Tools Of The Trade: Apple Keynote 2 presentation software

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The Independent Online

Microsoft's PowerPoint software has become as much a staple of the conference circuit as stewed coffee and inedible biscuits. Relatively few presenters, though, bother to tap many of its advanced features, especially the design ones. For while it is possible to create dynamic presentations with PowerPoint, doing so takes a lot of practice.

Microsoft's PowerPoint software has become as much a staple of the conference circuit as stewed coffee and inedible biscuits. Relatively few presenters, though, bother to tap many of its advanced features, especially the design ones. For while it is possible to create dynamic presentations with PowerPoint, doing so takes a lot of practice.

Apple believes that its alternative, Keynote, makes better presentations easier. The program is part of the company's iWork bundle, along with a word processor, Pages.

Apple is keeping the price of the package low - at £49 - but Keynote does not feel like a low-cost application. Layout and typographical tools allow a fine degree of control over how a presentation looks, and Apple has included what it calls cinema-style transitions between slides.

The application also offers advanced ways to animate text, easy integration of multimedia content and several options for navigating between slides, including hyperlinks and a self-playing presentation.

Apple emphasises that it provides 20 professionally designed templates, or "themes", for presentations. These are easier on the eye than the standard backgrounds provided with PowerPoint, and it is easy enough to customise the themes and save them for future use.

Most potential Keynote users are likely to have presentations they have already designed in PowerPoint, and will want to import these for further work. The first version of Keynote did not always handle this very well.

This problem has largely been fixed, though it still pays to check slides individually, as the two programs handle some layout options differently. But ex- porting slides back to PowerPoint - for example to share with PC users - works perfectly.

Keynote also has a number of interesting options for distributing slides. One is to save each one as an Adobe PDF file; another is to output the presentation in a variety of graphics formats, including JPEG files for online distribution.

For interactive presentations, Keynote offers two further options: to save the file as a Quicktime movie or as a Flash animation. Almost all web browsers have the capability to play back Flash files, so this is a useful option for distributing presentations - there should be no need for the recipient to download a player.

For all its good points, however, Keynote does not have all the features of PowerPoint, even if some of these are rarely used.

PowerPoint has better support for slide timings, for example, and users can record a narration directly into the program, which is not an option on Keynote. And although some of Microsoft's templates and clip-art collections seem to encourage poor design, it is possible to build very high-quality PowerPoint presentations, albeit with time and effort.

Keynote is a good option, however, for any Mac user who wants a good-looking presentation quickly. A PC version would really turn up the heat on PowerPoint.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pros: good-quality templates, strong typographical control, good value.

Cons: not as powerful as PowerPoint; no Windows version.

Price: £49 (including VAT).

Contact: www.apple.com/uk

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