PowerPoint Counterpoint (March 2, 2005)

I am a rather harsh critic of PowerPoint,

and include this brief disclaimer

in all of my training classes. One of the web resources I cite in my criticisms of PowerPoint is

written by Peter Norvig, a research scientist at Google. Dr. Norvig took the text of Lincoln's Gettyburg address fed it into the PowerPoint Autocontent Wizard, made a few tweaks, and published it on the web. It is one of the best examples of how bad PowerPoint is for presenting complex ideas.

I got an email today from John F. Raffensperger who felt that Dr. Norvig's web page sent the wrong message. His argument is that we are blaming the tool rather than the craftsman. To demonstrate this, he reworked Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and published it at

It is an interesting presentation which makes use of public domain pictures and music. Interestingly enough, the presentation lacks any slide transitions, background, clip art, animation, or any other PowerPoint effects. To me, it says that a minimalist approach to PowerPoint (don't use anything that comes with the program) may be the best way to use PowerPoint if you have to use it. This web site is definitely worth viewing, especially if you want to understand the complexities of the controversy about PowerPoint. You should also look at Dr. Raffensperger's suggestions to graduate students about presentations.

Some additional defenses of PowerPoint:

This page was written by Steve Simon while working at Children's Mercy Hospital. Although I do not hold the copyright for this material, I am reproducing it here as a service, as it is no longer available on the Children's Mercy Hospital website. Need more information? I have a page with general help resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Category: Presenting research data.