A big focus of the PowerPoint team for the 2003 release was working on a brand new PowerPoint Viewer. The previous viewer had been written for the PowerPoint 97 release, and was missing a bunch of newer features, most notably:

  • newer animations and slide transitions
  • password protected presentations
  • animated GIFs

These have all been added.

One nice thing about Microsoft Office viewers is they're free so you can use them even if you don't own the associated program. This also applies to the Word viewer, the Excel viewer, and the Visio viewer (...and I'm sure there are others).

But I own PowerPoint! Why do I care that there's a new viewer? I can just view my presentation in PowerPoint...

One point of anxiety you face as a PowerPoint user is being unsure whether the presentation that took you hours to create and looks marvelous on your home machine will turn to ugly mush after they force you to present on some old machine running a decade-old version of PowerPoint that's already connected to a projector but that doesn't support half the animations you're using.

Fear no more.

The coolest feature of this viewer is it can be run without any installation or setup, which means it can be run directly off your USB keychain or even off write-protected media like a CD or DVD.

Replacing the old Pack and Go Wizard, a new Package for CD feature (File | Package for CD...) has been added in PowerPoint 2003 to make it dead easy to burn your presentation to a CD along with the new PowerPoint Viewer. Then, you can just stick the CD into any machine running Windows 98 SE or later, even if the computer doesn't have PowerPoint, and your presentation'll play automatically using the new viewer.

In theory, this doesn't sound like it would be very hard to develop. I mean, we could just take PowerPoint and remove code to get a viewer. That's exactly what was done to create the PowerPoint 97 viewer. But, to get the feature set we wanted for this new viewer, like being able to run directly off a CD, the new viewer was essentially rewritten from scratch.

So create your presentation and burn it to a CD, knowing you can stick it in practically any old Windows machine and it'll play exactly the way you expect it to.