Keynote 3 by the numbers: Part 1. First Impressions

Friday, January 13, 2006

The new Keynote that ships as a part of iWork ’06 is quite an impressive upgrade. While an argument could be made that Keynote 2 was bug fixes and refinements for Keynote 1, Keynote 3 polishes up what we liked about Keynote 2 and added features to just about every aspect of the program. Since glossing over these in one article would be a disservice to our readers, we’ve decided to concentrate on one aspect at a time (so we don’t miss anything!). We begin with an examination of what differences a user is likely to notice immediately when simply browsing the menus.

First thing you’ll notice is that iWork ’06 does NOT overwrite iWork ’05. It creates a new folder labeled iWork ’06 and leaves the other alone. Because of this, if you’ve placed any iWork apps in your dock, you’ll need to place the new versions there manually. After that, you may feel a strong urge to delete the iWork folder. However, I would urge you to keep it around for a month or so. If you need to, set an iCal alarm to remind you to remove it later if you need the space. But, until the user community has had the opportunity to go over it and has given it the “Upgrade Bill of Health” you should probably keep the old version around as a backup (if presenting is your business I KNOW I don’t have to tell YOU this, right?) Also, as with all Apple applications PLEASE leave these applications in the folder into which they are installed.

Upon opening the app, you’re presented with a theme selection screen. There you’ll find a number of new themes that include:

Modern Portfolio and Formal which adopts the clean polished look of Keynote Pro’s themes,
Leather Book and Classic Silk, both good looking textures of their namesakes with the standard theme layout,
and White Corners and Vintage which harken back to the photo book look of MyKeynoteThemes.

Another new theme is Black, which is basically the White theme in reverse. Many of us accustomed to working with Keynote have been manually making changes to our presentations to set the background color of the White theme to black then adjusting the text color, but it’s nice to see it as an addition. Keynote also adds to the 800×600 and 1024×768 slide sizes by adding 1280×720, 1680×1050, 1920×1080 to some select themes (White, Black, Gradient, Modern Portfolio, and White Corners). Another thing you’ll notice is that only Apple’s theme preview images have white borders now. It’s a small point but now themes from some of the theme makers have black lines on the left and right making them just look… different. While on the subject of themes, these new themes are NOT available to Keynote 2. What this means from a theme creation/management perspective remains to be seen.

Taking a trip through the menus shows what you’ve come to know from Keynote for Keynote, File, and Edit. Hopefully, “Edit LinkBack Item” will find it’s way happily back into my Edit menu once the plugin is updated for Keynote 3 and for those wondering about “Special Characters…” under the Edit menu, yes Bank Gothic is still a broken font. The Insert menu is the first to see significant change. It’s been reworked to be more streamlined so that all of the Shapes are now under a submenu. The built in shapes have also increased in number to include a Star, Polygon and “Draw a Shape” which is easy speak for Bezier curves. Both the Star and Polygons are variable in that you are presented with a popup interface to control the number of points and sides respectively. Draw a Shape allows you to create your own shapes within Keynote limited only by your artistic ability. There’s also a nifty new feature that lets you insert comments complete with their own little sticky note (looks like the one in Dashboard). Just remember that if you want to click and move them, only the area along the top and bottom is grabbable, not the sides.

The Slide menu sees no changes while the Format menu has some interesting items that hint at new features. First up is Format -> Table -> Fill Cells which allows you to select a table cell and fill every cell you select to the right and down with the selected cell’s data. Next is Chart which, under Chart Type includes not only a scatter plot, but a collection of new 3D charts too, from 3D columns, to 3D lines to 3D pies, 3D versions of charts you know and love. With the new Shape menu under Format comes options to Sharpen or Smooth them but only after either creating your own shape within Keynote or selecting a shape and choosing Make Editable. Another new command under Shape is Reset Text and Object Handles. One of the most impressive new features of Keynote is the ability to mask an image with a shape using the Mask with Shape command that we’ll go over in depth later.

Moving along, we find the simple elegance of the Arrange menu has been left untouched between versions while View offers some pleasant surprises. Now, we have the ability to Rehearse Slideshows without the need for a second monitor. Also new is a Light Table view that allows another way to rearrange your slides, Show Notes is renamed Show Presenter Notes, there’s an option to Hide Comments (remember the sticky notes?), and another to Show Adjust Image which brings another popup interface onto the screen to allow basic adjustments to your imported images.

Skipping past the Window menu, you’ll find the Help menu and again Apple has supplied us with an iWork Tour specifically highlighting the special features of iWork ’06.

And there you have it, a faster than fast introduction to the new Keynote. Even though the above changes are cool, that’s nothing compared to what we’ll be examining in the coming weeks when we begin to dig even deeper into what iWork’s better half has to offer. Next up, we’re going to inspect the inspectors!