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Gorgeous PowerPoint presentations with Slidevana

(MoneyWatch) PowerPoint: Love it or hate it, most of us have no choice but to use the software day in and day out to build and deliver business presentations. That's fine as far as it goes, but after a while all the presentations start to look the same. After all, there are only a handful of bundled, professional-looking templates for you to use, and none are really what you might call gorgeous.

With that in mind, here's a great alternative to the run-of-the-mill slideshow. Slidevana is a $79 template kit for PowerPoint that lets you build decks from nearly 150 pre-rendered slides. The results are really attractive and will make your PowerPoint decks look like you hired a graphic designer to do the work for you.

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Unlike some template add-ons I've seen, Slidevana is built on a thoroughly consistent theme; it's a coherent set of slide options that all have the same visual motif. Actually, make that two motifs -- you get both a light template with an open, white background, and a dark template with black backgrounds. Every slide is artfully designed and matches the overall aesthetic, so you can use every one of the 150 light or 150 dark slides in concert with one another and nothing will clash or feel out of place.

Slidevana works a little differently than many template sets I've seen before, and indeed I had to email Slidevana support for help getting started. The bottom line: Due to the vast number of available slides, you need to open the desired Slidevana set in a PowerPoint window and drag the slides you want into your active PowerPoint deck. Once I figured that out, though, it was smooth sailing. It's easy to drag the slides you want into your presentation and then tweak the text and graphics as needed.

So what do you get? For $79, you get essentially two versions of the same theme, one light and the other dark. There are dozens of slides with customizable charts and graphs -- block diagrams, Venn, combos, timelines, multi-charts and more -- some text-only slides, and many that combine text, images, and charts in varying configurations. It's not infinitely variable, but it can seem pretty close. Slidevana's variety gave me new ways to present information that I's never tried before, and there's enough variation to keep you happy for quite some time.

Of course, it is just one theme, and eventually you might feel that Slidevana constricts you in the same way that PowerPoint's own set of boring templates limits your options. But Slidevana is far prettier than anything Microsoft (MSFT) gives you, and it'll make your presentations look incredible.

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