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Supporters say that the ease of use of presentation software can save a lot of time for people who otherwise would have used other types of visual aid—hand-drawn or mechanically typeset slides, blackboards or whiteboards, or overhead projections. Ease of use also encourages those who otherwise would not have used visual aids, or would not have given a presentation at all, to make presentations. As PowerPoint’s style, animation, and multimedia abilities have become more sophisticated, and as the application has generally made it easier to produce presentations (even to the point of having an “AutoContent Wizard” (discontinued in PowerPoint 2007) suggesting a structure for a presentation), the difference in needs and desires of presenters and audiences has become more noticeable.
The benefit of PowerPoint is continually debated. Its use in classroom lectures has influenced investigations of PowerPoint’s effects on student performance in comparison to lectures based on overhead projectors, traditional lectures, and online lectures. Not only is it a useful tool for introductory lectures, but it also has many functions that allow for review games, especially in the younger grades. There are no compelling results to prove or disprove that PowerPoint is more effective for learner retention than traditional presentation methods. The effect on audiences of poor PowerPoint presentations has been described as PowerPoint hell.
Although PowerPoint has the aforementioned benefits, some argue that PowerPoint has negatively impacted society. Many large companies and branches of the government use PowerPoint as a way to brief employees on important issues that they must make decisions about. Opponents of PowerPoint argue that reducing complex issues to bulleted points is detrimental to the decision making process; in other words, because the amount of information in a presentation must be condensed, viewing a PowerPoint presentation does not give one enough detailed information to make a truly informed decision.
A frequently cited example is Edward Tufte’s analysis of PowerPoint slides prepared for briefing NASA officials concerning possible damage to the Space Shuttle Columbia during its final launch. Tufte argues that the slides, prepared by the Boeing Corporation, had the effect of oversimplifying the situation, and provided false assurance that the ultimately fatal damage to the shuttle was only minimal