Why keynote?
October 10, 2010 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I often hear people say that Keynote is a superior product to Powerpoint, but I don't know why. Hive mind, can you help me understand what Keynote allows you to do that you can't do, or can't do as easily, in Powerpoint?

If my useage is relevant, I'm an academic who uses Powerpoint primarily to present text extracts or media artifacts (e.g., YouTube clips or photos) in classes, or (occasionally) paper abstracts and outlines during conference presentations.

I'm asking because I have Powerpoint but keep hearing amazing things about Keynote (it's the best presentation software ever! it cures cancer!) without hearing the details of why it is so superior, and I'm wondering if it makes sense to switch.
posted by philosophygeek to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Keynote is very nice, but I would hazard a guess that most people recommending it over Powerpoint are doing so almost exclusively because of a) Apple fanboyism and b) the superior default templates that ship with Powerpoint.
posted by proj at 7:47 AM on October 10, 2010

Would you also be switching platforms or are we talking about Powerpoint vs Keynote on a Mac?
posted by JaredSeth at 7:52 AM on October 10, 2010

I switched from PP to Keynote two years ago. Reasons I like it better:

Keynote is just far more intuitive. Adding and formatting an image to my liking would take several steps, multiple menus and still not look quite right in PP. In keynote, I can drag an image in, quickly apply a mask and an alpha and it looks just the way I want it. Images snap nicely in place but in PP you'd spend a lot of time trying to find the corner outside the slide just so you can resize the damn thing

I'm an academic too and usually write big talks. In Keynote I can nest slides in the filmstrip and collapse subtopics as I complete them. In PP I'd spend a ton of time squinting at the slide sorter.

Videos are stunningly easy to incorporate. Other minor things: The presentations are usually smaller in size, slicker, and the typography options are far superior. So for me, I chose keynote because everything falls in place much faster (in the final form) than with PP which takes a lot more time.

Ultimately it's a matter of personal choice. Keynote has a free trial and I'd just recommend trying it out for yourself.
posted by special-k at 7:54 AM on October 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

I've not used Keynote either but have SEEN many Keynote presentations. And I too remain mystified as to why is deemed so superior, but the people who use it attest to Keynote's superiority with an almost religious vehemence.

The biggest feature that Keynote users seem to consistently point to is the slide-to-slide transitions--apparently these are more varied and fluid in Keynote even though, when watching a Keynote presentation, I've never thought twice about the quality of these transitions. Interestingly, I have actually witnessed several Keynote SPEAKERS comment on how cool their transitions were, DURING their talks. Apparently Keynote uses are very pleased with the software!

I'm looking forward to reading about ther advantages of Keynote that go beyond the slide transitions.
posted by DavidandConquer at 8:01 AM on October 10, 2010

I don't use Keynote extensively, but I have taught how to use it in high school and there are a few reasons I like it:
-The inspector. The inspector is basically a pop-up window to access all your slide building features (transitions, font sizes, margins, etc). Once I learned how to use it, I was convinced and though I have access to PP2007, I never use it anymore. It is far superior to PP's version (IMHO, at least).
-In conjunction with the inspector, there is the media browser. It's similar to the inspector in that a pop up window appears to help build your slides. The difference this time around is that the media browser pulls all media- pictures, movies, music, etc- from where ever you want and you can add directly from there.
-Together, using the media and inspector, I almost never have to drill through the menu bar trying to add to my slides. Everything is simply in the inspector, save media which is just in the media browser. And when adding media, I no longer have to remember where I saved that picture to my computer. As long as I added it to my iPhoto library or ~/Pictures, it will show up under media (I think I can specify other locations, too). Same thing with youtube clips- extract and add to the ~/Movies folder.
-The Templates are bloody awesome. And while I've never done it in PP, building your own templates for future use in Keynote is really easy, too.

-There is a major caveat to Keynote, though: Sharing with Windows machines. If you plan on sharing your presentation with your students and they don't have a Mac, there will be problems. While Keynote can export as a PP file, there are definite compatibility issues. The conversion which may or may not make the presentation end-user friendly.
-With the media button and inspector, it easy to run out of real estate fast. I use a 22" monitor hooked up to my laptop, but if I had to use Keynote with the regular 13" Macbook screen, having the media/inspector windows in addition to the regular slides would drive me nuts with the lack of screen real estate.
-This may be related only to how our school uses Keynote, but some teachers have the students record their voice over certain presentation, basically automating parts of or the entire presentation. Unfortunately, this is a major bug in Keynote and does not work correctly half the time. Most people export to iMovie first to properly do voice-overs.
posted by jmd82 at 8:01 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll just give you a single example, in one of the most the absolute basic aspects: dissolves.

