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How to Create a Basic Keynote Presentation (On Your Mac)

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This post is part of a series called How to Use Apple Keynote (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).
What Is Apple Keynote Software? +How to Start Using It to Make Presentations
How to Make a Great Presentation in Keynote With Template Designs

The best apps find the sweet spot between power and ease-of-use. And that's exactly the balance that you'll find in Apple Keynote, the best tool to build a presentation on macOS and iOS. 

Example Slide VeraExample Slide VeraExample Slide Vera
Example slides like this one from Vera are easy to build and customize in Apple's Keynote app.

This tutorial will serve as a Keynote how to use guide. You'll see how easy it can be to build Keynote presentations in Mac for free. Let's learn more!

Apple Keynote Explained: What Is a Keynote Presentation?

Apple Keynote is one of the most powerful tools to build a presentation on the macOS ecosystem. One advantage to the Keynote app is that it's got the feel of an Apple-designed piece of software, with a focus on design and ease-of-use.

If you've used Microsoft PowerPoint to build a presentation, you'll feel right at home in the Keynote app. But Keynote is simplified and streamlined, with the essential features that every presenter needs.

Keynote template update on iOSKeynote template update on iOSKeynote template update on iOS
Pick up where you left off with Keynote for iOS when you save your presentations to iCloud Drive.

Another great part of Keynote is that it works beautifully on iOS devices. Thanks to iCloud Drive, saving your presentation in the cloud will help you pick up where you left off on your mobile device. While PowerPoint and Google Slides have mobile apps, they often feel like afterthoughts with features missing or limited.

Best of all, Keynote is free. For macOS and iOS users, the Keynote app is the least expensive way to build a presentation.

For a deeper dive into the app and how to use it, make sure to check out the Keynote tutorial below:

How to Use Apple Keynote

You might be wondering how to use Keynote to build your next presentation. While the app has an intuitive interface that lends itself to beginners, it helps to have a few pointers. Here are four steps you can take to learn how to use Keynote to make a presentation.

1. Explore the Keynote App Interface

If you're switching to the Keynote app from another piece of presentation software, my favorite tip is to spend time familiarizing yourself with the interface. If you've got a general understanding of the interface, you'll know where to go when you want to accomplish a task.

Keynote interfaceKeynote interfaceKeynote interface
Hone in on key parts of the Keynote interface like the canvas, slide thumbnails, tools, and format panel.
  • Slide thumbnails live on the left side of Keynote by default. You can click on a slide thumbnail to switch to it, and also drag to re-order slides in the sidebar to resequence them.
  • The key tools run across the top of the app and span practically every action you need to build a slide. You'll notice key actions like Add Slide, Play, and the center icons (Table, Chart, Text, Shape, Media) that help you add the corresponding content blocks to your slide.
  • The center part of the Keynote app is your canvas, where you can drag and drop content blocks to build out your slide.
  • The format option lives on the right side. With an object selected, click on it to open the options to adjust the style of an object, like the color, chart style, or font-face depending on the content selected. 

Keynote's interface is mostly intuitive. It also is similar enough to other apps like PowerPoint that it's easy to start using. Think about how these tools fit together so that you'll always know where to look for the needed tool.

2. Learn to Add and Customize Content

Slides are ultimately made up of content. That might include text boxes, charts and graphs, images, and more. In this section, let's customize two key slides from the VERA Keynote template by adding content examples.

Vera starting pointVera starting pointVera starting point
Use a template like VERA to get a headstart on designing your presentation.

Advanced Keynote templates like VERA already have content on the slide that. You can simply click in the content boxes and type over the placeholder to add your text. 

If you want to add additional content, you can click on the corresponding content type above the canvas. For my Keynote example, I'll click on Media, then Choose, and browse to an image stored on my computer. Then, just click and drag to reposition any of the elements.

Updated Slide Vera EverylyticsUpdated Slide Vera EverylyticsUpdated Slide Vera Everylytics
After adding an image, I simply clicked and dragged to reposition elements into place on the slide.

Believe it or not, this is pretty much everything you need to know to build up a slide. Add content, reposition it, and update it with your specifics. These repeated simple steps come together to build your slide.

3. Learn How to Use Format and Style Tools

What if you want to adjust the font face? Or the color of a shape? The answer is that all of the tools live in the same menu.

With any object selected, click on the Format button near the upper right menu area in Keynote. You'll see a brand-new panel in Keynote that'll help you transform the selected object.

Format OptionFormat OptionFormat Option
With any object selected, click on the Format menu to open up the object-specific options to transform it visually.

Another stylistic tool that you can use to capture your audience is animation. Keynote Animations are an advanced (but crucial) part of building effective slides. Check out the tutorial below 

4. Learn Presenter Tools

No matter what app you use to give a presentation, you should think of your slides as support to what you're saying. Apps like Keynote help you build a presentation that'll give you confidence when presenting.

