Apple Keynote comes free with any new Mac, which means that it's likely to be most Mac users' default choice when it comes to slideshow and presentation software.
That doesn't mean it's your only option though. Naturally, you can get Microsoft's PowerPoint - ideal if you want to collaborate with colleagues on PCs - but there are other alternatives, both free and paid, some with a few features that Keynote and PowerPoint just can't match.
Keynote for Mac
How It Works: Like Pages and Numbers, Keynote was revamped for macOS Sierra and gained a more streamlined interface that makes it easy to quickly add animations and other effects to your presentations.
The key feature here is the Inspector panel that sits on the right-hand side of the main workspace. At the top of the Inspector are the Format and Animate buttons that provide instant access to all the program’s main features.
Click the Format button and the Inspector displays options for changing the format of text and graphics, such as changing the font size and style for text, or adding a reflection effect to a photo on a slide. Click the Animate button and the Inspector switches to display Keynote’s ‘builds’ – the animation effects that you use to move objects on and off slides.
As you select these effects the Inspector automatically previews the effect for you, and also displays a number of additional settings, making it really easy to create slick animation effects in no time at all. Keynote is also available online through iWork, so that you can collaborate with colleagues remotely.
Animations And Effects: Keynote includes about 30 different build animations and 40 transition effects, so you have plenty of options for creating eye-catching presentations. There’s also a special type of animation, called Magic Move, that allows you to move objects from one slide to a new position on the next slide.
Keynote can’t quite match the range of graphs, charts, and diagrams available in Microsoft’s PowerPoint, but it does include a really handy option called ‘interactive charts’ that allows you to animate charts so that they show data changing over a period of time.
How it works: The Ribbon interface used by PowerPoint makes it look rather intimidating when compared to the more streamlined Inspector palette of Keynote, but the two programs work in the same basic manner.
When you add text, graphics or other elements to a presentation slide the Animations tab in the Ribbon displays three sets of animation effects. The Entrance and Exit effects correspond to the Build In and Build Out options in Keynote and control how elements move on and off the slide.
There’s also a small set of Emphasis effects that can be used to highlight text and graphics while they are actually displayed on a slide. Click the Transition tab on the Ribbon and you’ll see the various transition effects that can be used to move from one slide to another.
Editing effects can be a little tricky, though, as some settings, such as duration and direction, are located in the ribbon itself, while others are found in a secondary Toolbox palette.
This means that PowerPoint takes a little more effort to master, but once you’ve gotten the hang of things you’ll find that PowerPoint matches Keynote’s range of animation effects, as well as providing more extensive collaboration and sharing features for when you need to work with colleagues.
Animations and effects: PowerPoint provides about 30 Entrance and Exit effects, and a similar number of transition effects for moving between slides. That’s slightly fewer than the number of Builds and transitions in Keynote, but PowerPoint outguns Keynote in other areas.
One very useful option is the Motion Paths tool, which allows you to move objects along lines, loops and curves that you draw on your slides. PowerPoint also provides far more extensive tools for creating graphs and charts than Keynote.
How it works: Google Slides is part of the Google Docs suite of online productivity apps, so you’ll need a reliable Internet connection in order to use it. And, to be honest, the tools that it provides for creating presentation slides are fairly basic, so there isn’t a compelling reason to use Google Slides if you already have Keynote.
But if you’re on the road and don’t have a presentations program immediately available then Google Slides could still be useful for quickly creating a simple presentation, or just preparing a rough outline that you can refine in another program when you get back home.
The basic features that you need are all here, including a selection of templates with different slide layouts and graphical styles. You can quickly add text, graphics and video to your slides, and use some simple drawing tools and mathematical symbols for creating diagrams and illustrations.
One advantage of working online with Google Slides is that it provides some useful options for sharing your presentations with colleagues, along with the ability to add comments while you’re working. You can also publish your presentation on the web, or download it in PowerPoint or PDF format.
Animations and effects: There’s only a small selection of animations and transitions available in Google Slides, mainly consisting of simple fade in/out effects, zooms and wipes.
Adobe Presenter Video Express
How it works: Adobe’s Presenter Video Express is a specialised tool for users in education and training who need to prepare materials for online lectures and e-learning courses. It doesn’t allow you to create slide-based presentations like Keynote or PowerPoint, but is designed to work in conjunction with presentations that you create in those programs.
Presenter Video Express works by recording everything on your computer screen – such as a Keynote presentation, or a demo of a new piece of software – and at the same time it also uses your Mac’s webcam to record you while you provide a commentary on the material in your main presentation.
You can edit the video recording using a simple timeline interface that allows you to display either the application running on the computer screen, your own video image, or a split-screen effect that displays your image alongside the computer screen.
Once you’ve finished editing your video you can upload it to web sites such as YouTube or Vimeo, or use Adobe’s Connect web-conferencing system to host your own online seminars.
The monthly fee could quickly get quite expensive, but that makes it ideal if you need it for a one-off project - especially since there's a 30-day free trial.
