Death by PowerPoint is a phrase used to describe the kind of long-winded presentations many of us are often subjected to. Apple's new Keynote application is more like death to PowerPoint. It takes on the established king of presentations, and makes it look older and clunkier than an Austin Alegro. PowerPoint is no match for Keynote, and Keynote slips into its niche without any fuss at all. The history of Keynote's development is unusual. Its inception came when Steve Jobs himself decided he wanted to do a presentation that didn't use PowerPoint. That presentation was the most important one in the Apple calendar, the Macworld Expo keynote address. So, Steve has been the beta tester for Keynote for the past year. Usually, a product is beta tested by a lot of people. With a guy like Steve, you only need one beta tester - he's very particular, you know. As with most Apple products, the interface is simple and obvious. So obvious, in fact, that I wonder why nobody else thought of doing it like this. It isn?t wildly different from PowerPoint, just more logical, so PowerPoint users will slip right in to using Keynote. Design taste
Apple?s products are beautifully designed, and Keynote is no exception: both the interface and the themes are tastefully done. When, at the Keynote address at Macworld San Francisco in January (see Macworld Magazine February 2003 page 51), Steve Jobs said that he wanted user to feel like they have a design team working for them all day and all night, he was presumably referring to his own design team. But now, you have access to the same people?s work, and you get some instant design kudos as a result. There are 12 themes available, each one a masterpiece of taste and class. Even if you make your own theme, the tools available and the Quartz graphics engine in OS X mean you can make them beautiful. It won't be long before people start shipping their own themes to add to the provided ones. Another aspect of the design work is the clip-art libraries that ship with Keynote. These images are of excellent quality, but a few more would be nice. You can import most image-file formats - including Photoshop documents - and layers and alpha channels are preserved. This means you can have any shape of image cut-out in Adobe Photoshop, and overlay it on a chosen background. Keynote allows control over the layers, opacity and sizing, so snappy slides can be put together. It isn't that a seasoned PowerPoint person couldn't do most of this stuff with, just that it?s much easier in Keynote. One nice touch is the automatic centring guides. These appear when you drag an object in the centre of the slide. Guides can also be set, so that each element can remain consistent in alignment. Charting success
Charts are a doddle in Keynote. You can paste in a spreadsheet and immediately make a chart or graph. There are eight chart types to choose from, each having another dozen styled themes. That makes 96 pre-installed options for enlivening even the dullest data. Transitions between slides are also simple, but very effective. Using the power of the Quartz graphic engine in OS X and Open GL makes the transitions deliciously smooth. There are 15, including four 3D-effect transitions. The 3D transitions flip the slides, or appear on the faces of a cube, which is very effective. It's notable that the effects are different from the usual PowerPoint choices, which may help to hold people?s attention just that little bit longer. Anything added to a presentation is simply drag-&-dropped on to the slide. This includes sound, video, or even Flash movies - which can be linked to mouse clicks in the same way as for page turns or transitions. There's no way to have a backing track play all the way though, because the sounds are loaded onto each new slide. All this stuff may sound exciting, but if you're a regular presenter it's likely that you have a lot of templates and presentations in PowerPoint. It would be pointless to having to re-work all of them from scratch. But don't panic, because Keynote can open and edit PowerPoint documents, and even save the presentations as PowerPoint documents. The resulting files work well in PowerPoint, so you can take advantage of Keynote to build a slick presentation, and then make a PowerPoint document for the sales team that might have to use PCs. You can even export PDFs or QuickTime movies, so people can present without PowerPoint or Keynote. Converting old PowerPoint presentations is simplicity itself, and adding a new theme can give tired presentations a new lease of life. You could also update the slide transitions, and generally make the show prettier in a matter of minutes.


If you use a Mac and PowerPoint, making the transition to Keynote is simplicity itself. Whether you should pay £79 for something that does almost exactly the same job is another matter. It's good, it's better than anything else, but how much are slick presentations worth? Well, presentations can be for high stakes - a potential business deal or promotion of a new product, for instance. Getting the audience to pay attention is always important, and Keynote might just tip the balance. So, £79 for something that might make for a more persuasive presentation is money well spent. Also, as somebody who suffers death by PowerPoint on a regular basis, I'd certainly appreciate a fresh look. Min specs: Mac OS X 10.2; PowerPC G3; 256MB RAM.

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