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Google Slides Review

Google's slideshow app is a mixed bag of limited editing options and great collaboration

Originally announced back in April as part of a trio of new apps – along with Docs and Sheets – to replace Quickoffice, Slides has finally arrived on Android. Was it worth the wait? Well, Google’s presentation app is a bit of a mixed bag. As with the Docs and Sheets Android apps (reviewed in issue 40), it’s integrated with Google Drive and files are saved automatically there so you should never lose any changes. They can also be pinned to the device for offline editing – but not playing for some reason.

One of the key selling points of Slides is the ease with which you can collaborate with colleagues on documents. Just tap an icon and you can quickly share it with individuals or groups and choose whether they’re allowed to edit, make comments or just view it. Real-time collaboration is possible and other users’ changes appear almost instantly. A colour-coded outline shows which element they currently have selected, but there doesn’t seem to be a way of viewing their comments (other than via email alerts) or making your own. Nor can you open a chat window to talk to other users, as on the web version of Slides – available as a Chrome browser extension.

Editing options are another area where the Android app is noticeably inferior to the web version. When adding a new slide, you are limited to a mere six layout options and there’s no way to move or resize any of the boxes. Nor can you add or alter themes, images, transitions or animations, although it does still show those added via the web and the presentations play perfectly. Instead you’re limited mainly to editing the text and formatting it. For this purpose there are a decent array of options, including ten fonts and a choice of text and highlight colours. Paragraph settings include vertical positioning, line spacing and the ability to add a number or bullet list – but no variations for these. Finally, there are Shape options to determine the box fill colour, outline weight and dash type. You can also view and add speaker notes.

That’s about it, which is pretty disappointing compared to the much greater range of tools available in the web version of Slides. Also, rather strangely, the Android app manages to offer extra editing options for PowerPoint documents, which can be opened in ‘Office compatibility mode’. These include a bigger selection of layout styles and the ability to add (and move/resize) images and text boxes. The downside to using this mode is that it lacks any collaboration features, so you’ll need to convert PowerPoint files to Slides format in order to access those.

Another disappointment is the lack of Chromecast support at the time of writing, although you could always connect to a projector or large screen if your device has a video-out port.

Overall, this bare-bones Android software is pretty useless for creating new presentations, but could prove handy for making tweaks to existing ones created using the fully featured web version.