Chapter 18

Building Presentations with Keynote


Bullet Creating, opening, and saving a presentation

Bullet Navigating Keynote

Bullet Working with slides

Bullet Adding notes, media, and a background shape

Bullet Putting together a slideshow

Bullet Printing slides and notes

It seems like only yesterday that I was giving business presentations with a clunky overhead projector and black-and-white acetate transparencies. Fancy color gradients and animation were unheard-of, and the only sound my presentations made was the droning of the projector’s fan. I might as well have been using tree bark and chalk.

Thank goodness those “cave painting” days are gone. Cutting-edge presentation software like Keynote makes slide creation easy and — believe it or not — fun! Keynote is the application Steve Jobs once used for his Macworld keynote addresses every year. So much visual candy is available that you’ll never need to shout to wake your audience again. Even better, this jewel of an application is a free download from the App Store!

In this chapter, I first demonstrate how simple it is to build a stunning Keynote presentation. Then I show you how to start and control your slide display from the keyboard (or even your iPhone or iPad). And don’t forget that you can print your slides and notes so that your audience can keep a copy of your brilliant work.

Creating a New Keynote Project

Like the other applications in the iWork suite, Keynote begins the document-creation process with a Theme Chooser window. To create a new presentation project, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Launchpad icon on the Dock.
  2. Click the Keynote icon, which looks like a lectern.
  3. Click the New Document button in the bottom-left corner of the Open dialog.

    The Choose a Theme window, shown in Figure 18-1, appears. (I have to say that these stylish templates are probably the most stunning visual building blocks I’ve ever seen in a presentation application.)

  4. Choose the aspect ratio, using either the Standard or Wide list box at the top of the window.

    Although you don’t necessarily need to select an exact match for your MacBook’s screen resolution, it’s a good idea to select the value closest to your projector’s maximum resolution. If someone else is providing the projector, Standard size is the more compatible choice. If you’ll present on a typical high-resolution computer monitor, Widescreen provides a better display.

    Snapshot of selecting a presentation theme from the Choose a Theme window.

    FIGURE 18-1: Select a presentation theme from the Choose a Theme window.

    Tip Nothing’s stopping you from creating two documents of the same presentation: one in Standard and one in Wide. (As the Scouts say, “Be prepared!”) After you’ve finished your project in either Standard or Wide aspect ratio, save it to disk. Without closing the project, click File ⇒   Change Theme and choose the other ratio; then click File ⇒   Save and use a different name to create the alternative version.

  5. Click the theme thumbnail that most closely matches your needs.
  6. Click the Choose button to open a new document that uses the theme you selected.

Opening a Keynote Presentation

If an existing Keynote presentation file is visible in a Finder window, you can double-click the document icon to open the project. If Keynote is already running, follow these steps to load a project from within the application:

  1. Press ⌘   +O to display the Open dialog.
  2. Click the desired drive in the Devices list at the left of the dialog; then click folders and subfolders until you locate the Keynote project.

    If the project is stored in your iCloud Drive, click the Keynote item below the iCloud heading in the sidebar on the left side of the dialog; then double-click the desired project thumbnail. (By default, the Where drop-down list in the top center of the Open dialog is already set to the Keynote folder in your iCloud Drive.)

    You can jump directly to any location or folder below the Favorites heading simply by clicking the entry. Oh, and don’t forget that you can use the search box at the top of the Open dialog to locate the document by name or by some of the text it contains.

  3. Double-click the filename to load it.

Tip If you want to open a Keynote document you’ve edited in the recent past, things get even easier! Just choose File  ⇒    Open Recent, and you can open the document with a single click on the submenu that appears.

Saving Your Presentation

Because Keynote provides full support for the macOS Auto-Save feature, saving your work often isn’t as critical as it used to be. To safeguard your work in a world of power failures, though, follow these steps:

  1. Press ⌘   +S.

    If you’re saving a document that hasn’t yet been saved, the familiar Save As sheet appears.

  2. Type a filename for your new document.
  3. From the Where pop-up menu, choose a location in which to save the document.

    By default, Keynote saves the project directly to your iCloud Drive (iCloud appears on the Where pop-up menu), making it available to other Macs and iOS devices that use the same Apple ID. To choose a location that’s not available on the Where pop-up menu, click the button with the down-arrow symbol to expand the sheet. You can also create a new folder from the expanded sheet.

