Keynote for iPad review

It’s rumoured that Keynote is Steve Jobs’ favourite Apple program. So there was no pressure, then, on the iWork team to ensure that Keynote for iPad app is up to scratch.

And the good news is that, by and large, it is. It has its faults, but Keynote for Mac is a decent program that enables you to create a visual presentation from a series of slides.

As with other apps in the iWork suite, Apple has made clever use of the touchscreen interface. You can click to highlight an object (text box, image); drag corner points to resize it; and twist with two fingers to rotate. Double-clicking an image brings up a mask slider, while double-clicking text brings up a keyboard.

One of the most worrying omissions is that you can only work in landscape mode, which could be tricky when using the keyboard dock.

In many ways, this is an app that really benefits from multitouch, because you spend most of your time pushing things around the screen. There are some other nice touches too: tap an object and hold down the drag handle, then tap another object and you’ll match the size; tap several objects at once to multiple select. Keynote objects snap to nearby objects using yellow guides. This ensures that most of the time as you move items around they line up.

Key omissions
You can insert text and a variety of shapes, plus charts, tables and images from your Photo Album. But there are omissions. In fact, there are a lot of omissions. You can match the sizes of objects, for instance, but you can’t match the rotation of them; and although you can line up objects manually, you can’t align them automatically or distribute them evenly. There are also limitations in music and video (basically you can’t use either), and when we imported a Keynote presentation containing music and video the video appeared, but the music vanished.

When we imported a PowerPoint presentation it worked better than expected, and we managed to keep most of the text in the right position (although we had to use a replacement font, and a couple of images were replaced with white boxes and a question mark). You can only export as Keynote or PDF, unlike the Mac OS X version that has options for QuickTime, PowerPoint, Images, HTML and iPod.

You also don’t get anywhere near the same kind of export options (borders, slide numbers, security options, and so on). You can’t attach presenter notes or comments to a presentation, and if these were attached to a presentation you made on a Mac they’ll be removed when you import it to the iPad. The masking is more basic than on a traditional Keynote document, and you can’t add or edit Alpha masks.

One area where Keynote on the iPad really shines is in the display of presentations, which look amazing on the LED display. We also feel that the power to carry around a presentation on a small device could be a game-changer for professional users. We found it slightly niggling that you can’t connect the Keynote Remote for iPhone app or use an Apple remote to control the display though. Helpfully, Apple will be offering a VGA output connector for the iPad enabling connection to projector.

Showing off your work is fine, but we found the lack of the desktop environment a killer during the actual creation process. When we make presentations we largely scour content from all over the place, artwork on our machines, images from our desktops, text from documents, charts from here and there, and images from the web. All of this is dragged and dropped into Keynote. On the iPad the whole process is clunky; you can add images from your photo library, copy and paste images from websites, and take grabs on the iPad that then appear in the photo library. But what if you need a screenshot of a program, or a chart? Getting it into Keynote is just a pain.

OUR VERDICT

Of all the iWork apps on the iPad we found Keynote the biggest letdown. Perhaps because the omission of key features on the iPad made it feel empty in comparison to the desktop version. We’re sure that after a few updates Keynote for iPad will be a better experience, but for now there are too many missing features. Our biggest concern is the difficulty we had when looking for images and other media to import into the app. Keynote for iPad is considerably better at editing Keynote presentations than it is at creating them from scratch.

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