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Apple Keynote (iPad) review

How can a piece of software be so powerful yet so limited?

The ability to add build-in and -out actions to objects is a genuinely impressive feature

Our Verdict

There's some real power here, but compatibility with the Mac version has yet to manifest


  • Clever, useful interface


  • Poor compatibility with Mac
  • Can't use your master slides
  • Finicky to load assets

While Apple's new iWork suite (three separate productivity apps) for the iPad is an impressive technical and usability achievement for a mobile device, it quickly begins to frustrate.

They're beautiful apps, yes, and they're packed with clever, though not especially intuitive, gestures and interface flourishes that genuinely begin to replicate what you'd expect a traditional desktop app to do, and all on a glorified mobile-phone-with-a-big-screen.

But while Keynote is fine if you're happy to use the few beautiful themes Apple supplies, you quickly run into limitations if you try to tinker or, worse still, import your own existing presentations. Never mind that the process of getting the files onto the iPad in the first place is a hideous and convoluted mess (see the Pages review); once they're finally imported, you're likely to see glitches.

Carefully laid-out slides can find their layouts messed up, especially if you've created a widescreen presentation that Keynote has to reformat for the 4:3 iPad screen.

Limited scope

Though Keynote comes with 43 fonts, you can't use your own for brand consistency, and heaven help you if you try to export anything vaguely complex from PowerPoint via Keynote on the Mac.

And just how do you get assets onto the iPad to use in your presentation? Local side loading through iTunes is the standard method, but yuck – how finicky. The most convenient method for images, bizarrely, is to copy them from the web and paste in, but again, it just feels nasty.

What about master slides you've created? Keynote ignores them, so your only option is to copy and paste an existing slide unless you want to create each one from scratch.

Presenter notes are stripped out when you copy from Mac to iPad, which is a shame given that with the purchase of the VGA-out connector you can run a presentation from the iPad to a projector. Unless you're happy to create presentations that stick pretty closely to Apple's templates, you're going to find the whole experience exasperating.

We had hoped it would at least be a decent player for Mac-created presentations that you could make last-minute edits to on the way to a meeting, but it's not even there yet.

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