There are a plethora of options for bringing things on and off the screen in either program, and it's really easy to go into deep overkill, mixing and matching transitions like a drunken monkey. In reality, the single most useful transition effect is the most basic of the them all - the cross dissolve.

In PowerPoint, using the dissolve transition brings up the same exact effect that this program has had for it's entire history: a one-bit pixel dissolve, which looks like a sizzling little effect of the pixels, it's basically an unattractive thing that's a leftover from the original days of computer graphics. Dated, stinky cheese.

Same effect in Keynote, and it's a totally smooth, slick cross dissolve, just like the ones in professional video editing and effects software, a smooth, 8-bit masked transition between elements or screens. Totally pro-looking, classy, effective.

We're talking about the single most basic visual effect of a presentation program - cross dissolves. They look like shit in PowerPoint, and look totally smooth in Keynote.

The fact that this hasn't changed in all the years that PowerPoint has been around, tells me that Microsoft is essentially clueless when it comes to the visual arts, or brain-damaged when it comes to actually listening to what makes sense for visual communications.

That's just one example, I've got dozens more. I've been making presentations for, fuck, 25 years, with technology spanning slide projectors to touch-screen kiosks. I don't give a damn about fanboy noise or brand loyalty, just to qualify my opinion.
posted by dbiedny at 8:04 AM on October 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

I should have been more clear on the using Keynote with Windows users: Windows users cannot open Keynote files. You must export a Keynote presentation to PP before a Windows users can open your presentation. On the other hand, Keynote can open up PP presentations by default, albeit not always perfectly (thought that conversion seems to be much more smooth than Keynote --> PP)
posted by jmd82 at 8:07 AM on October 10, 2010

I work in a law office of 150 people. PP is used for lots of presentations (though we use a different software package meant for non-linear presentation and real time annotation to present evidence at trials) and I've yet to see someone not make a completely ugly presentation.

I think it comes down to Keynote, by default, produces better looking presentations that get out of the way of your content. If the presentation isn't ugly, transitions smoothly and doesn't come with overly cheesy effects, then you won't notice it, you'll notice the content. PP, while capable of such, comes with quite ugly themes and it seems most people just pick one and then throw in some horrible text animation for each bullet.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:16 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my experience (much greater with Keynote than with Powerpoint), Keynote handles pdfs far more smoothly than Powerpoint. No issues with transparency, no missing files, no issues with weird static previews that sometimes show up in pdf and ps files and have caused me consternation at least in older versions of PP. As an academic who needs to put equations and plots into my presentations, these features are exceedingly handy.

But at the end of the day, the differences are only so big. For what it sounds like you do, you may like it a lot (Keynote does make precise layout of images extremely easy with snapping based image size, image positions on the page, and image positions relative to one another) or you may find it's not worth the money. It's worth giving it a shot. If you do, though, note that pretty much everything is done through an inspector window. That this isn't entirely clear is a significant design flaw, but once you get used to it it's quite easy.
posted by Schismatic at 8:35 AM on October 10, 2010

By the way, I recommend using the export to pdf functionality to share with Windows users (or Mac users who don't have Keynote) instead of the powerpoint exporter. What you lose on animated transitions (or embedded movies, I suppose), you gain many times over in knowing that your presentations will display correctly. You can even have it display each step of a build for each slide.
posted by Schismatic at 8:40 AM on October 10, 2010

Well, essentially it boils down to this.

From a purely functional aspect, PowerPoint is fine but usually winds up looking rough around the edges. Especially when created by users who are just trying to get'r done (which is nearly everybody).

PowerPoint's biggest plus for me is ubiquity, but that also means it's the lowest common denominator.

Keynote tends to look better out-of-the-box.

I'm as big an Apple fan boy as anyone, but I have absolutely no interest in urging anyone else to use Keynote. Generally you're better off using a tool everybody else has, and that's PowerPoint.

Personally, my choice is Keynote.
posted by mazola at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it is appropriate for me to ask: the consensus thus far seems to be that Keynote allows for the creation of a prettier presentation with about as much effort as PP allows one to create a mediocre-looking presentation. Fine, and I agree that a lot of default PP fonts/styles/colors look kind of, well, "meh" Now, is there anything (content/information wise) that you can CONVEY with Keynote that you canNOT convey with PP?
posted by DavidandConquer at 9:34 AM on October 10, 2010

Keynote just plain looks prettier.
posted by empath at 9:36 AM on October 10, 2010

Keynote has a mystical development history. Allegedly built in-house by Apple specifically for Steve Jobs to use at his Keynote presentations at MacWorld Expo, it was turned into a product for sale to the general public.

