Keynote '09 review: Apple's presentation app revisited

Keynote '09 - part of Apple's iWork '9 suite – is a presentation package and Microsoft PowerPoint rival. It hasn't had a significant update since 2009, though, which is why it still carries '09 in its name.

Here, we revisit Keynote '09 more than four years on to decide whether it's the best presentation package for Mac users. Read on for our updated Keynote '09 review.

Now on version 5.3 (it began as Keynote 5.0 when it was launched as part of the iWork '09 suite), Keynote '09 has had some stability improvements, bug fixes and has been updated to add support for Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion and Retina displays since it first arrived in January of 2009.

iCloud documents support was added last year, and the application is set to arrive as one of the iWork for iCloud apps, which are currently in beta, at some point in the near future.

Plus, the app has also been launched for iOS.

Here, though, we're focusing on Keynote '09 for Mac. Let's start by looking at the changes made in the jump from Keynote '08 to Keynote '09.

Keynote '09 review: Magic Move

The Magic Move feature, which was new to Keynote with version 5.0 was launched, allows users to automatically morph one version of an object into another.

For example, we wanted to make the Keynote icon grow from the small image on the first slide to a larger version that fills up the entire space between the text at the top and bottom of the slide. To do this, all we had to do is create a slide with the text and the Keynote icon on, copy the slide, and then enlarge the Keynote icon on the duplicate slide. Then, when we applied the Magic Move transition to the first slide, Keynote automatically generated a smooth zoom that occurs when you play the sideshow.

This is a really handy feature, and can make a presentation look really slick pretty quickly and easily.

In addition to the ability to smoothly grow or shrink an object in Keynote, Magic Move lets you alter an object's fill, stroke, shadow, reflection, opacity or rotation, too. However, Magic Move is classified as a transition rather than an animation, meaning it only works with objects on consecutive slides rather than objects on the same slide.

Keynote '09 review: Text Effects

Magic Move wasn't the only new transition to arrive with Keynote '09. The Texts Effects transition was also added, making Anagram, Shimmer, Sparkle and Swing transitions available to use in presentations.

The Anagram transition produces peculiar results sometimes, but the Shimmer, Sparkle and Swing transitions produce some neat effects that could be just what you're after if you want to add a bit of bling to your presentation.

Keynote '09 review: moving objects

Previously, with moving objects, Keynote '08 allowed you to display the object, its path and ghosted versions of its waypoints and destinations, but those would disappear when you clicked anywhere else in the slide.

Now, with Keynote '09's workflow improvements, you can option-click on the red diamond on any object with a motion path to see the path and ghosts for as long as you want to until you click on the red diamond again.

Other workflow improvements involving moving objects include new additions to the Format menu that let you use one object as the motion path for another, or copy an animation from one object and paste it to another.

Using these features, you can make a reasonably complex animation within your presentation without spending hours creating it.

We wish there was a better interface for managing moving objects, though. It would be good if you place moving objects on different layers to enable the ability to turn the visibility of that object on or off when working with more than one object. In addition, a timeline for controlling animations would be nice.

Keynote '09 review: numbers

Lots of presentations need to inform the audience about numerical information, and Keynote '09 offers some visually appealing ways of doing so.

The application comes with the ability to add 2D or 3D charts of various styles, including cylindrical bar charts, mixed bar charts and line charts.

You can change the perspective of a 3D chart, too, which can be quite a powerful way of further demonstrating growth, for example, by making the viewer feel as though they are looking up at the chart or the bars slightly, as shown above. 

As an iWork user, you might keep charts and data in the Numbers application, Apple's spreadsheet software and Microsoft Excel competitor. Keynote '09 lets users copy charts from Numbers and paste them into Keynote. This is particularly useful because the charts remain linked to their source data, so any changed made in Numbers are reflected in Keynote, saving time by preventing you from needing to make changes in both applications.

Tables are also easy to create in Keynote '09. You can choose the table cell format by selecting the cell and then picking from the following formats: number, currency, percentage, date and time, duration, fraction, numeral system, scientific and text.

New to Keynote '09 are the duration and numeral system formats. Duration lets you drag a slider to set the units that you want to display, from milliseconds to weeks, and numeral system lets you display cell values in any number system from base 2 to 36. 

