Can a PowerPoint user be converted to Keynote? Is this the perfect excuse to use his Mac more? And how well do they work on iPad? Read on…
PowerPoint has been the staple of the business presentation for a good many years, and with the imminent release of PowerPoint 2013 and the inevitable shift towards tablets that Windows 8 will help facilitate, it is likely to be so for a good many more. However, precisely as Apple planned – the ‘halo’ effect of the iPhone and the iPad has encouraged more users to bring Macs to work. And with that comes the question: ‘Can we do this on Keynote?’
I’ve used a Mac as my home computer for a long time, and flitted between it and Windows for work. However, I’ve never used Keynote. My challenge was to pitch PowerPoint vs Keynote, to go about creating Keynote versions of BrightCarbon visual slides and document the differences between the process and the results.
Menus and shortcuts
The first difference between the two programmes (or Apps as we are now supposed to call them) is the set-up of the menus. In typical Apple style, Keynote presents you with a sparse, clean – but unfamiliar menu. While all the options you need are there – things like colour formatting, drop shadows, text alignment, they are squirrelled away behind drop-down menus and tabs. Other options, such as ‘send to back’ and ‘flip horizontally’ can only be accessed by manually adding them to a customized toolbar.
I work with a large number of shortcuts attached to my toolbar in PowerPoint, so having to hunt through the icons to find what I need is frustrating. However, as I mentioned, you can add some more functionality into the toolbar by customizing it, and once you fully explore the ‘inspector’ window, you’ll find that most things are collected together there as you’d expect. In fact, having them all located in one area, under separate tabs, proves to be a handy way to accessing them. It would be nice to be able to keep some of the inspector tabs anchored to the menus, but this isn’t possible. And although you can have multiple versions of the inspector open at the same time to access options quickly, the window is quite large and you can’t do so without sacrificing screen space (even on a retina display, this is too much of an imposition). At the same time, the inspector itself is a little small and cluttered, which it hampers its own utility. Useful it may be, but also poorly designed.
On the menus and shortcuts front, PowerPoint – albeit oldskool – still has the edge. Functions are easy to access and well-organised thanks to the ribbon, which walks the fine line between uncluttered and useful. Furthermore, customisation is straightforward which is essential for pro users or home users who likes things ‘just so’.
Themes, masters and customisation
There is no doubt that Keynote has the upper hand in its default templates. Apple has designed a huge library of backgrounds and layouts that are polished and slick. Some are a little ‘fun’ for my liking, but Keynote – unlike you might say of PowerPoint – has been designed for home projects as well as business. Apple’s templates are crafted with media in mind, with large placeholders for pictures and great frames to hold them.
The backgrounds included in the templates immediately mark out a Keynote slide from a PowerPoint slide. Where Apple uses subtle effects like chalkboard, paper and leather to add texture to the design, Microsoft opts for stripy lines, butterflies and snowflakes – unsubtle if not downright vulgar. That said, it is rare that a company will opt for a default template for its own material, and so the actual utility of Apple’s offering for business applications will be limited.
You can see PowerPoint’s humble theme options (top) compared to Keynote’s all-singing-all-dancing offerings (bottom).
The Master slide set-up works in pretty much the same way as with PowerPoint, which is good because it works well. Colour palettes and default text settings are also available, but set up differently. Setting a default colour palette for your presentation (an absolute must to adhere to brand guidelines), is more of a manual job in Keynote, but is achievable with some perseverance. Setting a shape’s formatting to the default for the template is as easy as in PowerPoint, and the same can be done with charts and pictures. These customisation options, combined with the diverse range of themes included in the software make it easy to create great-looking tailored templates – something that is impressive but not just straight out-of-the-box.
I’d say that Keynote inches ahead of PowerPoint in this area – the default themes are much prettier, and editing them is just as easy in both programmes. While Keynote falters slightly on its palette options, the choice (and inspiration) provided by the built-in themes is something that Microsoft should be ashamed of.
Shapes, pictures and charts
Here we come to the nub of it. While there is an awful lot to love about Keynote, one of the frustrations for advanced users will undoubtedly come from the fact that creating and manipulating custom shapes is so limited. I spend probably half my time working with custom shapes in PowerPoint – creating new objects, adding layers, grouping and merging. This functionality opens up a huge world of potential in terms of creating visual slides, and is one of the greatest benefits of PowerPoint 2007 over its predecessors. Without being able to merge objects into new shapes, we have to either use key point manipulation or create the shape in another programme (illustrator etc.) and import them. Neither is desirable, and shouldn’t be necessary – Microsoft sorted this five years ago.
Working with images is much easier. Keynote plugs into Apple’s standard picture formatting toolbox, which is both simple and powerful. Also, the ability to mask pictures with different shapes is a nice addition and is built on single click functionality. To achieve the same in PowerPoint, you need to crop your image to the exact dimensions of the shape you want to fill, then copy to the clipboard and paste into your chosen shape. You can then embellish the shape with additional effects, but it is not quite as simple as Apple’s approach.
Below is Keynote’s image mask interface (top), and the same rather more laborious process in PowerPoint (bottom).
Charts are immediately impressive in Keynote – something that PowerPoint should learn from. Behind the bells and whistles are robust data-editing functions based on Apple’s Numbers App. I like how the data table floats over Keynote rather than taking up half the screen as it does in PowerPoint. Editing data is simple but the default templates for charts – as with presentation themes, is where Keynote really shines.