SJ-wanna-bes now had access to the same tools. They were a pair of Gap jeans, New Balance sneakers, and a black turtleneck, and a bottle of water away from being up on stage (in their minds, anyway).

The snap-to positioning for help with alignment of text and photos is really good in Keynote, and the ability to save to a QuickTime movie or PDF is useful. New image tools are impressive, especially the alpha-transparency tools for knocking out a background

I haven't spent enough time with PowerPoint to know what features it offers in comparison.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:52 AM on October 10, 2010

I'll just give you a single example, in one of the most the absolute basic aspects: dissolves.

Huh? I just brought up PowerPoint (2007) and it took me 5 seconds to set up a slick-looking fully-alpha-blended crossfade between slides. Am I misunderstanding your point here?
posted by av123 at 10:25 AM on October 10, 2010

I use both pretty extensively, Keynote because I prefer it's user interface, and PowerPoint because I work for (GlobeBestridingMegaCorp), Microsoft's largest enterprise customer, and my 400,000 colleagues have PowerPoint, not Keynote. There's really nothing you can do in one that you can't do in the other (you can niggle about bits here and there, but as a whole, they're identical), and yet, they are completely different. Here's how:

PowerPoint is Windows.
Keynote is Macintosh.

PowerPoint is, at its heart, a text-based DOS program that gets the job done, so long as you think like a programmer and have the personal style and panache of the lovechild of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. It's possible to make beautiful, compelling, persuasive presentation materials using PowerPoint - but it's hard work, because PowerPoint's not going to help you at all. You're on your own.

Keynote is graphical and it, too, gets the job done, but in a freer, more visual way. It's easy to make beautiful presentation materials because its templates and design element are designed by designers. It's not going to make compelling, persuasive presentations - that part is STILL up to YOU - but you're a step ahead of PowerPoint because making it LOOK good is easier.

As with the WinMac Wars of the fabled past, the Battle of PowerPoint and Keynote is utterly meaningless, except on the most individual level - which one helps YOU make better presentations? Their approaches are diametrically opposed; where you'll end up is, more or less, the same. Neither is "better," but I'll wager one or the other is more suited to your style and needs.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:54 AM on October 10, 2010

Keynote is able to do what it does so well because of a lot of functionality built in at the OS level. Core Image, Core Audio, etc all provide usability that is available for programs on OS X to use. PowerPoint can take advantage of this as well on the Mac version, but that would lead to files not being compatible with the PC version. For ease of use and aesthetics, Keynote wins hands down. But for accessibility to a massive installed base and PC availability, Powerpoint carries the day.
posted by azpenguin at 11:44 AM on October 10, 2010

One simple thing that you cannot do in PP is organize your presentation into sections. In Keynote you can create hierarchies of your slides (select slides, press tab). This enables me to work on sections of my presentations with ease.

The other huge pluses for me are being able to drag pdfs into the slide, and a certainty that a video will play.

Keynote also has a function called Magic Move as one of their transition options. This means that you can simply animate something on your slide (I love zooming in or out of a diagram) and it is very smooth. I'm not aware how this can be done on PP.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 1:48 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Keynote is better in the way that many Mac applications are better. The user interface is simple and constent, and the results are beautiful.

I am sure that most or all of what Keynote does, can be done in Powerpoint, but few users will have the patience, experience, and design sense to get Powerpoint to make beautiful presentations.
posted by zippy at 9:25 PM on October 10, 2010

DavidandConquer: you can certainly convey anything you want in either program. The content is up to you. And the basic functions of both PP and Keynote are the same; they are both responding to the same need. Neither program does advanced video manipulation, because that's not what they do. They play slides.

That said, Keynote often seems to do a better job of formatting or working with your content. For instance, I have always hated MS Office's inability to insert PDF files. On the other hand, iWork (Keynote) has no problems: just drag and drop. Videos, too, often fail to play properly in PP, for unknown and unfixable reasons. Keynote just works.

OP: if you're not bothered by powerpoint's foibles, you probably don't have a compelling reason to switch. Keynote's learning curve is pretty minimal, though, so if you are curious why don't you get the free trial and experiment?
posted by Chris4d at 2:26 PM on October 11, 2010

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