By Monte FergusonIt has been five years since Apple introduced Keynote. Keynote is the presentation program of the suite. Its success has spawned a suite of productivity applications called iWork.
Keynote from the first has brought some great features to the table. It has tapped into core MacOS X technologies like Quartz graphics. Which enabled it to easily create soft drop shadows, freely rotate images, create image masks, add translucency, reflections on placed objects, and enabled advanced transition effects. Instead of using a ruler along the edges of the screen Keynote used automatic positioning guidelines. It also gave us a mini slide preview in the side bar, which supported drag and drop reordering of slides. A hierarchical grouping of slides allow you to hide sections of a presentation, to allow you to customize a presentation, by just clicking on a disclosure triangle.
As the oldest member of the suite it is the most polished. The most mature. Which brings challenges of itís own. Itís a tough job to add new compelling features, but not create an overly complicated or bloated application. So far Apple has managed to balance those needs very well.
A smart build allows you to animate images in your presentation without having to do any hard work. Thatís because smart builds are predefined action builds for animating images. Keynote comes with ten predefined smart builds including: dissolve, shuffle, spinning cube, swap, thumb through, and turntable. You can use a smart build on single items or a grouped object. You can create multiple object builds on one slide, and you can apply multiple builds to the same object.
Animate Objects Along a Path
You can add some life to your presentation by moving, rotating and scaling objects. You can combine action builds to create complex animations, such as a Ken Burns type effect.
Have you ever had an image for a presentation that wold be great if you could lose the background? Apple has added an easy to use tool that allows you to do just that, without leaving Keynote. The Instant Alpha tool removes the background color from images, creating a perfect mask around the parts you want to focus on. Just drag on the color you want to remove, and Instant Alpha does the rest.
Keynote now supports recording, from within Keynote, a narration synchronized with your slide show. This allows you to turn a presentation into a podcast or kiosk-style presentation.
New Themes, Text Animations, and Transitions
Text and media placeholders make it easier to customize your slides. Resizable picture frames let you add the perfect border to your photos. New text animations, builds, and transitions provide more lively and visually appealing presentations.
These are the bread and butter features you will find yourself using time and again. They will not wow an audience but they will make your job easier.
A Presenter Display comes in handy for anyone giving a presentation to a live audience. While the audience watches the screen, you can see the current and next slides, your slide notes (which your audience can not see), a clock, and a timer all on a second display.
Compatibility with Microsoft Office is key to any productivity program. Keynote can import presentations made in PowerPoint, including PowerPoint 2007 files saved in the Office Open XML format. It is also compatible with AppleWorks presentation documents. You can also export your presentation as a .ppt format for Windows users using PowerPoint. Your other export options are a Quicktime movie, a Flash movie, a PDF, HTML, or an image file.
The programís interface is clean and spare. The built in themes are great. You can get rolling in a matter of seconds. The slide Navigator, or the alternative view called Light Table, let you quickly work out the organization of your presentation. The new video tutorials do an excellent job of getting you up to speed on features in the new release. The voice over feature will be welcomed by many. The Instant Alpha feature is a great addition to the already powerful image editing features.
It should come as no surprise, considering the history of this program, that there arenít any glaring deficiencies. My main criticism is more of a feature request: interoperation between the components of the iWork suite. Lack of integration between the components of iWork shows the suite is more of a bundle. For instance, Keynote uses itís own tables and charts tools, rather than an embedded Numbers spreadsheet.
Keynote came along at a very good time. Microsoft had killed off all effective competition in the productivity market. This was quite evident in its presentation program Power Point. It was getting pretty dated and it was showing. Keynote came on the scene and created a competitive offering from a company with enough resources to go toe to toe with Microsoft.
The combination of power, ease of use, and very professional results have made Keynote a winner. It has taken the role of leading presentation program, forcing Microsoft to play catch up.
Keynote í08 continues a tradition of excellence. Features like voice over, and Instant Alpha will be a hit for almost anyone who uses the program. Features like smart builds and animating objects on a path are solid additions to the program. Are they enough to entice users to upgrade? Keynote is suffering from an enviable problem, itís own success.
When you consider two things: 1) The price of the entire suite is quite a bit less than an upgrade for Office. 2) The upgraded features, and an added application to the suite with no price increase. It makes the decision to upgrade a no-brainer.
Posted: Monday, April 21st, 2008