There’s a fascinating and slightly wonderful new presentation app on the Mac App Store called Deckset. It’s a delightfully simple program that turns Markdown documents into simple but attractive slide decks. I’ve been playing with the evaluation version for a couple of days now and am very impressed.
Opening the trial version for the first time brings up a window where you can choose to create a new presentation, open recent documents, or open an example presentation. Double-clicking on any presentation will open your document in a light table view where you can browse through individual slides, play the presentation, change themes, or open your editor. (Selecting a slide and pressing the space bar will also allow you to zoom in and out of that slide.)
Editing is where Deckset really sets itself apart from other presentation packages. You don’t edit your presentation in a WYSIWYG interface like Keynote or PowerPoint. Instead, your presentation opens up in a text editor (which you can select in the application preferences), and you edit your presentation like you would an HTML file, for example. In Deckset’s case, your document is created with Markdown.
This is where you will either fall in love with Deckset or come to loathe it. I doubt there will be much middle ground. (Right now, Mac App Store reviews are leaning toward “love.”) Either you’ll look at the text document and be drawn toward the simplicity, or you’ll be turned off.
Fortunately, by choosing to go with Markdown, Deckset has a very realistic learning curve, and it’s relatively easy to find resources to help you learn the language. The question will be whether or not you will be able to get used to your slides being output from a text document. Since I spend my days coding HTML products, this process is fairly familiar to me. Your mileage may vary if you are more used to WYSIWYG editing.
Deckset is designed around typography, so it should be no surprise that the slides are set beautifully. Customization is minimal. You don’t have a dozen slide layouts to choose from, nor can you create and import your own themes. The handful of built-in themes, however, do each offer a variety of color palettes to choose from. The colors in each theme are obviously chosen intentionally, and I’ve found most very pleasant to look at.
It’s also helpful to note that you have to save the changes in your Markdown document before you’ll see them in your Deckset slides. I’ve already gotten so used to Brackets‘ live preview in Chrome that it took me a second to figure out why my changes weren’t appearing on my slides. Again, anyone familiar with working in code will be used to this.
I imagine Deckset will quickly become popular at places like SXSW and tech conferences, but it’s definitely targeting a niche audience. I wasn’t sold on it at first, but once I got going, I found I like the application. It’s intentional limitations forces you to consider carefully what you put into your slide deck. In a way, Deckset enforces simplicity, and I appreciate that.