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on 9 March 2004
Edward R. Tufte in a 23 page pamphlet exposes the poverty of thought and outright confusion induced by using PowerPoint templates to present real world ideas. Anyone who has dozed off during or fled from a presentation based on what he calls PowerPointPhluff will recognise "The Dreaded Build Sequence", the arbitrarily small sized data table, the awfull chartjunk graph, the bullet point slide and so on. PowerPoint, he clearly shows was designed for sales pitch presentations. In a sentence he demolishes the most widely used presentation aid in use in commerce and science. "The cognitive syle characteristics of the standard default PP presentation: foreshortening of the evidence and thought, low spatial resolution, a deeply hierarchical single-path structure as the model for organising every type of content, breaking up of the narrative and data into slides and minimal fragments, rapid temporal sequencing of thin information rather than focussed spatial analysis, conspicuous decoration and Phluff, a preoccupation with format not content, and an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch." There are many hilarious illustrations including "The Gettysburg Address" as a PowerPoint Presentation. The deeply disturbing part is where he shows that the use of PP style by Boeing Engineers so obscured the data and its analysis that NASA executives failed to realise the imminent danger to the shuttle Columbia and allowed it to re-enter with resulting loss of the entire crew in the worst space disaster ever. Order directly from Graphics Press. You will never use a PowerPoint template again- ever!
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on 17 July 2009
An excellent, well argued, devastating critique of PowerPoint as a tool to convey serious information. Tufte recommends that we abandon PowerPoint altogether and instead rely on written reports that the audience are required to read before the actual presentation. While this may not be feasible in every situation, Tufte's arguments will at least make you consider other options than the sales pitch oriented default style of PowerPoint.

This monograph appears as a chapter in Tufte's most recent book, Beautiful Evidence, so you don't need to buy both (like I did).
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on 28 January 2004
Tufte describes some of the (presumably unintended)consequences of PowerPoint-think and highlights the way it has become something of a crutch for management and consultants. Pictures should tell a thousand words but Tufte illustrates why PowerPoint typically expands rather than condenses the visual display of complex material (and not so complex). Essential reading for anyone who reaches for the PowerPoint button on their laptop every time he/she wants to communicate.
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on 6 January 2007
Tufte correctly criticises without mercy the use of PowerPoint for evidence presentation and for technical presentations.

He only states in passing and late in the text that there are uses for the standard features of the package. The bias in the analysis towards Tufte's area of expertise was a bias.

I was left feeling this publication was a little too didactic and selectively argued, somewhat in the style that the anti Microsoft zealouts attack their operating systems.

Having stated these reservations, on the subject of this treastise it is well argued and interesting. The critique of pitching rather than presenting was made, yet he failed to draw out how organisations get drawn into pitching for complex topics, this was alluded to, the more senior people demand only a synopsys, this and not Powerpoint iteslf is a core issue not fully explored.

Tufte's proposition that paper reports circulated to a meeting are a better form for communication is dubious and he fails to draw out the essential reasons for a slide presentation as opposed to circulation of well presented paper documents. The question of why people all come together to concurrently recived the same presentation is not discussed but seems to lie near the heart of the arguement.

He could usefully have reviewed also a slide set such as those used in teaching medical students, these mostly incorporate a large number of schematics, images and other graphics which keep the informnation density where it belongs. The embedding of images and film clips is part of the answer, one which he hardly addresses.

All in all I was glad I read it, and hope that senior managers all read and understand the arguements. I would look forward to a sequel which addresses what is needed for slide sets to work well, and sepculate on what competing solutions may look like... how to stop a captive audience reading ahead if you give out paper, and so forth.
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on 3 September 2014
When someone flippantly told me that powerpoint made the space shuttle crash i laughed it off. Then i read this.
Working in a large organisation where PP is king, this introduction to Tufte's work changed my view overnight.
The message is simple and cleary articulated (with a catastrophic example just to get your attention about how big a deal this is) and more importantly, is one we can all take a lesson from.
Now my children get homework assignemets in PP, i will be donating my copy to the school library.
I agree that PP can have its uses and not everyone responds well to my preaching on the evil of slideware but read this and you will never touch the "transition effect" button ever again.
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on 3 April 2009
.. but he has not explored all that can be done with powerpoint.

Some interesting ideas but the others takes only one side and don't bother exploring all the uses of powerpoint that are possibles

As a presentation or slideware tools he is right that ppt is not fitted to present analysis but he don't explore the use ppl are making of powerpoint to buypass the obvious flaws of words and marke sharper documents
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