On Friday I was introduced to Prezi as a tool that could resolve a desire to render content on an iPad without developing a full-fledged iOS app in a short time-frame.
In essence Prezi is a ‘big wall’ on which you place content. You can then develop a ‘path’, which is a linear presentation like powerpoint. The transition from one piece of content to the next along the path is accomplished via zooming out and then in to the next piece. A user can also simply move around free form.
I should note that Prezi offers a free ‘public’ version, along with two other paid levels. I used the public version. In tier 2 content can be made private, you can incorporate your logo, instead of Prezi’s in the viewing frame, and you get up to 500mb storage. The top tier ups the storage to 2000mb and offers the ability to work offline.
Using Prezi was reasonably simple, I created an account and clicked on “New prezi”. Since the free account was hosted online and required to be public, I gave it a generic “hello world” name and used content about a friend who is a racecar driver (anyone want to be a sponsor, let me know;-)
In edit mode you have three core tools, along the top center is ability to “Save”, “Undo” and “Exit” along with a few others. On the right center is your zoom in/out tool, and at top left is your tool to customize your prezi. When you are ready to see your prezi in action, you can hit the “Show” button on the bottom right corner.
What I found to be a bit challenging is understanding the scale. When you place objects using “Insert” you then have the ability to size and drag the object once placed. I tried to make the objects relative to one another, but when converted to a presentation or iPad the size of the objects didn’t reflect what I expected to see.
When zoomed out, it sometimes has trouble allowing you to select an item so you have to zoom in to click on it.
With all my content added, I then created the ‘path’ that I wanted a viewer to follow, again they could chose to follow it or move around free-form.
You simply select content and click on it. A dot shows over the piece with a number and a slide roll is at the bottom of the screen offering two options to order and re-order. You can move icons of the content by dragging them or you can move the dots with the numbers to other content pieces.
When you exit prezi, you can then watch it online, download it for desktop, or connect from iPad to watch.
In total I had four short video clips (each under 30 seconds), six pdf pages, and 28 images. There were also four column headings.
Online, I played the presentation in full screen mode. The transitions were not as smooth as I expected. Several times the transition paused making it very choppy.
I next selected download and ok to create a file I could show on my laptop. The zipped file was 32MB. On opening, I found that the desktop is a flash file. Similar to online, the desktop version was not as fluid as I would have expected and I was running on a laptop that was only a year old so performance should not have been a problem.
On the iPad, you have to download the prezi app and then log into your account. The first time you connect it takes a long time to process images. I had to update to a new version and the update took a good 2 minutes.
Once synched my presentation opens in full screen. There is a top bar that allows you to select “Show” and it tells you to “Tap and hold any object to edit”. There are also two arrows on either side of the iPad indicating you can tap to go forward or back.
I can resize images using my fingers as I would in most applications, but if I click on an image it doesn’t zoom into it, instead it asks if I’d like to delete it. I also can’t slide my finger to advance to the next or previous slide which is a little more intuitive.
The transitions were smoother on the iPad, but I couldn’t get the YouTube video to play.
The other thing I don’t like is that at the end of the show you can’t click on the right arrow to begin again, instead nothing happens giving the appearance that it doesn’t work.
At the end of the day, Prezi is an easy to use tool that offers some self-directed opportunities for the user, but the online and downloaded transitions were not very clean. The iPad transitioned well, worked on and off-line, but the video would not play. The zooming in and out is a refreshing alternative to slide transitions, but I’m not able to use common iPad motions to accomplish tasks, which may be a challenge to end-users.