suite. Then, there was something of a shake-up, causing the project to split into Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice. They share the same lineage and many of the same names, but LibreOffice is the stronger project. That said, Apache's take is no slouch either.

According to its main webpage, some of the highlights include master pages, multiple views (drawing, outline, slide, note, and handout), support for multiple monitors, support for several special effects (slideshow animations along with 2D and 3D images and text), and use of the OpenDocument format (just like Calligra Stage).

Released under an Apache license, Impress runs on Linux, Microsoft Office, and OS X. You can download the source code or installation packages from its Downloads page.

4. reveal.js

What We Like
  • Web based.

  • Accessible and shareable anywhere.

  • More minimal approach.

What We Don't Like
  • Requires web setup.

  • Entirely different than more traditional options.

And, finally, we have reveal.js ... which brings something completely new to the table. Because presentations are based in HTML -- the lingua franca of the web -- the finished products have very modern looks, transitions, and navigation, all of which can go a long way toward impressing audiences that are tired of seeing the same old clipart-based PowerPoint presentations year after year.

With reveal.js, you can nest slides through multiple navigation directions, pick from seven different transition styles (cube, page, concave, zoom, linear, fade, and none) and eight themes (default, sky, beige, simple, serif, night, moon, and solarized), and, since it's all created in HTML, you can easily control background colors, create custom events, and format quotes.

reveal.js is available under an open source license, and you can download the source code from the project's GitHub page.

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