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Keynote Plays Ball with PowerPoint

by Ian F. Darwin

Apple's Keynote is the first major-company presentation software in years to step up to bat against ruling giant Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT). As an instructor and conference speaker, and as a Mac owner who uses PowerPoint and similar programs, I was interested in this new contender, especially since it was based on a program built for his own use by Steve Jobs, head of Apple.

Jobs introduced Keynote during MacWorld in January, 2003. I'm reviewing version 1.1, Keynote's first major point release (by contrast, PowerPoint has been around for a decade). Keynote 1.1 is ready for prime time. Mac diehards will appreciate the perfect Mac interface and how Keynote exploits Mac hardware features. Presenters and courseware authors will like its fine graphics, modern themes, user interface, and PowerPoint interoperability. You'll be seeing more and more Keynote presentations over the next months and years.

First Impressions

Keynote's interface departs from the traditional slideshow program. Older programs only showed one of Text View, Slide View or Slide Sorter. The Normal view in PowerPoint divides the screen into two columns, the text view and the slide view. If you request Slide Sorter, both columns are hidden by the slide miniatures.

Keynote revitalizes the user interface by integrating a slide sorter into the main view. This Navigator shows both order and indentation; both can easily be changed by drag-and-drop. The sorter functions sort of like a tree control; the arrows beside the slides allow you to hide an entire section of the presentation. Hidden sections are hidden both from editing and during presentation of the slide show; they show up as collapsed boxes in the sorter view. But if you click on them you can still edit them. Simple, neat, elegant.

Keynote's UI
Figure 1. Keynote's UI is modern and visually appealing. (Click for larger image)

PowerPoint's UI
Figure 2. PowerPoint's UI is traditional but somewhat busy by comparison. (Click for larger image)

Selecting Outline view makes Keynote display what PowerPoint does; PowerPoint 10 on Windows lets you view slide miniatures beside the main text but does not have the indentation/collapse feature; PowerPoint X on the Mac does not have this capability at all.

PowerPoint's UI (Windows)
Figure 3. PPT Interface on MS Windows. (Click for larger image)

Keynote also features guidelines, yellow lines that pop up when you have one object centered over another (vertically, horizontally, or both), making it easier to line up elements on a page. This happens not just at the center of the page, but whenever one item of any kind is on top of another.

Show on Second Display

Keynote takes advantage of Mac hardware. Most modern notebooks have VGA output, but on a Mac PowerBook G4, you can treat the LCD panel and the VGA port as two separate displays. Keynote lets you present on either display (or both), and optionally, have the other display showing just your presenters' notes. If you wanted to keep your traditional Mac desktop on view while running Keynote only on the external display, you could disable this and just drag Keynote to the second display, of course, but using the Present on Secondary Display provides a smoother transition into the show. Of course, because it's a Mac, this option is silently ignored when there is no secondary display plugged in.

Keynote Preferences
Figure 4. Preferences for second display

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