iWork ’08: Keynote

Keynote is the original member of what would eventually become iWork. It was released in 2003 and has seen three major updates since them, each bringing new functionality as well as general improvements.

One thing I noticed immediately in Keynote ’08 was that the toolbar icons seem to have received some attention. I think this may be the first facelift the toolbar has received since the initial release. The toolbar is now unified, and the new icons are more illustrative than photographic.

Keynote ’06 toolbar

Keynote ’08 toolbar

The toolbar icons do not seem to be resolution independent, nor does the application icon support a 512×512 resolution, both expected due to the impending release of Leopard. However, digging through Keynote’s packaged resources, I did find some icons for iChat Theater, which is a Leopard feature. Perhaps new icons will come in a software update. (I also noticed some other organizational differences in the package that I’ll have to keep in mind when digging for resources.)

As far as visual enhancements to presentations go, Keynote ’08 comes with a few new themes, transitions, and build effects, along with a new way of animating text and objects called Smart Builds.

You can see all the new themes above. My wife is very fond of Harmony, and I like Vellum and Industrial the most. I’m not too fond of Craft or Stock Book personally, but many of you will have different opinions. No Keynote themes seem to have been removed from the previous version in this upgrade, which is a first.

There are a few new 3D slide transitions: color planes, confetti, and swap, and there is one new 2D transition called Blur. New build animations include comet, confetti, drift, flame (which is terrible), and sparkle. Text builds contain all of these plus blast, bouncy, confetti, convergence, and squish. Some builds and transitions are amusing, needing to be avoided in professional presentations at all costs, while others like blur and drift can be quite dramatic.

Smart Builds create a sophisticated animation between objects – rotating or flipping between images. Really, seeing is better than explaining, so here’s  a video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Another new visual flair comes by way of path animations, called Action Builds in Keynote. Basically you can determine a path for text or an image to follow, but the neat thing is that the object can change states while progressing along its path. For example, an image can change size or opacity during its transition. You can set items to move along a straight or a curved path. Again, showing is better than explaining:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Keynote has gained some interface refinements in a smart formatting bar (which I will talk more about in the Pages overview) and live image resizing within a mask – making the task of resizing masked objects far less tedious than the preceding version of Keynote. Also, you can now record your voice in sync with your slides and animations. Couple this with the fact that Keynote integrates with iTunes and Garageband, and you have a nice way of sharing your presentations with audio. The recording options are limited, but patience will yield decent results.

Another advertised new feature is Instant Alpha, which brings another image editing capability to Keynote (like shape masking and Image Adjust in the previous version). Instant Alpha is designed to quickly and easily remove backgrounds from photographs.

It’s important that the background is pretty solid and distinctly contrasts from the main image. Otherwise, the results can get messy. It’s a feature that works well enough to be a timesaver, but it can’t altogether replace a more professional graphics app if you use alpha transparencies a lot. (Hint: using shadows can hide rough edges in the Instant Alpha transparency.)

FInally, it’s possible to add special frames around images in Keynote slides outside the usual shadows and lines. In the object inspector, there is a Picture Frame option under “Stroke,” and you will be able to choose from twelve different frames available to that theme. It’s not a huge feature, but both my wife and I would have loved this option with some projects we did last year and earlier this year.

That covers most of Keynote’s new features. Most of it is good stuff, and I’ve only run into a couple bugs so far. The only problem with all of these great improvements is avoiding going overboard when creating a presentation. If you have a Mac, you really should own iWork, and I think that will become more evident as we look at more of this application suite.

For more reading on Keynote’s new features: