Presentation Format – When to choose PPT vs. Flash

Vince Novak, Vice President of Interactive Media
There are many ways to create a dynamic presentation using software such as PowerPoint, Flash, Video, Keynote, etc. The most common solution is PPT due to its ubiquitous use as a business tool throughout the world. With the development of PPT, Microsoft continues to improve what can be achieved with importing customized graphics, transition and slide effects, multimedia support and basic object animations.

However, when needing to create presentations with complex animations, dynamic data driven graphics and video, Adobe Flash can be a useful solution. The Flash format as a briefing tool will only continue to gain popularity, and with Adobe’s recent addition of a Flash based presentation tool in its popular InDesign layout program, more and more designers have access to the tools to create engaging Flash based presentations.

The following provides a few guidelines to consider when determining if PPT or Flash are appropriate as you plan and design your presentation.


Advantages Disadvantages
  • Ubiquitous format – Most computers in an office or academic environment have PPT installed.
  • Portability – In most cases all media can be embedded and saved as a single PPT file to take with you and present with ease.
  • Updateability – Anyone with PPT can update, remove or copy and paste slides to customize briefings or re-use existing slides.
  • Convenience – Takes less planning to share and less time to update.
  • Easy Distribution – Allows for printing of slides for meetings and leave-behinds. As well as the option to include presenter notes and outlines.
  • Its common use and format of presentations can often look trite.
  • PPT doesn’t have great support for video content, especially when working across platforms with PC/Mac. Video complicates how you save and distribute presentations.
  • Animations and slide effects require a lot of planning as all effects need to be added in a linear fashion and are difficult to modify after they’re created. Additionally PPT animation capabilities are very limited.
  • Printing complex slides that utilize transitions or animated graphics presents a challenge, as all elements that are hidden onscreen will still print.
  • Dynamically driven graphics are more difficult to update, however, can be created using other office programs.

In Short: Regardless of how engaging you want to make a presentation, if you’ll be making updates or sharing with a team of people to edit, using slides interchangeably in the future, or need the flexibility of making changes on the fly (like 10 minutes before a presentation), PPT is your best solution.


Advantages Disadvantages
  • Greater flexibility – The ability to create animation and graphics content are unrestricted.
  • Better support- Flash is more reliable for video and audio content.
  • Easy animation and updateability- Flash can easily create data driven graphics that can animate and be updated frequently with XML data files without the need for Flash software.
  • More interactivity – Allows the presenter to pull up information and manipulate graphics in real-time similar to broadcasters and meteorologists. Or presentation can be self run as a kiosk.
  • Takes longer to create and much more planning as all interactivity and animation needs the support of a developer to program flash content.
  • Utilizing a fixed format, the user can’t interchange slides or make significant changes without the source flash files and experience using the software.
  • Most computers have flash installed in their web browsers, but not the player to run a standalone Flash movie. This makes exporting the final presentation as an .EXE file a requirement, which can occasionally be an issue with computers requiring heightened security standards.
  • Flash is less portable than PPT and will require multiple files to pull content and create its player, which need to preserve their file associations to operate. This makes transmitting files digitally over email or in a file share system more difficult during the review cycle.

In Short: When you want to stand out and create a customized presentation Flash is the way to go. But be prepared. It takes a bit more coordination and planning to create and distribute.

While these facts provide insight into the program capabilities, they’re not all of the hard and fast rules. The best way to determine the right solution for your specific need is to plan ahead and discuss your presentation concept, output goals and required capabilities with your graphic designers.

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