Stranger Fruit

Keynote v Powerpoint

OK, quick question! As regular reader will know, I have migrated to a Mac. I have tons of presentations in Powerpoint which, while written on a PC, open seamlessly on the new machine. However, when I open them in Keynote, some stuff (often charts) get screwed up and I have to regenerate the slide. Question is this: why should I use Keynote over Powerpoint? What do I get in the former that don’t get in the latter? Why should I spend my summer converting the presentations? Thanks.


  1. #1 Peter Collopy
    April 23, 2009

    Conversations are pretty bad going from Keynote to PowerPoint too. I think if you’re used to and happy with PowerPoint you should keep using it; you’re compatibility with the Windows world will be easier to maintain. I feel more comfortable with Keynote’s interface, and it has some pretty transitions, but nothing worth converting existing presentation for. If you feel like experimenting you might want to try using Keynote next time you’re making a new presentation from scratch, though. If you like it more you can always use both, one for new presentations and one for old ones.

  2. #2 Matthew Platte
    April 23, 2009

    What Peter said. I like Keynote; love Pages – but sharing Keynote with Windows or Linux drove me to swearing and stomping my feet. Then I stopped using it.

  3. #3 Tim
    April 23, 2009

    I find Keynote more intuitive and overall more responsive that PowerPoint. The templating system is very easy to use, and I am more satisfied with the way it deals with images (the media inspector, similar to the one found in iPhoto, is a great tool).

    And you can export in PDF and a lot of other formats… Keynote over powerpoint was a no brainer for me!

  4. #4 Phillis Dorris
    April 23, 2009

    Agreed – the PDF function is a life saver and worth it for that alone – but sometimes embedding different types of media can cause real headaches.

    Oh and its only $9!

  5. #5 bsci
    April 23, 2009

    At least on Mac, you can also export from Powerpoint to pdf so I don’t think that’s a particularly benefit of one package over the other.

  6. #6 David Crotty
    April 23, 2009

    The issue is when you go to a conference to speak, and they ask for your talk on a thumb drive or a cd so they can load all the session’s slides onto a PC laptop. Keynote, while arguably superior, is not going to fly in that situation.

  7. #7 Doc Bill
    April 23, 2009

    Simple charts (text on white background) convert nicely, but even there you may have font incompatibility. Compatibility goes downhill from there with increasing complexity even if to you it’s a “simple image or graph.”

    Where I find Keynote a dream to use is integrating Quicktime into slides and easily performing non-intrusive transitions.

    Our PowerPoint experts may have their own tricks for integrating video into PPT presentations and, alas, I don’t have the expertise to comment on that.

    As for converting a bunch of presentations, since I don’t have to do it, I’ll give you this advice which I gave my programmers when we were embarking on converting a program or website.

    Don’t convert, rather, rebuild and enhance. You get a better result.

    Also, when you get your iPhone (not if!) you can use Keynote Remote to swipe through your slides via Wi-Fi, see speaker notes and more.

    (If your presentations don’t need revising and enhancing, ignore above!)

  8. #8 Lewis Thomason
    April 23, 2009

    Buy the student version of Office for Mac and use it or use Apple works.

  9. #9 uqbar
    April 23, 2009

    This is a good time for you to seriously think about Open Document Formats (for example, saves files in .odp format = OpenDocument Presentation). At some time in the future, keynote will either go away or change formats, or you will decide to use something else, and you’ll be back in the same boat unless you use a real (as opposed to de facto)standard format. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about Keynote, so I don’t know if it supports saving or reading in odp format.

    You could also consider using Impress instead of Keynote, although this may not solve your file import problem. On the few occasions when I have been forced to do slideware, I found Impress up to the job (it lacks some features of PowerPoint – mostly ones no one should use anyway), but in some areas works better and is easier to use.

    Of course, my love for Tufte also obligates me to note that you could Just Say No to Slideware (see ).

  10. #10 uqbar
    April 23, 2009


    I forgot to mention that with Impress, you can save your presentations in PowerPoint format if necessary. You can also easily export to PDF format.

    You should also consider using the Sun Presentation Minimizer – works with both and PowerPoint. Works on Linux, Mac, Solaris, and Windows.

  11. #11 resimler
    April 23, 2009

    Obligatory Bad Quantum Joke:

    Problem – This poll has no way for me to input a superposition of answers.

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    April 23, 2009

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  13. #13 SteveN
    April 24, 2009

    I switched to Mac about the same time, and am having similar doubts about Keynote. It was really hyped up as the program Al Gore used in his Inconvenient Truth slideshow. But I’m finding it’s inability to play embedded swf’s a real drawback.

    On the positive side, its alpha layer does a great job of improving pictures, and the preset transitions are much better than PPt. And its smooth ability to make pdfs is great (half of the time with PPt there was some error). I think I’m going to keep with Keynote, if only to avoid using a Microsoft product.

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