Unlimited Powerpoint templates, graphics, videos & courses! Unlimited asset downloads! From $16.50/m
  1. Business
  2. App Training

Getting Started With Keynote on OS X

This post is part of a series called How to Use Apple Keynote (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).
Preparing Your Mac for a Presentation

Over the past couple of tutorials, I've showed you the basics of Pages and Numbers, two incredibly powerful yet highly functional components of Apple's iWork suite. Now it's time to move onto Keynote, Apple's answer to Microsoft's PowerPoint, which I feel is the most under appreciated component of iWork. Throughout my university career, I've used Keynote almost exclusively for all my presentations as I find it so much easier to use than PowerPoint and, in my honest opinion, the results are far better.

Remember that film, An Inconvenient Truth, where Al Gore predicted death and destruction across the whole world if we don't change our attitudes to global warming? Yep, his presentation was done entirely on Keynote (though this may have something to do with the fact that the guy did sit on the Apple board at the time) and I feel this really demonstrates what the program is capable of (although he did enlist the help of a graphic design company).

Let's delve right into Keynote and see what it's capable of.

Getting Started

Just like Pages and Numbers, Keynote can be purchased from the App Store for the low price of $19.99 or you can choose to get it pre-installed along with your brand shiny new Mac. And, just like Pages and Numbers, it also supports iCloud so you can view your spreadsheets across all of your devices.

The splash screen of Keynote

The splash screen of Keynote.

Although Keynote doesn't come with any pre-packaged presentations complete with content, it does come with lots of professionally-designed templates which will hopefully suit your audience. Before selecting one, make sure you choose the correct slide size in the bottom-right hand corner (in most cases, 1024 x 768 will suffice). For simplicity's sake, I'm going to select the White template.

Keynote comes with loads of professional templates built right in

Keynote comes with loads of professional templates built right in.


Keynote will then create a new blank presentation for you to work with. Before we starting adding some awesome stuff, let's familiarise ourselves with the interface first.

The Interface

If you've used presentation software before (like PowerPoint) then Keynote shouldn't present too many difficulties as it's extremely easy to navigate around.

The main interface of Keynote where youll be doing most of your working

The main interface of Keynote, where you'll be doing most of your working.


Running down the left-hand side of the screen are the individual slides that make up your presentation. As you can see in the screenshot above, there's only one slide at the moment, because it's a new presentation, but as you add more then they will appear here.

Adding a new slide is simple. Just click on the New button (the one with the + sign) above this window and Keynote will create a new, blank slide for you. To change its layout, click on the Masters button (the sixth one along from the left) and select a new one from there. Slides can of course be reordered easily -- just click on the slide thumbnail on the left-hand side of the screen and drag it to where you want it to be.

The Masters view shows you all the layouts possible with the template youve selected

The Masters view shows you all the layouts possible with the template you've selected.


If you're unhappy with your current theme (which you selected at the start) then you can pick a new one by clicking on the Themes button (the fifth one along from the left). Bear in mind, though, that if you're entered loads of text and images on your slides that it may mess with the formatting, so it's best to choose this at the beginning before you start building your presentation!

If youre unhappy with your current choice of template then you can change it easily using the drop-down menu

If you're unhappy with your current choice of template then you can change it easily using the drop-down menu.

Working with content is very straightforward -- just double-click on the text-box you'd like to edit and type away. If you don't like the default font that's bundled in with the template, then you can change it easily using the formatting toolbar, which is pretty much the same as the one in Pages and Numbers, albeit with a few extra options (auto-shrink, for example, which sizes your text down automatically).

Adding Media

You'll most likely be working with media in Keynote to bring some colour and extra oomph to your presentations. Just like in Pages, Keynote integrates with your Aperture and iPhoto libraries so you can add photos directly from these straight into your presentation. Images can be added to any slide, however all themes come with image templates built-in, making it easy to add pictures. Simply click on the desired picture in your library and drag it over the existing one -- Keynote will automatically replace it with your image.

Cropping an image directly within Keynote using the Mask function

Cropping an image directly within Keynote using the Mask function.


Just like in Pages, Keynote allows you to crop your image right down to size from within the application. Just click on Edit Mask and use the sliders to resize your image. When you're happy, click on Edit Mask again and your picture should be resized. You can also revert the image back to its default size by clicking on the Unmask button in the toolbar.

Working With Animations

I've sat through many a presentation, whether at work or at university and I can tell you for a fact that animations often make presentations a little more bearable as it gives the audience something to focus on more than just the words on the screen. Of course, it's important not to overload your presentation with cheesy animations (and especially not sound effects!) but luckily, Keynote includes some really professional ones that will give your slideshow a new, dynamic edge. To show you how animations work, I'm going to use an example.

