Sunday, January 06, 2008

Keynote 08 first impressions (with requisite MS dig)

Yes I am late to the Keynote 08 party.

Keynote is Apple's presentation software, and it crushes Microsoft's PowerPoint in many ways. Of course, PowerPoint has infiltrated the lexicon so that all computer-based presentations are referred to as PowerPoints. So throw it in with Kleenex and Jello in that regard. Most people who know about the Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, would be surprised to learn that no PowerPoint presentations were used in the making of that film. The computer-based presentation was all Keynote.

Like many Microsoft products, PowerPoint was originally developed by another software company (Forethought). And like the similarly now-ubiquitous Excel, PowerPoint was originally a Macintosh-only product. (Why are spreadsheets still spreadsheets while presentations are now PowerPoints?)

Keynote was originally the in-house presentation software designed for and used by Steve Jobs for his Apple-related presentations. Microsoft's PowerPoint wasn't good enough for him, either.

Keynote 1.0 was a fairly bare-bones program. Subsequent upgrades have added power and utility. Keynote 08 is really Keynote 4. It's the most mature member of Apple's iWork productivity suite, which also includes Pages for word-processing and Numbers for spreadsheets.

iWork 08 was introduced in August. Bad timing for my interests. I didn't want to try learning the new features during the ramp-up and launch of the new academic year. But with Winter Break looming, it was time to dive in.

The new build styles and transitions are always fun. Mostly eye-candy, but that's not always a bad thing. If you've already got substance, why not enjoy a little style?

I'm already putting the new object animations to use. Especially rotation. I dabbled with Flash a few years ago because I hoped to incorporate animation in my presentations. But Flash is, erm, "robust," and sports a non-trivial learning curve. I was ready to climb that curve, but lost much of my enthusiasm as I learned that all Flash animations had to have opaque backgrounds. No transparent backgrounds allowed! That cramped my style and I eventually lost touch with my interest in Flash.

Keynote's animation features will not put Flash out of business, but they will allow me to do most of what I need to do. And as ever, Apple figured out how to make powerful features easy for the end-user.

Microsoft is due to launch Office 2008 for Mac soon. I hope PowerPoint 2008 is catching up to where Keynote was a few years ago. More likely it will be an awkward clunker bending under the weight of still more features most people will never use.

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