Being in the scientific community makes it necessary to make presentations.  I probably make one every couple weeks, relying on my PC to get a PowerPoint done and present my work.  While some of my presentations are quite elaborate and require mature software to complete, most are a simple combination of text and images.  If I could make some presentations directly from my phone when I really don’t want to carry around my laptop, that would be optimal.   Thankfully, BlackBerry has come to the rescue with their own mobile solution for presentations called BlackBerry Express.

I won’t be too critical in this review since BlackBerry Express is technically still in beta.  In my eyes though, if they thought it was ready enough for BlackBerry World, it’s ready enough to review.

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Overview

BlackBerry Express is a slideshow creation and presentation app for BlackBerry 10 smartphones.  It doesn’t come pre-installed, but you can easily download it from BlackBerry World.  Upon opening the app, BlackBerry has already included two sample presentations for you that guide you through BlackBerry Express and creating your first presentation.

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When you initially open the app, the natural thing to do is to check out one of these sample presentations.  The first thing you’ll notice is how awesome the transitions and visuals look.  The minimalist design and animated bubbles in the wallpaper give it a simple, yet polished look.  The transitions vary as you swipe through the slides.  It’s like nothing you’ve seen before, believe me.   Let’s dive into creating out own equally-awesome presentation.

Creating a presentation

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Creating a presentation is simple.  Pressing the “Create New” button at the bottom of the main screen creates a bare-bones title screen for you, complete with modern style that’s easy to read.  You can edit the title of your presentation and name it anything you want or get started on adding slides or text.  The flower icon allows you to add an image, the “Aa” icon adds text, and the icon with the three dots lets you add a new chapter, text, bullet, or image.  It’s all very straightforward, as it should be.  I found I mastered the entire concept of the app in a few minutes, knowing exactly how each element works.

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In general, the organizational structure is as follows.  Only one title slide is allowed.  Under this, you have chapters, while each chapter can have sections.   Titles, chapters and sections can have an theoretically unlimited number of text points, bullet points, images, or images.  There are only three types of transitions, transitions between items in a title slide, transitions between items in a chapter slide, or transitions between items in a section.  These transitions look so awesome that you won’t be bothered by the fact they are set in stone.

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For BlackBerry Express presentations, this is all you will ever need.  And for what most need to accomplish, it might as well be.   You can go through and create chapters with sections and text and images to your heart’s content, coming up with a simply fluid and beautiful presentation.  Chapters and sections and items can be moved around by holding down the right side of the item and moving it to where you want it.  It all works incredibly smoothly.

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Customization

As far as customization goes, you have very few options.  You can choose to show or hide your profile information at the start of the presentation.  This inserts a slide with your information and the current time.  You can edit your profile in the one of the main screen options quite easily and even use your BlackBerry ID information to fill in most of the blanks for you.  This feature screams laziness, but that’s BlackBerry efficiency for you.

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You can also choose to insert an automatically generated outline of your presentation as your second slide.  This is a useful addition considering how many people like adding outlines to their presentations.

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There are also a bunch of themes:

  • Arctic
  • Custom
  • Arctic Night
  • Raspberry
  • Monochrome
  • Moonlight
  • Clownfish
  • Bubblegum
  • Cherry Blossom
  • Forest
  • Royal
  • Pacific Ocean

While each provides their own two-colour theme, the “Custom” theme lets you scroll along a linear colour wheel to choose two complementary colours.  This provides absolutely no customization other than colour choices.

Finally, you can choose the level of background bubbles between “Low”, “High” and “Off”.  I personally like lots of bubbles, but I can see how it would be distracting in some cases.

Features

As far as features go, it’s definitely not breaking any records.  Yet, it’s got enough to make it useful.  You can display your slideshow over HDMI or Miracast when it comes down to present.  You can also “export” your presentation as a file.  Before you get too excited though, it doesn’t exactly save your presentation as is.  All it does is save an HTML file of the outline of the slideshow.  Very useless, I know.  This means you can only present your slideshow using a BlackBerry 10 device with BlackBerry Express, nothing else.  If you were thinking you can export as a video, PowerPoint, or even a PDF, think again.  I’d like to see a PDF export option myself.  This would ensure maximum compatibility with PCs and mobile devices.

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Another very beta-ish “feature” (if you can call it a feature) is the expertly executed feedback option.  Submitting feedback has never been this much of a joy.  I am simply astonished.   It was completely painless and actually fun.  BlackBerry can expect tons of feedback if they used this implementation with their other apps as well.

Summary

I am thoroughly impressed with BlackBerry Express Beta.   The simplicity in combination with the elegance of the presentation creating experience is worthy of praise in itself.  By taking the minimalist angle, BlackBerry Express allows normal people to spend more time adding content and less time tweaking it.  For what it aims to accomplish, it does so in style and flawlessness.  It may not be enough for more involved slideshow content, but it makes mobile presentation creation possible and beautiful.   It also shows just how much can be accomplished with a minimal presentation.  I’ve seen my fair share of simple presentations, but unfortunately the ugly ones outnumber them.  The ability to best PowerPoint on a mobile phone is a testament to the genius of BlackBerry Express Beta.  I for one am hoping for the next update!