Animations and effects: Video Presenter Express can’t be used to create slide-based presentations, so it doesn’t include any animations or transition effects. Its video-editing tools are also quite basic. You can trim clips, add simple text titles, and use pan and zoom effects for emphasis.
However, the program’s primary feature is its ability to combine recordings of the computer screen and the presenter.
How it works: Its interface is a bit untidy, but the free OpenOffice Impress provides a very good set of presentation tools. Those tools are scattered about a bit, though, as the presentations module within OpenOffice has a pair of crowded toolbars running across both the top and bottom of the screen, as well as a Properties palette on the right-hand side of the screen that works in a similar fashion to the Inspector panel in Keynote.
In addition to the formatting and animation controls found in Keynote, the Properties palette in OpenOffice also crams in additional tools for working with clip-art, modifying slide layouts, and defining master pages for your presentations.
The range of tools is pretty impressive, though. As well as allowing you to adjust basic text properties such as font size and style, OpenOffice includes precise options for adjusting line-spacing within paragraphs and even modifying the indent at the start of a paragraph.
Animations and effects: There are around 45 Entrance and Exit effects, and 60 transitions available in OpenOffice Impress, along with an automatic preview and a slideshow option that allows you to quickly run through your slides in full-screen mode. OpenOffice also provides an extensive set of Motion Path tools that allow you to create custom animations for your slides.
The chart tools are relatively basic, though, with a relatively modest selection of 2D charts and only a simple 3D perspective option that doesn’t really compare to the eye-candy graphics that you can create in Keynote and PowerPoint.
How it works: The presentations module in LibreOffice is almost identical to that of OpenOffice – which isn’t surprising, as both of these free office suites spring from the same open-source roots.
LibreOffice has the same rather crowded interface as OpenOffice, with toolbars running across both the top and bottom of your slides, and the multi-tabbed Properties panel sitting on the right-hand side of the screen. The arrangement of tools isn’t identical, but the two programs look very similar and it may take a little while for newcomers to figure out where everything is.
But once you’re up and running, LibreOffice is a very competent presentations tool. The Properties panel provides precise control of features such as text formatting, and you can quickly enhance photos by adjusting brightness, contrast and transparency.
As well as a conventional set of clip-art graphics, LibreOffice also includes a tool called FontWorks that allows you to create attractive headlines with perspective effects or by running text along a path.
We also like the mini-toolbar that allows you to quickly switch between slide view, the outliner mode that lets you to quickly jot down the text for each slide, and the Sorter option that provides a quick overview of all your slides.
Animations and effects: LibreOffice has a slightly larger selection of effects than OpenOffice, with around 50 Entrance and Exit effects, and 70 transitions. There’s also a good selection of motion paths that you can use to create more complex, custom animations.
But, like OpenOffice, it only provides basic tools for creating tables and charts. The Table tool does little more than specify the number of rows and columns, while the Chart tools focus on simple 2D graphics with only simple 3D perspective effects to add variety.
How it works: At first glance, FotoMagico looks like a conventional video-editing program – in fact, it looks very much like the original version of iMovie, with a horizontal Timeline running along the bottom of the screen where you can assemble video clips, photos and other media files.
However, the Timeline also allows you to insert ‘slides’ that can contain photos, text and other media files in a similar fashion to presentation slides. When you create a slide the program provides a split-screen display that shows Start and Finish versions of each slide. This allows you to create your own animation effects, perhaps by placing a small photo on the Start slide and then zooming in on the photo for the Finish slide.
You can also animate each element on the slide separately, so you could make a line of text fade into view at the same time as zooming on your photo. FotoMagic won’t replace Keynote or PowerPoint for business presentations, but it’s a handy option for home users who want to create slick slideshows and video projects.
Animations and effects: Fotomagico doesn’t include a set of predefined animation effects comparable to Keynote’s builds, but it does allow you to animate your slides using simple effects such as linear moves, rotation and fades. There are also 20 transition effects that you can use between slides, or when editing video clips.
How it works: Presentable isn’t intended to replace conventional presentation programs like Keynote or PowerPoint.
In fact, its tools for working with text and graphics are extremely limited, so most of the time you’ll probably carry on using Keynote or some other program to design your slides, and then occasionally just import those slides into Presentable for specific projects.
But Presentable does have one clever trick up its sleeve that makes it a useful companion to Keynote or other programs. Just type a web address into Presentable and it can create a ‘web slide’ that displays a live web page within a slide.
The web page remains fully functional, so you can click on links to navigate around the web site, or play video clips on sites such as YouTube. You can also crop web pages so that only the main video clips or content that you want to display are shown on the slide.
Admittedly, Presentable is a bit of a one-trick pony but it can be quite useful if you need to include web content in your presentations. We also had one or two problems importing our Keynote and PowerPoint slides into the program, but Presentable is free to download from the Mac App Store so it doesn’t cost you anything to check it out and see how its web slides work.
Animations and effects: Presentable’s one key feature is its ability to include web content within slides, and it doesn’t include any additional tools for creating animations or other effects. But if you feel like showing off it does work with the Leap Motion sensor, which allows you to control your presentation with hand gestures.