updated 11:00 am EST, Mon January 12, 2009
First Look Keynote 09
Keynote is the oldest and most mature program of the iWork suite, which has regularly bested Microsoft PowerPoint in features and ease of use from its inception. With the latest version, Apple has continued innovating to keep Keynote '09 the star of the entire iWork suite.
The most dramatic new feature of the program is its enhanced animation capabilities. In the past, creating animated objects involved selecting one and defining a specific path for it to follow. Animating a single object was easy, but getting multiple objects moving smoothly involved tedious trial and error.
The new Magic Move tool eliminates the problem. Users produce a slide with objects in a starting position, then create a duplicate. The second slide represents endpoints; after turning on Magic Move, the software generates middle transition animations automatically.
As an example, one slide can show playing cards scattered across a screen, while the next can show the cards neatly stacked in a deck. When activated during a presentation, the cards will appear to arrange themselves.
Although the real power of any presentation is in the usefulness of its information, animation and transitions can make an event more visually appealing. That's why Apple has beefed up the app's animation and transition effects with a greater variety of options.
Many presentations may include audio and video files. Such content tends to be large however, and if you need to e-mail a presentation to someone, just a handful of media files can fatten it to several megabytes in size. For some e-mail accounts, this can make Keynote documents impossible to send or receive.
Apple has, fortunately, added a new file reduction feature. If you add a five-minute audio or video clip for instance, but only use 40 seconds of it, you can strip away the unused portion and shrink the total size of a presentation to a more manageable level.
Perhaps the most unique new feature of Keynote '09 is Keynote Remote, a separate, 99-cent iTunes app which turns an iPhone or iPod touch into a remote control, operated via Wi-Fi. An entire presentation can be controlled through the program; users shift between slides with a finger swipe, eliminating the need to sit in front of a keyboard. The app is also able to display any notes you've written for slides. This lets you walk freely around a room, simultaneously preventing audience members from reading ahead.
Two potential problems with Keynote Remote are the added cost of the app itself and the need for an Apple handheld. A third, more important limitation is that if you don't have a Wi-Fi connection, the software becomes entirely useless.
To make presentations even easier to create, Apple has added eight new themes, along with the ability to save and send Keynote, PowerPoint or PDF files through Mail. Just be aware that you may lose visual effects when saving to PowerPoint or PDF -- as a result, sharing presentations with other Keynote users can be simple, but sharing them with Windows users who only have PowerPoint may force you to scale back.
Keynote '09 is the one iWork program that completely overwhelms its Microsoft counterpart. PowerPoint may be good, but Keynote is still much better. With simpler and unique graphics effects, Keynote Remote, and a file reduction feature, Keynote remains the best presentation program for Macs.