“Presently”… Presently

It would seem that Google is about to launch a presentation creator service to compete with Microsoft’s PowerPoint. The buzz is that this new app is to be called Presently, which is cute and about which a bit more, well, presently. I gather that this was discovered by some resolute geeks who are able to mine the Google Docs server — and let that be a warning to you that nothing online is secure. The hackers say that with Presently you’ll be able to convert documents into presentations, which can have themes, and the whole will have a zoom capability.

I’m up for this. I wind up spending far too much time fretting over presentations and fiddling around with the technicals at the delivery site; an online thingy will do just fine and keep my presentation-ambition nicely under control, I reckon.

It will also make Microsoft pay attention, according to an article on ZDNet’s Between the Lines, the notion being that:

Google doesn’t even have to be wildly successful with Google Docs–all it has to do is be a big distraction. Many of Google’s initiatives appear only to be designed to distract Microsoft. And encroaching on millions of PowerPointers is one way to get Microsoft’s attention. PowerPoint is also the best avenue to gaining adoption for Google Docs. Word processing and spreadsheets are nice, but if you play word association with corporate desk jockeys Office is PowerPoint.

And now about “presently” itself:<rant> The word means “soon.” It doesn’t mean “now.” Now means now. But no one calls a program “soon,” so Google will add its weight to the mistaken side in what might be the most unfortunate usage titling since Dickens went with Our Mutual Friend and destroyed the M word.</rant>


  1. Not to quibble, but the OED has this to say about the use of “presently” to mean “now”:

    2. a. At the present time; at this time, at present, now. Obs. (since 17th c.) in lit. Eng. (No certain instance in Shakes.) But in regular use in most Eng. dialects, and common in Sc. writers; revived in U.S. and to some extent in Great Britain in 20th c.

    Though they do concede that using “presently” to mean “soon” is now the ordinary use.

  2. Obsolete, Scots, dialect and US… see?

    Yeah, I know. But all I ask is that people know that the word swings both ways — momentarily is another. Then they can choose whether and how to use it. Of course, using a three syllable word instead of a one syllable word raises other problems, whether we’re after now or soon.

  3. Speaking on behalf of all my fellow obsolete Scots, we need all the words we need. Another minor quibble – presently doesn’t just mean soon. It has the connotation of imminently.

  4. I’d respond presently, but that would be too soon; so, I certainly won’t do it now.

    I’d respond presently, but that won’t be soon enough, so I’ll do it now.

    A virtual chocolate chip cookie to anybody who can use “presently” in a modern sentence which, outside of dialect, will be understood to mean “now”.

    (Other than somebody reporting to Stagger, for example, with: all present, Lee.)

  5. I thought about this pastly, am doing so presently, and will probably do so futurely as well, but I doubt I’ll earn the cookie.

  6. Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present. Did I tell you my head hurts from this conversation??

  7. John,

    >> am doing so presently

    I think that’s worth the cookie. With sprinkles.

    The “am doing so” makes “presently” mean “now”, no?

    The usage is cringe-inducing, but it’s clear enough. The verb controls.

    On the other hand, “I am thinking about doing so presently” may or may not, so we need to be careful about what we do.


  8. Well, I hear or read “presently” used meaning “now” far more often than meaning anything else. He is presently the CEO of BigCo.Ltd. He is presently on the Canadian blogging team. She is presently the girlfriend of a celebrity.

    Using it to mean “soon”, even if “imminently”, is I think these days perverse and almost bound to be misleading or at best confusing – the reader or listener will have to stop and think “now which does s/he mean by that?”

    This may be a shame, but it’s Cdn. not just Scots. and US.

    Of course in our other national language, présentement does mean maintenant and not bientôt. No doubt in some parts of the population that influences the received sense of the English.

    John G

  9. Well the vox pop always shouts loudest, which is fine because numbers are what counts at the end of the day in matters of usage. But you will still find it used in the older (but not oldest) fashioned way from time to time, which, as John says, will cause many to wonder; and when the many use it in the newer way, some will frown in irritation. So.. wisest to be careful now that you know, if you don’t want your prose interrupted: so many other ways to say now and soon… Oh, and I did announce it as a rant, which makes it ok. Bloggers’ rules.