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Keynote (2011) Review: Getting Better

Back when the iWork apps released in 2010, I was fairly harsh on Keynote Keynote - Apple, which I found to be the worst of the trio, especially with its complete lack of PowerPoint support beyond basic file opening. Over the course of 2011, Apple made many improvements to the iWork apps, and it’s time for me to reconsider Keynote.

In my initial review, I found that Keynote was, at its core, a good app for making nice presentations. The app features that Steve-Jobs-Introducing-The-Next-iPhone aesthetic, very different from PowerPoint’s look, and the app has a nice array of tools for creating motion, transitions, links, and other visual finery. None of that has changed, and in fact there are improvements in all those areas in the current version.

I also found the app limited in many ways, and a lot of those limitations remain. Clip art? You’ll have to use Google Images. Importing a custom slide template? Not in this app. Want more fonts? Keep wishing. In my initial review, I called Keynote “a PowerPoint app with Word -level design tools,” and at some level I still feel that way.

There are improvements, though, and those improvements have definitely earned the app another star.

First, the current version of Keynote is head and shoulders above its version 1.0 counterpart because PowerPoint compatibility has since been added. This one singular change — the ability to export files in PPT format — takes Keynote from a novelty app to a potentially functional part of your productivity. In my tests, the conversion in both directions — either porting from or to PPT — has been improved, as well. Don’t get too fancy, though, as conversion of complex animations and transitions is still lacking.

Second, the addition of iCloud in October, as well as added other cloud support (though still not full 3rd party support — Dropbox, Apple? Please?), finally places Keynote in the realm of “Apps that will actually help your productivity.” As in, there’s finally multiple ways to port and share files to the program.

Third, there’s the variety of little additions made since the app’s release. Things like support for presenter notes (which used to be deleted entirely if you ported into the app), object grouping, and PDF export are all welcome additions … though there’s still plenty missing.

Keynote is also now a Universal app. Honestly, though, Keynote does not work very well on the small screen. It’s not the app’s fault; it’s inherent to trying to work with slides on a 3.5 inch screen. Like the other iWork apps, this is still best on the iPad.

Keynote is a better app than it was when it released.  That said, Keynote also has the most potential for growth going forward. Imagine this, five years from now: You’re in a presentation room equipped with an Apple TV — like, and actual TV. You open your Keynote presentation on yout iPad 7, AirPlay it directly to the Apple TV, and control the slides from your device. PowerPoint bypassed completely. It’s a great vision for the future, and Keynote, and Apple TV, and corporate infrastructure, might get there someday.

For now, though, Keynote remains the app with the most limited appeal for productivity, the least of the three iWork apps, and the least likely to be useful to you. If you have the need and the infrastructure, and if you see a place for Keynote, then by all means, get it.  If your productivity centers around PowerPoint, however, you might want to stick with that program, for now. Portable PPT creation still has a ways to go.

Our Score: 3 out of 5.

Keynote - Apple

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