Keynote for Mac review

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.

Last year's Keynote for Mac update added a few new transitions and animation effects, but the main change was its more streamlined interface that made it even easier to create and edit your presentations.

As with other iWork apps, this year's update sees a slight visual refresh (to bring it into line with Yosemite), but the real update is to features and under-the-hood performance. In 2014 Apple has brought in support for iCloud drive, enhanced sharing with iCloud.com, compatibility with Microsoft PowerPoint PPTX files and a range of new editing, design and charting tools. Read about the latest updates to iWork: Pages, Keynote and Numbers, and troubleshooting advice

Using Keynote for Mac

Keynote for Mac review

The main Toolbar that runs along the top of the Keynote contains 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.

Most of the other tools have now been relocated into the Format Panel that sits on the right-hand side of the workspace. This is more intelligent than the old Inspector, because 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.

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.

New Keynote Effects

Keynote for Mac review: new effects

Every edition of Keynote introduces new effects, and this latest update is no exception. There are new build animations: Blinds, Fly In, Fly Out, Orbital, Pivot, Scale Big, Swoosh, Droplet, Grid, Drift, Scale and Skid; and new transitions include Blinds, Color Planes, Confetti, Fall, Perspective, Pivot, Swoosh and Object Revolve

We're particularly keen on a new text object build called Trace Animation, which traces around letters and builds them up. Apple's regular introduction of new effects isn't just bling (although it can undoubtedly be used to add pizazz to presentations). It can give your presentation a new look and style that prevents them from becoming boring.

Keynote has undeniably more effective animation effects in Keynote, such as the ‘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 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 emphasize 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.

Using Keynote with iCloud Drive and iOS

Perhaps the most useful new feature of keynote is its compatibility with Apple's new iCloud Drive. The files you create in Keynote are stored by default in iCloud Drive (inside the Keynote folder). You can now access these files directly in OS X from inside the iCloud Drive folder.

Storing files in the cloud also enables you to access them using Keynote on an iOS device, which is functionally on par with the OS X app. You can also access your Keynote documents using the iCloud.com web app.

We think it's a pretty good idea to create and store your presentations in iCloud Drive. While you create presentations on your Mac, you are often using them on portable devices like the iPad or need to show them to a person on the fly (which is where iCloud.com comes in handy).

Apple's iCloud Drive is much better than its old Documents In The Cloud service. Our experience so far has been smooth, fast and relatively trouble-free.

Sharing presentations in Keynote

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.

The service is still in beta, but has come along in leaps and bounds in the last year. You can password protect documents when sharing, and you can share them in view only mode. It's still not possible to work collaboratively with specific people, and when you've finished you have to stop sharing with everybody. But the service is still in beta, and is getting better all the time.

OUR VERDICT

Keynote for Mac is the world's best presentation program. The latest edition packs a whole bunch of new features, animations and effects. More important is the integration with iCloud Drive and updated sharing features in iCloud.com. Apple is working hard to ensure that you can create amazing presentations, and share them with people no matter where you are. Keynote is a fantastic app and anybody who has to explain, sell or teach should ensure a copy is on their Mac and all iOS devices. Recommended.

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