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Keynote for Mac 6.5.3 review: Gradual improvements make it more competitive with PowerPoint

Joe Kissell | Aug. 7, 2015
Two years ago, when Apple entirely revamped its iWork apps, I wasn't terribly impressed with Keynote 6.0. Although I appreciated the interface improvements, I was frustrated with lost features and reliability problems. But after a series of small-to-medium updates (the app is now at version 6.5.3), Keynote has improved enough that it feels like a true upgrade over Keynote 5.3 (part of iWork '09), even though some of the old features are still missing.

keynote icon

Two years ago, when Apple entirely revamped its iWork apps, I wasn't terribly impressed with Keynote 6.0. Although I appreciated the interface improvements, I was frustrated with lost features and reliability problems. But after a series of small-to-medium updates (the app is now at version 6.5.3), Keynote has improved enough that it feels like a true upgrade over Keynote 5.3 (part of iWork '09), even though some of the old features are still missing.

I recently wrote a book on using Keynote, and having explored the latest version in detail, I'm happy to report that many of my earlier complaints are now moot. I consider Keynote 6.5 to be on par overall with Microsoft's excellent PowerPoint 2016 for Mac, although each app has its strengths and weaknesses.

Rising from the ashes

One of the first improvements Apple made to Keynote 6 (in version 6.0.1) was to bring back customizable toolbars. (Apple did the same thing with Pages and Numbers.) Updates have also added numerous transitions and builds, including some that had been present in Keynote 5 and the spiffy new Trace effect for building text objects. The presenter display is once again fully customizable. And the Build Order palette at least shows the names of graphics, although still, sadly, not the type of each build (In, Out, or Action).

Other features missing in 6.0 but since restored include the option to put the origin at the center of the ruler, full drag-and-drop support, PDF scaling in Magic Move, a QuickTime export that properly omits skipped slides, a Ready to Advance indicator in presenter view, and the option to layer objects with those on master slides.

In addition, AppleScript support is massively improved, largely thanks to a new compatibility suite that brings back many of the old commands and terms from Keynote 5.3. Although some AppleScript features are still missing and older scripts might not run unmodified, there's now at least some way to accomplish most of what you might want to do when automating Keynote.

Apple has also added entirely new features, such as support for Handoff (letting you switch between your Mac and an iOS device easily while working on a presentation) and iCloud Drive. The ever-popular Magic Move transition now smoothly morphs text if the font, size, style, or other attributes change between slides. And, in my testing, Keynote has been far more stable than it was in the early days of version 6.0--I can recall only one crash this year.

All these improvements show that Apple does pay attention to customer feedback, and that the rewritten Keynote is evolving nicely after its rough start (much like Final Cut Pro X).

 

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