  4. Click Save.

Remember You can create a version of a Keynote presentation by choosing File  ⇒    Save. To revert the current presentation to an older version, choose File  ⇒    Revert To. Keynote gives you the option of reverting to the last saved version. Alternatively, you can click Browse All Versions to browse multiple versions of the presentation and revert to any saved version.

Putting Keynote to Work

Ready for the 5-cent tour of the Keynote window? Launch the application and create or load a project. You see the tourist attractions shown in Figure 18-2:

  • Slides list: Use this thumbnail list of all the slides in your project to navigate quickly. Click a thumbnail to switch instantly to that slide.

    Tip The Slides list can also display your project in outline format, allowing you to check all your discussion points. (This list is a great way to ferret out any holes in your presentation’s flow.) While you’re in outline mode, you can jump directly to any slide by clicking the slide’s title in the outline. To display the outline, choose View  ⇒    Outline. You can switch back to the default Slides list view by choosing View  ⇒    Navigator.

  • Layout pane: Your slide appears in its entirety in this pane. You can add elements and edit the content of the slide from the Layout pane.
  • Toolbar: As does the toolbar in Pages and Numbers, the Keynote toolbar makes it easy to find the most common controls you’ll use while designing and editing your slides. Clicking an icon on the toolbar performs an action, just as choosing a menu item does.
  • Presenter Notes pane: You might decide to add notes to one or more slides for your own use or to print as additional information for your audience. Click the View icon on the toolbar, and choose Show Presenter Notes (or choose View  ⇒    Show Presenter Notes) to open the Notes pane. This text box appears at the bottom of the Keynote window.
  • Inspector: Keynote displays this pane on the right side of the window when you click the Format button, allowing you to format selected text and images on the fly.
Snapshot of the Keynote window which is dominated by the Layout pane.

FIGURE 18-2: The Keynote window is dominated by the Layout pane.

Adding Slides

Keynote creates a single title slide when you create a project. But not many presentations are complete with just a single slide! To add more slides to your project, use one of these methods:

  • Click the Add Slide button on the toolbar.
  • Choose Slide  ⇒    New Slide.
  • Press ⌘   +Shift+N.
  • Right-click an existing slide in the Slides list, and choose New Slide from the shortcut menu that appears.

Keynote adds the new slide to your Slides list and automatically switches to the new slide in the Layout pane.

Tip Need a slide that’s very similar to a slide you’ve already designed? Right-click the existing slide and choose Duplicate from the shortcut menu to create a new slide just like it. (Consider this procedure to be cloning without the science.)

To move slides to different positions in the Slides list (that is, to change their order in your Keynote presentation), drag each slide thumbnail to the desired spot in the list.

Working with Text, Shapes, and Graphics Boxes

All the text, shapes, and graphics placeholders on your first title slide appear within boxes. Keynote uses these boxes to manipulate text, shapes, and graphics. You can resize a box (and its contents) by clicking the box and dragging one of the handles that appear around the edges of the box. (The cursor changes into a double-sided arrow when you’re “in the zone.”) Side selection handles drag only the edge of the frame, whereas corner selection handles resize both adjoining edges of the selection frame.

Tip To keep the proportions of a box constrained, hold down the Shift key while dragging its corner handles.

Boxes make it easy to move text, shapes, and graphics together (as a single unit) to another location within the Layout pane. Click the center of the box and drag the box to the desired spot. Keynote displays alignment lines to help you align the box with other elements around it (or with regular divisions of the slide, such as horizontal center).

Remember To select a box, click it. To select text, shapes, or graphics within a box (see the next section, “Adding and Editing Slide Text”), double-click the box.

When you’re resizing a photo in a box, hold down the Shift key while you drag the frame. Doing so tells Keynote to preserve the image’s aspect ratio so that the vertical and horizontal proportions remain fixed. (Otherwise, it could end up looking “squished” or “stretched.”) You can also flip images horizontally or vertically from the Arrange menu. To delete an image, click it to select it and then press the Delete key.

Adding and Editing Slide Text

As with Pages, which also uses boxes for text layout, you can add or edit text in Keynote with ease. Suppose that you have a box with the placeholder text Double-click to edit. Just double-click that box, and the placeholder text disappears, leaving the field ready to accept new text. Any new text you type appears at the blinking cursor within the box.

