Apples Keynote 08 Delivers Simple Sophistication

Review: Apple is stressing Keynote's ease of use, billing the application as a means for anyone to create "cinema-quality presentations."

The debut of Apples iWork 08 includes across-the-board improvements, such as new templates and text effects, and a few snazzy bells and whistles to its presentation program, Keynote.

As with the rest of the iWork 08 suite, Apple is stressing Keynotes ease of use, billing the application as a means for anyone to create "cinema-quality presentations."

eWEEK Labs tested out a number of the applications souped up features, such as Keynotes newly unveiled Smart Builds tool, which enables users to create animations with a minimum of hassle. I was impressed with the Smart Builds tool, and found that it makes good its promises of sophistication without excessive complication, but the feature took a bit of practice to nail down.

Another significant new feature of Keynote is the programs point A to point B animation, which enables users to move object, image, shape, chart, and the like from one location on a slide to another.

For all the presentation-building magic that Apple has managed to pack into Keynote 08, the trick that this application doesnt pull off seamlessly is compatibility with Microsofts Office file formats. Keynote will open and export to Offices Powerpoint file formats, but—as with every non-Microsoft consumer of Offices formats that eWEEK Labs has tested—certain formatting inconsistencies seem impossible to avoid.


To read about Numbers, iWorks spreadsheet application, click here.

iWork 08 is reasonably priced, at $79 (or free with the purchase of any new Mac computer). The suite requires Mac OS X version 10.4.10 or later.

Keynote Presentation

The first thing I worked through during my testing of Keynote 08 was the heavily hyped Smart Builds feature that enables users to include animated elements in presentations. According to Apples Web site, all I needed to do to achieve instant animation would be to simply drop a photograph or any other image of my choosing into the appropriate spot in my presentation.

I opened up the Smart Builds feature by clicking on its icon located in Keynotes toolbar which brought forth a separate pane for working with and customizing animated elements, along with a second pane, called a photo window, that appeared at the bottom of the screen. I could drag photos or images into the photo window from Apples iPhoto Library, or from OS Xs Finder file manager.

I dragged a series of test images from iPhoto folder into a series of rectangles that appeared in the photo window at the bottom of my screen. As I dragged an image into one of the rectangles, another, blank rectangle automatically appeared. I dragged in four images to fill out a spinning cube animation, which Id selected from a drop-down menu within the Smart Builds action pane. From there, I was able to further modify the animated object by specifying its direction, alignment, and perspective.

The action pane also let me further define whether I wanted the cube to move from left to right, or how many times I wanted the cube to spin before it settled on displaying one of the four images it was built to showcase. I could set different timings for each photo by opening the aptly-named Build Order drawer from the Smart Build pane. I could also select whether I wanted the images Id selected to be scaled to a common size by selecting a box located inside the photo window.

To remove an image from the build, all I had to do was grab it and drag it out of the photo window, or right-click the image and select delete. To rearrange the order in which I wanted the images appear, I simply dragged the image to place within the rectangle sequence where I wanted it to appear. The entire process ran rather smoothly, and it was actually pretty fun to do. Whats more, the resulting slide was significantly snazzier than my non-animated slides.

I also tested Keynote 08s groovy A-to-B animation feature. I highlighted an image on my test presentation that I wished to move across the slide, opened Keynotes Build Inspector tool, and clicked the action button. From here I was able to choose the "move" option listed under the Effect menu. Once I did, the image appeared on my presentation slide with a red line that connected my original image, or Point A, to its next destination, Point B. Point B was designated by a "ghosted" image of my original image. I could also add a series of other destinations.

When I viewed my slide with this added effect, the result was great. I could choose to have my image move from point-to-point on either a straight or curved path when I clicked the Path option located on the action pane. Even better, I was able to shape the path of my image any way I chose by grabbing one of the nodes used to illustrate the images destined path. I could make the path as curvy and unique as I wanted.

Finally, I tested Keynotes file conversion fidelity and imported a PowerPoint file into the application. Overall, the conversion fidelity was good, but I did run into a few subtle alignment issues (some text was pushed into the files footer), the biggest errors dealt with the translation of symbols used in the Microsoft file into Keynote. Arrows that appeared in the original PowerPoint file became à in Keynote and bullets that appeared in the PowerPoint file became boxes in Keynote.


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