Presentations and word processing are my bread and butter. That is, I earn my living writing and presenting. I have been writing Power Point presentations for years. I’m actually very good at them and occasionally freelance for my geek challenged colleagues. It is with those years of experience in mind that I was initially skeptical about using Apple’s presentation software, Keynote. That was, at least, until the first time I saw a Keynote presentation.
I think Keynote (even before this recent update) is superior to PowerPoint in both ease of use and final product. With the release of Keynote ’08, the gap has just grown larger. For the purpose of this review, I’m going to skip over a lot of the features that already existed in Keynote and focus on the new additions. If you are not familiar with Keynote, even before the upgrade it was full of stellar templates, transitions, and text effects that made producing convincing presentations a breeze. Indeed there are even more new transitions and effects but that is just the start of some fantastic changes and additional features.
With the new point to point animation you can tell an object where to go on the screen and how to get there. For example, if you have a map of the forest and want to show exactly how the wolf went to the three little pigs homes, you can plot the motion paths with a one click procedure for each stop and Keynote does the rest. With each click during your presentation the wolf will move across the screen at the speed, acceleration, and motion path that you set. The way I used to accomplish this was a very convoluted procedure involving Final Cut’s Motion program and a lot of praying. Now its a breeze.
Another new feature is one I didn’t even realize I needed but now I couldn’t live without. Its called “Instant Alpha”. It allows me to incorporate picture, pdfs, and other objects and remove the background. I’ve talked about how much I like using OmniGraffle but what I’ve never posted on is the frustration of making a beautiful diagram in OmniGraffle and then having to look at that ugly white background when I import it into Keynote. I guess I could have removed the background all along in Photoshop Elements, but to be honest I never really thought of it. Regardless, with the new Keynote, you just tap the “Instant Alpha” button and then put the mouse inside the color you want to remove. You click and drag and it removes the background on screen for you. When you get it just right, you hit the enter key and its done. It is really easy and extremely useful.
Inevitably, every slideshow I prepare has a run of pictures. A lot of my work involves construction projects and buildings and pictures are essential for demonstrating particular issues. The new keynote has an excellent feature called “Smart Build” that lets you put an entire series of pictures into one slide and easily pick a transition that is flashy or subtle.
Keynote will also now insert a frame around a picture or text box. This is really nice for setting a picture or highlighting text I pull out of a document image. In powerpoint this took two separate images and it was an absolute pain. No more “send to back”. No more resizing and moving multiple objects. Just one clicky. Thanks Apple.
Navigating and sorting also got easier with adjustable sizes and new views. Formatting and auto-correcting also got a lot easier with new tools to make production of your keynote faster and more efficient.
Apple also improved the movie import and export function. You can now key a quicktime movie on a mouse click instead of it starting automatically on the slide transition. It also allows you to export your presentation to Quicktime. This export is not, however, just a static movie but you can actually set it to advance on clicks just as if you are viewing it in Keynote. Are you getting this? That means you can take your Keynote and play it on any machine that has Quicktime. Even a beige box that has requires Norton and is covered with stickers that say “Intel inside”. This feature will be extremely useful to me when I have to give a presentation using somebody else’s windows rig. It will also leave them all wondering, “How did he do that?” And that is a wonderful thing.
So in case you haven’t figured it out I’m giving the new Keynote two big thumbs up. You can purchase it as part of the iWork suite for just $79 or $99 for the family pack. Next week I’ll be following up this review with my look at Pages ’08.
You can listen to this review on the Surfbits MacReview Cast Episode 121.