PowerPoint is head and foot above Keynote when it comes to shapes and object manipulation. While Keynote has some neat tricks, the lack of editability, beyond keypoint manipulation is a major setback and pretty unforgiveable. Its absence really speaks of a missed opportunity for Apple – it seems that Keynote has been designed for the light user, who will make use of many default themes and objects, but will not need to go much beyond. This approach works well with programmes like iMovie and iPhoto, which have Pro-equivalent Apps on the market (Final Cut Pro and Aperture, respectively), but it is frustrating that some of the more robust functionality has been left out of Keynote, when no alternative Pro version is available.
So: PowerPoint vs Keynote round 3 goes to PowerPoint.
Animations & Transitions
A hugely important element of an effective presentation is the use of animation to help build up the information on screen and communicate your message. PowerPoint has a stable of animations that get the job done. More customisation would be nice – things like being able to choose a custom path for a ‘wipe’ to follow, and being able to start anywhere on a ‘wheel’ animation – but these are merely gripes. The majority of PowerPoint’s more lavish animations – things like ‘bounce’ and ‘boomerang’ aren’t useful because they don’t themselves add any meaning.
Keynote has its fair share of shiny animations that realistically serve little purpose, in addition to the standards of PowerPoint. The ‘Action’ tab within animations however, is extremely interesting and a great addition. These animations allow you to line up a series of images (not objects), and choose a style to browse through them. These tend to be quirky and typically Apple – but include shuffling, thumbing through, and a 3D rotating cube. Some of this would not be duplicable in PowerPoint, but even those that would, would take a large amount of effort. Apple has created a simple and powerful tool for showing off – but unlike some of its other experiments, I can see this being extremely useful because – as I said – it could help convey meaning.
The architecture of Keynote’s animations are largely the same as PowerPoint, built around an – albeit hidden by default – timeline. The same options to begin on click, with previous and after previous are there and work in much the same way. Again – a good system, so it makes sense it’s shared across both platforms.
An interesting addition is the ‘magic move’. The idea is that you place and reformat a copy of an object on your slide, and Keynote automatically works out the animations needed to get from A to B. It’s a clever mechanism, but takes a while to get used to. PowerPoint employs a ‘from-the-start’ approach to animation, so using this new system isn’t immediately helpful. Likewise, mixing regular animations with magic moves can lead to move confusion than it avoids. Still, there must be something in it, as Microsoft have included a similar ‘ghost image’ for their motion paths in the upcoming PowerPoint 2013.
Again, there is much for the light user to be wowed by in Keynote, but for the business user, a lot of it is fluff. The one or two useful Keynote additions probably give it the edge.
Keynote and iOS
One of the main reasons for making the switch to Keynote is to better integrate with Apple’s increasingly-popular iOS devices. The Keynote app is nicely designed – infinitely more usable on iPad than on the iPhone – but is a struggle if you’re creating a large amount of content. Touch has its limitations – and Apple’s use of contextual menus, which lead to you searching for functions that you know must be there, is one of them. The app is a great tool for on-the-fly edits and presenting, with great display out functionality thanks to Apple TV and the AV adapter, but for creating a presentation from scratch – I’d give it a miss.
What would make more sense, is to use the app as a presentation device to showcase your Mac-created content. This is especially easy thanks to iCloud, which automatically and seamlessly syncs your documents between your Mac and your iPad. Once on the iPad however, we run into difficulties, as Keynote is all too quick to warn that ‘The presentation may look different on your iPad’ and prompts you to open a copy, before hurling a list of incompatibility warnings your way. Hmph. Good luck.
A chief reason that people believe switching is the way forward, is that they think PowerPoint doesn’t work on the iPad. This is both true and false at the same time. There is no native PowerPoint app that allows you to create and edit PowerPoint content. (However, given the patchy results of a Keynote port, I’m not going to mourn this). There is however, SlideShark – an iOS app that allows you to present your PowerPoint presentations smoothly, with full animations, presenter notes and hyperlinks. The app is available for businesses on a subscription basis, or for free for individuals. It works a treat, but does so by positioning itself solely as a presentation device – for showing content rather than creating it. It is a trick that Apple should learn from, if they want to get serious traction with their iPad/Keynote/Mac trinity.
Surprisingly, Keynote doesn’t work as well with iOS devices as PowerPoint. The playing field isn’t perhaps completely level – Apple has striven to allow iPad users to create and edit content as well as present, whereas SlideShark is simply a means to present. However, in the end, the user experience with SlideShark and PowerPoint is seamless, simple and powerful. And wins this contest.
So what have we learnt? I was eager to be swayed by Keynote, not least because it gives me more chance to play with my beautiful Mac. And for a time, I was. Apple has focussed – as it tends to do – on the front-end, casual user experience. It is glossy and lots of great things happen without you having to do much. However, it has drawbacks in terms of functionality, usability and compatibility that just don’t hamper PowerPoint – which if used correctly, can whizz and bang just as impressively as Keynote. If you’re serious about presentations, and even serious about presenting on iPad, PowerPoint is still the way to go.
PowerPoint vs Keynote? PowerPoint is the way to go.
So says a Mac fan.