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If you've never created a presentation on a computer before, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to develop high-quality presentations with today's programs. These presentation applications seamlessly incorporate multimedia elements--sound, video, animation and text--so you wind up with extremely attractive, enjoyable and memorable electronic presentations.

In addition, most programs come with pre-designed templates to help you create high-caliber presentations without a huge investment of time. Templates save you time in determining what elements to include in your presentation and how each will be presented; it's usually just a matter of pointing and clicking to add your information--the slides are automatically created. While these templates are great time-savers, however, you don't want your presentation to look canned--Wilder suggests changing a few colors and features so yours doesn't look exactly like the next guy's.

Microsoft's PowerPoint 97 ($339) is perhaps the most widely used presentation software. It comes with more than 50 pre-built content templates to give you a jump-start on creating presentations. If you're new to presentation programs, you'll particularly appreciate the extensive help features. Resources include useful tutorials and a PowerPoint Internet site to learn more about using the program. One useful feature allows you to save PowerPoint files in standard HTML format so you can post your presentation on the Web.

Similarly, Corel Presentations 8, which is packaged with Corel's WordPerfect Suite 8 ($395 for the entire suite), comes with pre-designed slide shows you can customize. It also has features that make it easy to create and navigate your presentation. These include a Custom Audiences feature which lets you save multiple versions of a slide show in the same file to show different groups, Navigation Tabs to move around your presentation quickly, and a Slide Sorter to view thumbnails of your slides to arrange them easily.

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