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What Is Apple Keynote?

This post is part of a series called How to Use Apple Keynote (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).
How to Create a Basic Keynote Presentation

Keynote for Mac makes it easy to make and present beautiful presentations. In this article, we cover the basics of Keynote, as well as how you can improve your Keynote skills. Learn how to get up and running with Keynote and get your presentation started.

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Now let's learn all about Apple Keynote: 

What is Keynote? 

If you're unfamiliar with Keynote, then let's first take a quick look at what it is and why it's such a useful tool.

Keynote is slideshow presentation software developed by Apple. You can use it to create a well-designed presentation with. Here are a few of the features that are packed into Keynote: 

  • Simplicity in design, so you can make a presentation more easily.
  • Packed with powerful features you need to craft a quality presentation.
  • Easy‑to‑use visual tools, such as drag-and-drop functions. 
  • Animation options to add subtle effects and cinema‑quality transitions.
  • Device synchronization, to move from your Mac to iPhone or iPad and vice versa.
  • Impressive charts, from column, bar, pie, scatter, bubble charts, and more.

To give you some ideas how Keynote is being used, here are examples of use cases:

  • I need to present a new product to my audience.
  • I need to create a sales deck I can send to people.
  • I need to follow our company design guidelines and use their Keynote template to create my reports.
  • I'm giving a talk and want to display visuals to support my story.

The possibilities are endless. As long as a slideshow is involved and you're working on a Mac device, often Keynote is the ideal tool to get the job done. Also, on a modern Mac device, Keynote comes free of charge. If not, you can purchase Keynote directly from the App Store.

Keynote for Mac devices
Keynote on Mac devices.

Comparing Keynote Vs. Powerpoint

Why Use Keynote Instead of PowerPoint? 

Most of us who have worked with a Windows device at some point are familiar with PowerPoint. PowerPoint is known for creating slideshow presentations and is supported both on Windows and Mac. Keynote has a few tricks up its sleeve that make it a viable alternative to PowerPoint. Noticeable is its simplicity of use and easy cross-device compatibility.

Apple prides itself in only showing relevant tools based on what you've selected in the user interface. This makes working in Keynote feel more intuitive, but for power users PowerPoint packs more features.

Powerpoint does offer more advanced functionality than Keynote. For example, the ability to merge shapes in Powerpoint makes it more powerful if you want to customize your slides to the tiniest of details. Using charts in Keynote is incredible simple, while in Powerpoint it's more complex but with a lot more flexibility.

To have an elegant presentation up and running very quickly, Keynote is still the clear winner. Apple's ready-made templates are gorgeous and assure you can focus on the content instead of the design of your slides. 

Bottom line:

  • Use Keynote because its packed with intuitive design tools and is built into your Mac devices.
  • Also, use Keynote because its easier to work with to create a quality presentation quickly. 
  • Use PowerPoint if you're an advanced power user that needs more robust functionality and the learning curve is worth investing your time in.

Here is a Tuts+ article that outlines additional Keynote advantages: 

Keynote and PowerPoint Compatibility

Another point to consider is compatibility between Keynote and PowerPoint. Keynote files can readily be ported over to PowerPoint. You can save a Keynote file as a PowerPoint doc. Or you can edit PowerPoint documents right in Keynote. So, you're not locked in by choosing to work with Keynote or PowerPoint in any case.

Keynote and iCloud

iCloud Keynote
Keynote is supported by iCloud, offering you the ability to work in Keynote directly from your browser.

Keynote, as part of the iWork software suite, is supported by iCloud. iCloud offers you the ability to save your Keynote files online, which then can be accessed from any device. While you're working on a Keynote file saved in iCloud, it synchronizes automatically.

iCloud offers the ability to collaborate online on a Keynote file as well, directly from your browser. You can access Keynote in iCloud by surfing to the iCloud website.

Keynote Basics: Getting Up and Running

Let's cover the basic functionalities of Keynote, in order to understand how Keynote can be used.

1. Creating Slides

Add a new slide by clicking the Add Slide button.

Everything you do in Keynote always starts from slides. A slide, in essence, is your working canvas. You can add text, media, charts, and more on your slides to display the content you want to present.

You can add a slide easily by clicking the Add Slide button in the Keynote toolbar. You notice a new menu appearing, giving you the option to choose between different master slides. A master slide is a slide template.

You can easily create master slides yourself, as explained in a tutorial covering how you make Keynote presentation templates.

2. Working With Media

You can add media to your slides, including photos, music and movies. The easiest way to do this is to drag the file you would like to use in your slide directly into Keynote. Then, using the Format tab, located on the right in Keynote, you can format the media as you please.

If you're using a master slide, dragging media on top of a placeholder will format the media automatically.

3. Text, Shapes and More

Besides the use of visual assets, you can add text, charts, tables and shapes. You can add this type of content, by selecting one of the options in the Keynote toolbar. You can choose what type of table, shape or chart you would like to use.

When you select an element in Keynote, on the right you can see the Format tab. Here, you can tweak the formatting of your selected element, whether it is text, media or something else.

You can add different types of charts to your presentation.

For text for example, you can tweak the font size and the font color. For a table, you can change the colors of the table or edit the typography. 

Finally, there's also the Comment feature. You can use comments to collaborate on a document, or write helpful reminders for yourself while you're working on a Keynote file. These are not displayed during a presentation. 

If you want to write reminders you'd like to see while you're presenting you can use presenter notes. To access presenter notes, in the Keynote toolbar click the view button located upper left. Then, click on show presenter notes. Directly under a slide, a white note area pops up. You can use this section to write presenter notes, which are visible to you while giving a presentation. The notes which you write are specific for each slide.

4. Keynote Animation

A different tab on the right is the Animate tab. Here, you can handle different types of animations. There are two different animations to keep in mind:

  • Slide animations
  • Element animations

When you click on a slide in the slide overview menu on your left, any animation you'll add will affect the transition between slides. 


While if you click an element in your slide, it will affect the animation of the element in your slide. For example, you can do this to animate a chart in the slide. 

Keynote Tutorials and Resources

Below are tutorials and resources to help you master the basics of Keynote: create a great presentation, work with professional designs, and present to your audience. 

1. Keynote Basics

First here is a tutorial that walks you through all the basics of creating a Keynote presentation. It will walk you through each step of creating your first presentation:

2. Keynote Templates

A useful feature to save a lot of time in Keynote is to use templates. Templates can be used to quickly put a beautiful presentation together, by only changing the content of the presentation and sticking to the design of the presentation.

Keynote Themes
Keynote offers basic template designs to kickstart your presentation.

Keynote comes with a number basic templates to start working with. You can also use the templates other people have created in Keynote to have a beautiful presentation with little work. They come with a professional options already build in. 

We have a number of professional Keynote templates on our GraphicRiver marketplace, if you're interested in working with a professional design. Browse through them and purchase one at an affordable price. Also, here are some useful related links:

3. Keynote Presentation

Creating a Keynote presentation is half the battle. Giving a presentation can be just as challenging. To help you become a better presenter, below are some useful resources to get you started.

Be sure to relax and focus on your key messages. Preparing your presentation and practicing goes a long way to improve your presentation skills.

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Download our new eBook: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It's available for free with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. 

Keynote From Beginner to Beyond

Learning the basics of Keynote is simple. The intuitive interface and elegant design tools make sure you can create a presentation rapidly.  

Mastering Keynote is a bit trickier. There's a lot you can do with Keynote. Using sequences of different animations for example, or even going so far to use Keynote as the tool to prototype design interfaces. 

But, without a doubt, as a Mac user having basic knowledge of Keynote is useful on many occasions.

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