You can also create a custom format if the preset formats don't cater for your needs. This gives you precise control over how data appears, including the ability to set conditions for when to apply a particular format.

Keynote '09: other workflow improvements

Keynote '09 introduced a reworked Theme Chooser, which remains a useful and easy to navigate feature four years on.

Choosing a theme is easy because you can move your cursor across a theme's thumbnail to see an example of how key master slides, charts and tables will look in that theme. There are 44 themes to choose from.

If you're finding it a bit difficult to see the thumbnails, you can make them bigger by using the slider to enlarge them.

There are also object relative spacing and sizing guides available to use, which are a really useful and quick way of making sure an object is the same distance from or size as other objects.

The ability to eliminate unused data from inserted media can mean that the final presentation is much smaller in file size. This feature, however, is destructive, meaning you can't recover the data once it's gone, so it's advisable to keep the original files in case you change your mind.

Keynote '09: new graphics

If you want to create a flowchart or a similar image, you can do so by using the Connection Line command. This inserts a line between any two objects, and that line will keep the two objects connected even as you move them around the slide.

The Graphics Inspector, which was improved in Keynote '09, has seven stroke styles to choose from, and also has an Advanced Gradient fill option complete with linear and radial fills and multiple adjustable control points for colours, as shown below.

Keynote '09: audio

You can add audio to a presentation in Keynote '09, but we would like to see the ability to play more than one background song during a presentation (not at the same time, of course).

Keynote '09: presenting

We've spoken about lots of Keynote's presentation creation features, but what about when it comes to actually presenting something to an audience.

Keynote '09's Presenter Display shows the presenter the current slide, the next slide, the time and the time elapsed so far during the presentation. If you move your cursor to the top of the page, you'll see a toolbar appear.

The toolbar has four options: Slides, Black, Options and Help. Clicking Slides brings up a slide switcher that lets you manually pick a slide you'll like to display. If you click Options, you'll be able to swap the primary and secondary displays, scale slides to match the display or customise the Presenter Display layout.

Help brings up a cheat sheet that lists all of the keyboard shortcuts in a new window while the Presenter Display is active, handy for if you need to do something during the presentation that you've forgotten how to achieve.

When presenting, you might also benefit from a print-out of your presentation, or you might want to give your audience their own copy of the presentation in paper-form to take away with them or write notes onto.

The printing functions could be more intuitive, but they are there. You can choose to print individual slides, slides with notes, an outline of the entire presentation or a handout, which can include rule lines, too.

Other printing options include adding borders around slides and including slide numbers and the date.

Keynote '09: saving

Even after using the file size reduction tool, Keynote presentations can be rather large, especially if they contain large movies. Keynote '09 lets users save slideshows in a compressed format, but it can take a lot longer to save than the previous packaging method.

There is an option to force Keynote to use the old package format, though.

Keynote '09 review: Apple Keynote vs Microsoft PowerPoint

So, which is the best presentation software for Mac: Keynote '09 or Microsoft PowerPoint?

One of the important things to consider here is whether or not you need to be able to open your presentations in Microsoft PowerPoint. You can export Keynote presentations as PowerPoint slideshows, but PowerPoint doesn't feature all of Keynote's features so there may be some parts of the presentation that don't display correctly.

Keynote has the added pull of iCloud support though, which means that you can sync documents you've created on other Macs or on your iOS devices.

It's only £13.99 for Keynote or just over £40 for the entire iWork '09 suite, which you can download from the Mac App Store. The full Office for Mac 2011 suite, which includes Excel and Word too, will cost you almost £100.

There are free alternatives available that you may not have considered, including Google Drive Slides and Prezi, and there's also the popular OpenOffice, which includes the Impress presentation builder.  These free alternatives might be worth checking out before you cough up the cash for Apple and Microsoft's offerings. They could be sufficient enough to create the type of slideshow you're aiming for.

For other products in the iWork 09 range click one of these links:?

Macworld's iWork 09: Pages review?

Macworld's iWork 09: Numbers review

See also:

iPhoto '11 for Mac review

OUR VERDICT

Despite the lack of a significant upgrade since 2009, Apple's Keynote application continues to impress with its presentation and slideshow building tools. With the ability to sync through iCloud and use the application on the move by downloading the iOS version to iPad or iPhone, Keynote is a great piece of software for professionals, students or anyone else that might need to create a slideshow.

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