If you're in the business of making presentations, you know what a time-suck it can be to work with PowerPoint on a laptop. You have to connect a projector, wait an eternity for the PC to boot, run PowerPoint, load your slide deck, switch the laptop's video output to projector mode, and on and on. It's easy to blow 10-20 minutes just getting set up for your presentation - not a productive use of your time.
Enter SlideShark, an iPad app for viewing PowerPoint presentations. Actually, it's both an app and a service, and it's free - for a starter account, anyway.
After signing up and installing the iPad app, you simply upload your slide decks (SlideShark supports both PPT and PPTX files), then wait a few minutes while the service optimizes them for iPad viewing. Then you fire up the app and choose the presentations you want to download. I think it's smart that SlideShark stores the presentations on your iPad so you can run them offline (i.e. no Internet connection required).
Next up: present! You can, of course, view slideshows right on the iPad, tapping or swiping to move from one slide to the next, but you also have the option of connecting the iPad to a TV or projector. (For that you'll need Apple's VGA Adapter, a $US29 accessory.)
There are a few limitations. For starters, SlideShark doesn't support hyperlinks, embedded videos, slide transitions, and other fancy effects. In other words, you're stuck with fairly static slides (which is not necessarily a bad thing). The app does promise to preserve all fonts, images, and colors, plus some animations.
In my tests, SlideShark did a great job converting most of my presentations. However, with one that had a custom, wider-than-usual page layout, the converter failed to maintain the aspect ratio, leading to a squished-looking set of slides with jumbled, overlapping text. Your mileage may vary, but be sure to spot-check any important presentations before actually, you know, presenting them.
There are, of course, countless other apps that let you show slide decks on your iPad. But SlideShark has the benefits of being free and easy to use. Definitely worth a try if you'd rather travel with a slim tablet than a bulky old laptop.