Apple Keynote 6.0 review

A more streamlined interface makes Keynote quicker and easier to use

Apple knows how to do eye-candy, and one of the great strengths of Keynote is the ease with which you can use its eye-catching transitions and animations to create really professional-looking presentations. Keynote 6.0 does add a few new transitions and animation effects, but the main change in this long-awaited update is the more streamlined interface that makes it even easier to create and edit your presentations.

The main tool bar that runs along the top of the Keynote workspace has been drastically simplified, removing most of the tools and pull-down menus that were previously located here. All that’s left now is a central set of tools for adding elements such as text boxes, photos and charts, along with a few other options, such as the Play command and a new Zoom control. Read more Apple Software reviews.

Keynote’s new interface introduces the context-sensitive Format Panel.

Most of the other tools have now been relocated into the new Format Panel that sits on the right-hand side of the workspace. The Format Panel is really just an updated version of the old Inspector panel, as it provides options for formatting various elements and adding transitions and animation effects. It’s more intelligent than the old Inspector, though, as it is context-sensitive and automatically changes to display relevant options for whatever slide element you currently have selected.

So, if you click on a text headline, the Format Panel will display a set of tools for formatting your text, such as a list of fonts and styles, and settings for spacing and alignment. Click on a photo instead, and the Format Panel will allow you to adjust the saturation or exposure of the photo, or to add a drop shadow or reflection effect. 

There are also two additional buttons just above the Format Panel labelled ‘Animate’ and ‘Setup’, which can be used to display additional options. Click on the Animate button and the Format Panel will switch to display a list of transition and animation effects, as well as the ‘build’ controls that determine how each effect works. The Setup button provides an overview of primary settings for your entire presentation, such as the size of your slides and the various templates that you can choose from.

Having all these features arranged more tidily within the Format Panel does make it quicker and easier to locate the specific tools you need. You can hide the Format Panel if you want to – although, rather sloppily, the Hide/Show commands in the View menu still refer to it as the Inspector – but if you want to keep it on screen while you’re working you can use that new Zoom control to quickly adjust the magnification level.

The ‘centred canvas’ makes it easier to animate graphics on your slides.

One nice touch here is that when you zoom right out the slide is now centred in the middle of the canvas area so that you can see the empty space surrounding the slide. This makes it easier to position graphics so that they can move into or out of the slide when you’re using animation effects such as Magic Move.

There are a few other new animation effects in Keynote 6, such as the new ‘emphasis’ effects that can be used to make items blink on and off, or bounce up and down in order to grab your attention. More important, though, is the fact that you can now preview full-size animations and transitions on the canvas itself, rather than the thumbnail preview that you used to get in the Inspector. And, like all the other iLife and iWork apps, Keynote now supports 64-bit processors, which makes animations and other effects run more smoothly.

Another useful addition is the ability to create interactive animated charts, perhaps to emphasise a rapid increase in sales or profits. There are four types of interactive charts available – column, bar, scatter and bubble – with several variations on each type. The only problem here is that the interactive charts aren’t explained very well in the program’s Help files. My initial attempts left me with bar charts randomly zooming up and down all over the screen, and with little help provided even on Apple’s web site it took a bit of trial and error to figure out how to use this feature properly.

Another feature that you might want to take your time with is the ability to share presentations and collaborate with colleagues using iCloud. Clicking on the Share menu in the toolbar allows you to upload a presentation to iCloud and then send a link to other people that allows them to access the presentation via the icloud.com web site. However, this service is still in beta, and seems to lack the full range of animation tools found in the Mac and iOS versions, so it’s not quite ready for primetime just yet.

OUR VERDICT

Keynote 6.0 is a smart upgrade. It doesn’t simply pile on new animations and transition effects for the sake of it, but instead focuses on streamlining the program’s interface and enhancing performance so that you can work more quickly and efficiently. It might not have the vast array of features found in Microsoft PowerPoint, but as a quick and easy way of preparing stylish presentations it’s hard to beat.

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