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The Keynote Advantage

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When it comes to creating presentations, there are only two serious options on the market today:  Microsoft's PowerPoint and Apple's Keynote. Yes, there are some other up-and-coming choices like Google Docs, but it's almost expected that you'll use one of these two when making a presentation.

And yet, even though PowerPoint is the most commonly used app for making presentations—its name, even, is synonymous with presentations—it's far from the best app for making presentations. We've looked at ways to make the absolute most basic presentations with just text and images in any app, and at the web apps that make it easy to craft a presentation like no other. But when it comes to traditional presentations, there's nothing like Keynote. It's simpler, easier to use, and is more cross-compatible than PowerPoint.

Let's look at the ways Keynote beats PowerPoint, and why you should switch to Keynote the next time you need to make a traditional presentation.

Your Presentations, Everywhere

Nowadays, many are replacing their computers with iPhones or iPads. Trying to access, edit, or show a PowerPoint presentation from your iOS device is no simple task. The limited Office iPhone app only lets you preview PowerPoint presentations, and alternate apps often mangle your presentations. With Keynote, on the other hand, you'll have a full-featured way to make, edit, and present presentations from anywhere.

Simply download the Keynote app from the App Store—for free, in fact, if you have a new device—and you are good to go! In fact, if you have saved your Keynote files on your Mac to iCloud already, you can even access, modify, or show that Keynote from your iOS as well. Just open Keynote for iOS, and all of your presentations will be there automatically on your device as soon as they sync.

The vast majority of Keynote's features are the exact same on every version of the app, so you can make your presentation on your Mac, edit it later on your iPad, and everything will be the same. You'll need to make sure to use the default fonts, of course, so they're be usable on your iPad, but otherwise, there's really nothing you'll have to worry about since Keynote for iPad is so full-featured.

Best of all, all the changes you make to presentations are automatically synced via iCloud to your Mac and iCloud.com, where you can view and edit your presentations with the very same features online. The Keynote web app is perhaps the most surprising of the trio of apps, since it has every feature you'd expect from a desktop app, right in a web app.

So, if want to make a presentation and keep it on one device, PowerPoint will still work fine. But if you want perfect fidelity across your Mac, iPad, and even PC or Chromebook, Keynote's the app for you.

Presentations Can be so Much More

Lets say you just gave a great presentation to a group of peers that they really liked. One of the follow up questions you are likely to receive is "Where can we find this online?"

Well, another big Keynote advantage is its ability to quickly export your presentation to HTML, which essentially turns your presentation into a website automatically. Here are the steps:

  1. Open your presentation.
  2. Tap the File menu, then select the Export To submenu, and choose HTML.
  3. Choose the location on your Mac's hard drive to save the files.
  4. After saving them down, upload them to your favorite web server. I just threw them into the public folder of my dropbox account, which is likely the easiest way to share the presentation.
  5. Send the link to the generated index.html file to anyone who wants it, or just share the link online. Here is my presentation, as an example.

If you clicked on the link above, you will notice that the presentation plays great in your browser, and the animations even carry over. Pretty cool, eh?

Keynote, of course, also lets you export your presentation in PowerPoint format to share with others that perhaps are using PCs, but it also includes a few more interesting export options, including PDF (a great way to turn a presentation into a book) and QuickTime (to make your presentation into a movie, or just save it as a slideshow that you can click through one slide at a time in any computer running QuickTime). Compare that to PowerPoint's default export options, and you'll quickly find that Keynote lets you do far more with your presentations.

It's Really, Really Simple.

Take a moment and really study these next two images:

It should be obvious from these pics, but I'll say it anyway: Keynote is far and away more user friendly. Just look at the number of overwhelming options in PowerPoint. There are over 40 things a user could click on, compared to around 15 in Keynote. Keynote has almost the exact same features as PowerPoint—with extra power under the hood, as we just saw—but it manages to make those same features a lot less overwhelming.

Let's compare the number of clicks required to insert a chart into a presentation, in both Keynote and PowerPoint.

First, in Keynote:

  1. Click the Chart icon at the top of the window.
  2. Choose the type of chart you want to insert.
  3. The chart will be added to your slide, and you can add your chart data from a simple interface inside Keynote.

Here is a picture of the user interface you will use to modify the data and the look/feel of your chart. It's got plenty of options to make everything look nice, without feeling too overwhelming.

Now, in PowerPoint:

  1. Click the Charts tab from the top tabbed menu.
  2. Click the Column Charts icon.
  3. Choose the type of column chart you would like to insert.
  4. Microsoft Excel will open, where you can insert your data for your chart. Yes, you read that right: you have to run Excel to enter the data into the chart that you want to insert into your PowerPoint.

Here are the two different pictures of the two different programs you have to use to modify the data and look/feel of your chart in PowerPoint:

Now, just from those two pictures, which app would you rather use?

There's advantages, perhaps, to having a full-featured spreadsheet app for editing your charts, but that's overkill for most charts. And yet, that's the general feel of PowerPoint. It's grown increasingly bloated over the years, and will slow you down by making simple tasks far more complicated than they'd ever need to be. Keynote, especially in its latest version, feels almost too sparse, but its clean interface helps you focus on what really matters: your presentation.

Conclusion

Let's take a moment to check the scoreboard:  

  • When it comes to accessibility, Keynote wins. You can use it on your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or just about any computer with a web browser thanks to iCloud.
  • When it comes to cross-compatibility, Keynote wins. Exporting a presentation as HTML makes sharing in any way you want so simple, and the other export options only make PowerPoint look even more behind.
  • And lastly, when it comes to ease of use, Keynote clearly wins.

All of these reasons are why Keynote is the clear winner when it comes to presentation software for your Mac or iPad—or even for your PC if you have an iCloud account. It's simpler, works better, and helps you focus on making a great presentation.

At the end of the day, though, making a great presentation is what's most important. So, if you're sticking with PowerPoint, don't forget to check our new PowerPoint 101 tutorial that'll help you make sense of PowerPoint and still make a great presentation with it, even if it's more confusing.

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