Two of my favorite features in Keynote are Presenter Notes, and the presenter view, which are complementary features that keep important information front and center.

Keynote presenter notesKeynote presenter notesKeynote presenter notes
Use the View > Show Presenter Notes menu to add your speaking cues.

To add presenter notes, go to the View menu and choose Show Presenter Notes. You'll see a new box open below the Keynote canvas where you can type in your notes. In the screenshot above, you can see an example.

When you're ready to present, press the Play button on Keynote's tools. One screen will show your presentation, while a second display will tee up speaking aids including the Presenter Notes you added. Keep those notes front-and-center as you present to an audience.

Play viewPlay viewPlay view
Once you press Play, you'll see a split view with previews of the next slide and the Presenter Notes you added in the step prior.

Also, you can use Keynote's mobile apps as a remote to advance slides on macOS. Make sure to download the Keynote Remote app for iOS to turn your mobile device into a presenting tool.

Best Keynote Presentation Template Examples

The section above covered the essentials of how to build Keynote presentations. However, one of the best resources that presentation professionals use is pre-built templates from professional designers.

This is the central value of Envato Elements. On Elements, a single subscription with simple licensing unlocks more than a million assets - including thousands of professional Keynote presentation templates. 

Envato Elements Homepage UpdatedEnvato Elements Homepage UpdatedEnvato Elements Homepage Updated
Envato Elements is a creative's best friend, with a million (and more!) creative assets you can use for a single flat rate.

When you source a Keynote presentation template from Envato Elements, you fast track the process of designing one of the best Keynote presentations. You don't have to know how to make presentations on Mac from scratch when you use a template as a starting point.

Envato Elements homepageEnvato Elements homepageEnvato Elements homepage
All of these templates can be used to build a Keynote presentation on macOS, thanks to Envato Elements.

If you're wondering how to make presentations on Mac, a template might just be the answer. When you download a template for the Keynote app, it already includes placeholders and ideas that you can update with your content. Templates are really just a starting point for using Keynote to build a presentation.

5 Best Keynote Presentation Templates from Envato Elements

Envato Elements features a deep library of templates that help you learn how to make a presentation on macOS. There are so many options that it helps to have a guide to top Keynote presentation templates.

Let's take a look at five of the best Keynote presentations that you can build with templates from Envato Elements.

1. Elnia

Elnia templateElnia templateElnia template

With 65 unique slide designs, Elnia is a classic example of how templates help you build Keynote presentations. Each of them serves a different purpose, like creating a welcome slide, showcasing your team, and showcasing a project timeline. This template features 16 color variants that help you build your best Keynote presentation yet. 

2. Groningen


Groningen might be the right template if you want to create a Keynote presentation on Mac that highlights your business. The clean, graphical slides are the perfect way to illustrate business concepts. Download it, drop your company details in, and you'll have quickly built a Keynote presentation that stands out.


Vera Keynote templateVera Keynote templateVera Keynote template

The custom, fancy image masks help you build one of the best Keynote presentations that fits with modern design trends. It's got a minimal and bold look-and-feel that'll help your audience zone in on key slide content.

4. Look Book

Look Book Keynote templateLook Book Keynote templateLook Book Keynote template

For the fashion-centric and forward-thinking audience, look no further than the Look Book template. Using Keynote is easier when you start with a template like Look Book that already has all of the slide designs to fit the category. You can also use this template when learning how to make a slideshow on Mac.

5. Mouve

Mouve Keynote TemplateMouve Keynote TemplateMouve Keynote Template

Mouve is a great general-purpose template for the Keynote app. It features custom animations that go beyond Keynote's built-in effects to help capture and keep an audience's attention. When you want to make a presentation on Mac with a sense of motion, make a Mouve!

If Envato Elements isn't your style, you can also source top-notch Keynote templates from Envato Market. On Envato Market, you pay for templates one-at-a-time, which can help you keep the total cost of your presentation low.

Whether you choose Elements or Market, use the round-ups below for the top Keynote presentation template selections:

Learn More About Using Apple Keynote

This tutorial is really just the start of your Keynote presentation learning path. With a Keynote template from the section above and a few extra learning resources, you're well on your way to learning how to make a presentation on Mac.

For a comprehensive look at Apple's top-notch presentation software, make sure to check out the resource How to Use Apple Keynote (Ultimate Tutorial Guide.)

Also, check out the Keynote tutorials below to continue your Keynote mastery:

Build a Keynote Presentation Today

Now that you've learned a bit about Apple's Keynote app, it's time to go build a Keynote presentation of your own! Keynote's ease-of-use and smooth learning curve can help you develop a presentation in less time than any other app.

Don't forget: using a source like Envato Elements or Envato Market is one way to save yourself hours of design work. You can build one of the best Keynote presentations by simply using one of the templates as a starting point.

Editorial NoteThis Keynote tutorial was originally published in December of 2013 by Hannah Williams. It's been completely revised and updated to include new information.

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