Microsoft’s PowerPoint is better known, but Apple’s Keynote is the better presentation app.
Keynote (US$20 or free if you buy a new Mac) beats PowerPoint in features and ease-of-use. Those two departments are easy to measure. Less easy to measure is how Keynote tackles creating presentations from a more graphical point of view.
And that makes for better presentations. PowerPoint almost forces users to build dull-looking, pedestrian slide shows. It all but encourages them to be text heavy and leaden.
After hours sitting in front of indifferent PowerPoint slides, I find Keynote presentations refreshing. So I was keen to try Keynote when I had to build a presentation last week.
It was my first time using Keynote to create a real presentation as opposed to just testing the software to write a review. Keynote is strikingly straightforward.
In the end I managed to build a simple, but good-looking 14-slide presentation in 30 minutes.
No-one gets ease-of-use quite like Apple. Yet even by that company’s standards, Keynote stands out.
There are dozens of pre-made templates you can use to get started. Keynote ‘themes’ are, in effect, designs for an entire presentation.
There are 30 themes include with the software. Then within each theme there are 12 types of slide. Some do specific jobs: a front page, pages with big images, pages with lots of text, pages with bullet points and so on. Some of quite bare for you to use as you wish.
Each theme comes with preset fonts and colours. You can change them as much as you wish and edit either individual slides or alter the master slide from the layout panel on the right of the screen.
You don’t need to worry about placing images on slides. I just dragged and dropped the pictures I wanted directly into place. Resizing, cropping and reshaping takes seconds.
Somewhere in the background Keynote uses gridlines to make sure things line up in the right places. I’ve used other presentation tools and spend ages nudging things around slides to get them looking right. Keynote does this so well you barely notice it is happening.
Keynote on Mac and iPad
There’s full compatibility between the OS X and iOS versions of Keynote. That’s a powerful feature. I whipped up my presentation in 30 minutes using my MacBook Air and stored the file to iCloud.
The next day I took my iPad into town to do the presentation — in the event I had to send the file to another Mac for the actual presentation. What was noticeable is that I could make last-minute tweaks using my iPad or iPhone.
I tend to work alone, but if I was part of a team, iCloud makes it easy to collaborate with others.
Long-time Keynote users were not happy when Apple refreshed the OS X software bringing it more in line with the mobile iOS version. I can’t comment on that because although I tested the earlier version, I’ve only ever used the latest Keynote 6.0 version for a real job.
Keynote has a clean user interface. It’s powerful yet simple to use. The software integrates beautifully with the rest of Apple’s technology including Pages and Numbers. You can create fantastic looking charts from numeric data in next to no time.
It’s hard to argue with the price. For many people KeyNote is free, for the rest it costs just US$20. If you use a Mac or an iPad it is the best way to go when creating presentations. It may also be a reason for Windows users to take another look at buying a Mac.