Experiences of Apple Keynote 1.0

By Juha Haataja

I had the Keynote 1.0 application on loan from Apple for a couple of weeks in February, 2003. I was moderately impressed, and wrote a review for an IT magazine in Finland. Here are some of the things I learned.


The user interface of Keynote is well thought out, and quite powerful. If you are a perfectionist and like to polish your presentation, you may find out that you spend too much time in Keynote, because it is a pleasure to use. You can't say the same of PowerPoint.

A 20-slide presentation made in PowerPoint was relatively easy to "polish" in Keynote, and it now looks much nicer than in PowerPoint. The fancy 3D transitions between slides are perhaps a bit too much for some viewers, though.

Here follows a screen shot of Keynote showing the Navigator view. The Inspector tool shows the Slide settings, including the transitions. Keynote has no build-in support for typesetting equations, so I have imported a LaTeX-generated PDF graphics into Keynote. The LaTeX code is shown in the Notes field. (See below for further hints on this.)

Screen capture of Keynote 1.0

Some PowerPoint features are missing, for example cropping of bitmap figures. A couple of times Keynote warned of an error and suggested that I should save my documents and quit. This happened when I tried to include PDF files which were not correctly formatted. However, Keynote functioned just fine even when I didn't restart the application.

Import of PowerPoint files is not faultless, but mostly works well, with small need for manual correction. Import of multi-page PDF documents would be a good feature to have. I also suggest that importing and exporting to the OpenOffice Impress format would be a good addition. Exported files (PDF, PowerPoint, QuickTime) can be huge, mainly because Keynote is not compressing the figures.

I developed a customized theme for Keynote, trying to make it simple but flexible. This was more easy than I thought it would be, although I did make some wrong choices at first. There should be more themes available. The current tools are lacking when you want to generate your own themes. There should be an easy-to-use tool for generating a theme with customized elements.

It is possible to directly edit the XML file format of Keynote (or to generate a presentation programmatically). The figures included in a presentation are inside the "bundle" directory of the presentation. Thus the figures are easy to edit outside the Keynote application.

Hardware requirements

Keynote runs well on a 1 GHz PowerBook G4, but less powerful machines may have problems in running the application smoothly. You need preferably 32 MB of video memory and 512 MB of main memory (more is better).

Price vs. value

The price is about right, compared to PowerPoint. However, Keynote is not really an alternative to PowerPoint, because it is only available for Mac OS X. If you need an alternative to PowerPoint, consider the Impress program of OpenOffice.

Importing typeset mathematics into Keynote

I imported PdfLaTeX-generated equations into Keynote. This works all right. Thus I can use well typeset mathematics in my Keynote presentations. I'm using the teTeX version of PdfLaTeX, with FoilTeX and assorted self-generated macro packages.

You have to generate a new PDF document for each imported equation, so this approach is a bit tedious. But if you need only a couple of equations, this is a sufficient solution for the moment. For longer mathematics-oriented texts LaTeX/PdfLaTeX are the best tools.

There is still one problem: I would like to use the TrueType fonts of Mac OS X in PdfLaTeX (especially Gill Sans), but this seems to be problematic. Thus, for now I'm using Helvetica as the text font in PdfLaTeX. (I hope Gerben Wierda manages to finish his nice work on this area.)

Here follows a screen capture of LaTeX-typeset equations in Keynote. Here I have output my presentation into the QuickTime format using the medium/CD-ROM resolution.

QuickTime view of exported Keynote presentation

I asked for help on typesetting equations for Keynote. I got a suggestion to try Equation Service from the developer, Doug Rowland. He writes: "... you can type snippets of LaTeX, press a button, and then just drag a bit of PDF into the presentation. It saves having to make a new file for each equation." The current version available for download is 0.1, and the development version is 0.5B. However, if you have used the 0.1 version, you have to remove certain files before starting up the 0.5B version.

Doug sent me version 0.7B of the application, and I'll check it up. Equation Service seems to be a nice tool. I hope Keynote will support a wide range of such tools in the future.


I hope Apple continues to develop Keynote, and corrects the weak points. I haven't used Keynote extensively in my work yet, but I did decide to buy a copy of the application. For an 1.0 version Keynote seems to be stable and polished, but some features are missing or should be improved.