Here are some additional ways to work with slide text:

  • Add a new text box. Just click the Text button in the Keynote toolbar, and click one of the sample styles that appear. Your new text box appears in the middle of the slide.
  • Edit existing text. Click — using the bar-shaped cursor to select just the right spot in the text — and drag the insertion cursor across the characters to highlight them. Then type the replacement text. Keynote obligingly replaces the old text with the new text.
  • Delete text. Click and drag across the characters to highlight them; then press Delete. You can also delete an entire box and all its contents: Right-click the offending box, and choose Delete from the shortcut menu that appears.

When a box’s contents are just right, and you’re finished entering or editing text, click anywhere outside the box to hide it from view. You can always click the text again to display the box later.

Formatting Slide Text for the Perfect Look

Keynote doesn’t restrict you to the default fonts for the theme you chose. It’s easy to format the text in your slides on the fly, using a different font family, font color, text alignment, and text attributes (such as boldface and italics).

Select the desired text by double-clicking a box and dragging the text cursor to highlight the characters. Then apply your formatting, using one of two methods:

  • The Inspector: The font controls in the Inspector work in one of two ways: After you’ve selected text, click a font control to display a pop-up menu, or click a button to perform an action immediately. Opening the Font Size pop-up menu, for example, displays a range of sizes for the selected text. With a single click of the B (bold) button, you add the bold attribute to the highlighted characters. To create bullets and lists, click the Text tab at the top of the Inspector.
  • The Format menu: When you’ve selected text, the controls on the Keynote Format menu generally mirror those in the Inspector. To change the alignment from the Format menu, click Format and hover the cursor over the Text submenu item to display the alignment choices. To change text attributes, click Format and hover the cursor over the Font submenu to display the different attribute settings.

Using Presenter’s Notes in Your Project

As I mention earlier, you can type presenter’s text notes in the Notes pane. I use them to display related topic points while presenting my slideshow. You can also print the notes for a project along with the slides, however, so presenter’s notes are also great for including reminders and to-do points for your audience in handouts.

To type your notes, click within the Notes pane. If that pane is hidden, choose View  ⇒    Show Presenter Notes, or click the View button at the far-left end of the Keynote toolbar and choose Show Presenter Notes from the menu that appears. When you’re finished adding notes, click the Slides list or the Layout pane to return to editing mode.

Tip To display your notes while practicing, use the Keynote Rehearsal feature. Choose Play  ⇒    Rehearse Slideshow, click the Tools icon in the top-right corner of the window, and select the Presenter Notes check box to enable it. Now you can scroll through the notes while the slideshow runs! (More on slideshows in a second.)

Every Good Presentation Needs Media

Adding audio, photos, and movies to a slide is drag-and-drop easy in Keynote! Simply drag an image, audio, or movie file from a Finder window and place it at the spot where you want it within your presentation.

You can also use the Media Browser. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Media button on the toolbar, and choose the desired type from the submenu that appears.

    Keynote displays the contents of your various media collections (such as your Photos, iMovie, and Music libraries).

  2. When you find the file you want to add, drag it to the spot where you want it in the Layout pane.

    Figure 18-3 shows the Media Browser in action.

Snapshot of adding audio and movie clips to a slide.

FIGURE 18-3: It’s not just photos. You can add audio and movie clips to a slide too!

Tip Having trouble finding that specific photo or movie? Click the Search icon (which looks like a magnifying glass) in the top-right corner of the Media Browser, and you can specify a particular filename or keyword.

Adding a Background Shape

Text often stands out on a slide when it sits on top of a background shape. To add a shape (such as a rectangle or circle) as a background for your text, follow these steps:

  1. Click the insertion cursor in the location you want.
  2. Click the Shape button on the Keynote toolbar, and choose a shape from the menu that appears.

    The shape appears in your document.

  3. Click the center of the shape, and drag it to a new spot.

    As you can with image boxes, you can resize or move shapes. You can read how to do that in “Working with Text, Shapes, and Graphics Boxes,” earlier in this chapter.

  4. When the shape is properly positioned and sized, select it, and choose Arrange  ⇒    Send to Back.

    You want to “send the shape to the back” so that any text you enter is sitting in front of the shape, not hidden behind it.