Select the object in your presentation that youd like to animate

Select the object in your presentation that you'd like to animate.

Let's say that I want to animate the slide above -- firstly, the title, Layout, then each point individually. Firstly, click on the item that you want to animate (this doesn't necessarily have to be a text box -- it can also be an image, chart or table) then click on the Inspector button in the top-right hand corner of Keynote and select the Build option (the third one along from the left).

Choosing an animation from the Inspector

Choosing an animation from the Inspector.

A little dialogue box will pop up, as you can see in the screenshot above. Here you can select either a Build In or Build Out animation. Build-in animations are great for introducing titles or individual bullet points and help reinforce what you are trying to say. Simply click on the desired animation from the drop-down Effect list and Keynote will automatically apply to the object you've selected -- you'll also see a little animation as well.

Some animations allow you to modify their settings (such as whether the animation is done by letter or by word, the direction and the duration). Feel free to play around with these until you've found the style you're happy with.

You can either animate bullets one by one or all at once

You can either animate bullets one by one or all at once.


For bullet points, the animation is slightly different. You can either choose to have your bullet points appear all at once or by bullet. Click on the drop down Delivery menu and select which option you'd like. You can also choose the order in which each bullet is "built" -- the standard setting here is First to Last.

By now you should have two animations on your slide -- one for the title and another for each bullet point. If you want to reorder the animations on your slide, then click on the More Options button at the bottom, where a little drawer should slide out on the left-hand side of the Inspector.

Changing the order of your animations is really easy -- just drag and drop to where youd like it to be

Changing the order of your animations is really easy -- just drag and drop to where you'd like it to be.

Simply click on each individual element and drag it to rearrange, much as you would do with rearranging slides that we looked at above.

You can also add transitions to slides in order to add a bit of sparkle to your presentation. Simply click on the Inspector select the Slide button (the second one along from the left). Select your transition from the drop-down Effect menu -- Keynote will display a preview of the animation for you.

Choosing the transitions for your slides

Choosing the transitions for your slides.

You can select whether the transition should start on clicking your mouse or automatically from the drop-down Start Transition box. With the automatic option, you can choose the delay (in seconds) -- this is useful if you plan for your presentation to run automatically.

Rehearsing Your Presentation

Of course, you'll want to practice your presentation before doing it for real! To do so, click on the Play button in the top left-hand side of the screen where Keynote will run through your presentation for you, including all the animations. If you plan on running your presentation on an external screen, however, then you can use the extremely useful Rehearser view. To bring this up, simply click on Play in the menu bar then select the Rehearse Slideshow option.

The Rehearse view is really useful especially when youre using an external display device

The Rehearse view is really useful, especially when you're using an external display device.

This brings up the Rehearser view which shows you the current slide (i.e. what your audience is seeing), the next point to come up on the right-hand side, the current time and the time elapsed since you started your presentation. If you've added any notes to your slides (by clicking on View > Show Presenter Notes) then they will appear here too. Note that the Rehearser view automatically appears when you connect your Mac to an external display device (such as an external monitor or projector) and I find it really useful to keep track of everything without having endless handouts and notes in front of you!

Exporting Your Work

Keynote allows you to export your spreadsheets in either QuickTime (as a movie), PPT, PDF, HTML or iPod format, or as individual images. To do so, just click on File then Export where you can choose your desired format. If you save it to iCloud then it’ll appear on all your iOS devices as well, where you can edit it on the move and all changes will automatically be synced when you get back. You can also revert spreadsheets back to previous versions by clicking on File then Revert To and select Browse All Versions.

The Versions view within Keynote

The Versions view within Keynote.

As you can see from the screenshot above, you’ll be presented with a Time Machine-like view allowing you to scroll back through all versions of your presentation. Any changes you make are automatically synced, so if you’ve made a major error and don’t fancy hitting Command + Z (undo) a hundred times, then the Versions feature can save you a lot of time!

That's It!

Congratulations, you've successfully reached the end of this tutorial! Keynote is of course a really advanced application that allows you do an awful lot of stuff (and too much to cover in one tutorial) so I'll be covering some more specific features in future tutorials. This one is simply designed to give you an overview of it and how it works – especially if you're switching from another spreadsheet, such as LibreOffice's Impress or Microsoft's PowerPoint.

I hope it has been useful and if you need any help with anything then just ask me in the Comments section below -- I'll be glad to help you out!

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.