Keynote is a slick presentation tool that makes up one-third of Apple's recently upgraded iWork '08 office suite. At $79, this PowerPoint alternative is the most expensive in this group, but it's still considerably less than Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, which will be available in January starting at $149.
Comprehensive Tool Set
Keynote gives you a fairly comprehensive set of presentation tools, including charts, tables, and a number of impressive design templates. We particularly liked its amazing Alpha tool for rendering the backgrounds of photo images transparent. Its slickest feature, however, is its animation and transition effects, some of which seem to move in three dimensions. For example, you can make an image not only move laterally but also increase in size, making an object seem like it's moving closer to you. The motion was remarkably smooth, even more so than on the new PowerPoint 2007.
Make Your Slideshows More Manageable
One very simple but effective feature of Keynote is the ability to set different levels of slides in the thumbnail Slide pane along the left edge of the screen. This feature lets you organize large slideshows into more manageable segments that can then be expanded or contracted.
Apple iWork '08 Keynote Downsides
The downside to Keynote is its user interface, which ties in well with other Mac programs but may confuse recent arrivals from the Windows world. For very simple slide designs, PowerPoint users should have few problems. But for the more complicated effects, such as slide backgrounds, graphics, and transitions the program forces you to use a set of Inspectors, each of which handles a different design aspect. A help feature is available for befuddled PowerPoint veterans, but it works best when connected to the Internet.
Of course, Keynote is available only for the Mac and is thus the most proprietary program here. We hope that the best Keynote features, like so many of those on the Mac, may someday wind up on Windows as well.
More PowerPoint Alternatives
Google Docs Presentations
OpenOffice.org Impress/Sun StarOffice