Tip You’re not limited to creating shapes and graphics within Keynote; consider using an application such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to create graphics that you can import into your slides! As I mention earlier, you can easily drag and drop your new graphic into a slide from a Finder window.

Creating Your Keynote Slideshow

The heart of a Keynote presentation is the slideshow you build from the slides you’ve created. A Keynote slideshow is typically presented as a full-screen presentation, with slides appearing in linear order as they’re sorted in the Slides list.

You run a Keynote slideshow simply by clicking the Play button on the toolbar or by choosing Play  ⇒    Play Slideshow. You can advance to the next slide by clicking or by pressing the right-bracket key, which looks like this: ].

Tip Are you running a presentation along with a videoconferencing app? You can choose to play a Keynote presentation in a window instead, which may be more convenient than the full-screen default. To use this feature, choose Play  ⇒    Play Slideshow in Window.

Other controls are available besides the ones that advance to the next slide. Table 18-1 lists the shortcuts you’ll use most often during a slideshow.

TABLE 18-1 Keynote Slideshow Shortcut Keys



] (right bracket)

Move to the next slide.

[ (left bracket)

Return to the preceding slide.


Jump to the first slide.


Jump to the last slide.


Show or hide the pointer.


Jump to the corresponding slide in the Slides list.


Scroll the notes up.


Scroll the notes down.


Show the current slide number.


Hide the slideshow, and display the last application used. (The presentation appears as a minimized icon on the Dock.)


Pause the slideshow, and display a black screen. (Press any key to resume the slideshow.)



Tip Keynote offers several settings you can tweak to fine-tune your slideshow. To display these settings, choose Keynote  ⇒    Preferences, and click the Slideshow button in the Preferences dialog.

Tip If you have an iPhone or iPad handy, and you’ve installed the iOS version of Keynote on your device, choose Keynote  ⇒    Preferences to display the Preferences dialog. Click the Remotes tab to link your device to your laptop and Keynote. Now you can use your handheld device as a remote during your slideshow. Sweet!

Tip Are you creating a Keynote slideshow for a kiosk (where it should run unattended)? If so, choose Keynote  ⇒    Preferences to display the Preferences dialog, and click the Slideshow tab. Deselect the Exit Presentation After Last Slide check box, and select the Require Password to Exit Slideshow check box. Now your slideshow will run continuously (a password you set is required to exit), and your audience can move backward and forward through the slides with the cursor keys.

Printing Your Slides and Notes

I’ll be honest: I don’t print handouts for every presentation I give. If, however, you’re presenting a lengthy slideshow with plenty of information that you want your audience to remember or refer to later, nothing beats handouts that include scaled-down images of your slides (and, optionally, your presenter’s notes).

You’re not limited to paper. You can also use Keynote to create an electronic PDF (Portable Document Format) file instead of a printed handout, which your audience members can download from your website. Or, if you’re an educator who has access to an interactive whiteboard (such as a Smart Board), you can use this cutting-edge technology with Keynote.

To print your slides and notes, follow these steps:

  1. Within Keynote, choose File  ⇒    Print or press ⌘   +P.

    Keynote displays the Print sheet, shown in Figure 18-4. (Note that some printer-specific features may be different on your screen.) If necessary, expand the Print sheet to show all the settings by clicking the Show Details button at the bottom of the sheet.

  2. Choose one of the following formats (each of which displays a different set of layout options):
    • Slide: Print each slide on a separate page at full size. You can choose to print the presenter notes for each slide as well.
    • Grid: Print multiple slides on a page at a reduced size. From the Slides per Page pop-up menu, choose how many slides Keynote should print on each page.
    • Handout: Print a handout with multiple slides per page (and, optionally, with presenter’s notes). Again, you can choose how many slides appear on each page.
    • Outline: Print the contents of your Slides list in Outline view.
  3. Select the pages to print:
    • To print the entire document, select the All radio button.
    • To print a range of selected slides, select the From radio button and then enter the starting and ending pages.
  4. Select or deselect additional options in the Options section.
  5. Click the Print button to send the job to your printer.
Snapshot of the Keynote offering a wide range of printing options for the slides and notes.

FIGURE 18-4: Keynote offers a wide range of printing options for your slides and notes.

Tip You can also send a copy of your finished presentation as an attachment with Mail or Messages, or you can provide others a copy through Twitter or Facebook. Choose Share ⇒ Send a Copy to explore your options.

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