‘It’s Time for Apple to Redesign Keynote’

Apple software still has an old school feel with its clear connection to object oriented programming with properties for everything and the seeming tension between menus and ribbons on the desktop implementations. But Apple misses some of the most important programming features, particularly with Keynote.

I think it’s time that Apple deconstruct Keynotes, retain all of the features for which it has become a favorite app among many a presenter, and take it to a new level of flexibility in a multi-device world.

First, Apple has to realize that Keynote is essentially a compiler of XML with multiple target platforms. They recognize this to some degree when the app boots to a warning that some fonts are missing, but unfortunately, Apple offers no tools for authors to rectify the incompatible fonts.

iPhone.png Photo courtesy of Vincent Lee

So the first new thing Apple needs to add to Keynote is the ability to specify the target platform of the app. Either that, or offer an adaptive capability much like many website tools now to transform the incompatible into something compatible. But in the case of the iPad, the issue is really a limitation on fonts and a few effects. If the author specifies that this particular file will be delivered on an iPad, then Keynote should not permit, without warning as they are added, fonts or effects that simply won’t work on the iPad. This holds true as well for any web-based app limitations. For older files, they need to provide tools to addressing the warnings. (Note that Keynote supports movie optimization for iOS, and if you think about it, the main reason to reduce file size is to reduce iCloud space and download speed for iOS presentations—so why not address optimization for all features of the file as it moves to a target platform. In other words, “compile” a presentation to run on an iOS device.)

“A new way to create presentations that recognizes how real people, who spend hours every day with a tool (not just once every few months to make a product announcement), would be welcomed by the key customer”

Apple could also do things with fonts, like bitmap fonts that don’t appear on the target platform, something I am often forced to do manually using screen captures (if I use a font not supported by the iPad, and really think it is the right font, I blow up the portion of the slide as big as I can on the screen and then capture it to the clipboard and paste it over the font, leaving the existing font there, and obscuring the resulting warning. Here’s another hint, use a complex background when doing this and it becomes easier to line up the clip so it integrates seamlessly.)

To continue with fonts, it would also be great to permit a search for formats or fonts, something which has been a rather uncelebrated feature in Microsoft’s Office products for years and is absolutely necessary for a program that warns you of incompatibilities. It could also pop up with a font substitution selection, but it would also need to be very specific and have a way to reference where the changes occurred, because font substitution can often mess with alignment on particularly tight-fitting text in text blocks (which is another major issue I find with Keynote—that text blocks on the iPad, even with the same fonts, don’t necessarily always come over correctly, leaving text annoyingly hidden behind a small “+” sign at the bottom of the block.)


Finally, I would suggest that, in light of reusable code, Apple consider a slide library and slide browser that would permit presentation creators to select from their previous slides and create a narrative flow without opening dozens of decks and cutting and pasting among them. It has been said lately that Apple, with it stock at an all time high, could be even more valuable once they move beyond movies and music in the cloud. A feature like this could significantly improve productivity while offering an entirely new approach to sharing slides that would challenge sites like SlideShare. People could share individual slides, entire libraries, or compiled decks.

A new way to create presentations that recognize how real people, who spend hours every day with a tool (not just once every few months to make a product announcement), would be welcomed by the key customer and, at least for a while, differentiate the product from all others.

Apple, I look forward to the conversation.

(This post originally appeared at iPhone Life)