I have been using a Mac for many years. By and large, I like the Mac experience. Beautiful hardware complemented by very usable software. The software is not just very usable because they are easy to use, but can also be quite enjoyable to use. So, you’d think that I should be a happy iWork user. Well, not in this instance. I’m a happy Microsoft Office user, the version for the Mac, of course.
I actually took the plunge with Keynote, the presentation software in Apple’s iWork suite. It took me a lot of time to consider switching to iWork. I read many reviews, and downloaded the trial, and I considered very seriously about moving to iWork. I eventually decided to buy just Keynote, so that I can have more time with it. You know, it’s one thing to try a software, and possibly a different matter to really use it in “production”. Like, in the case with Keynote, to create real presentations that I’d actually be presenting with.
Just a side note: I didn’t go ahead with Pages and Numbers, the wordprocessor and spreadsheet apps in the iWork suite. The reason is this, I don’t reasonably expect to be able to really use those apps. At work, I regularly need to exchange Word documents and Excel spreadsheets with people. We need to collaboratively edit them by passing them back and forth. It would be problematic if I tried to work with Pages and Numbers. Presentations are different, because I typically create my own presentations, and while I don’t mind distributing my slides to others, I don’t typically find myself needing to work with anyone else to create my slides.
Back to Keynote. Yes, so I really used it in “production”. Keynote was a joy to use. Much like most Apple software.
Unfortunately, it was fun until I had to do real presentation stuff with it. Things I actually need to do, as opposed to just playing with it for fun. Mind you, not complicated things. Simple things.
For example, I want to do up a simple graphic to aid in the presentation of some information. In PowerPoint, you’d use this thing called SmartArt Graphic.
In Keynote, what you’d do is… erm… okay, there’s not quite an equivalent to that PowerPoint feature. Uh oh. Com’on, surely there must be a way? I just need something basic, you know. Like perhaps a pyramid to illustrate a hierarchy. Or a cycle to show how something is cyclic in nature. Maybe I want to put up a simple org-chart.
Oh yes, there is a way. Open up PowerPoint, create the graphic, and then find some way to export it out and include it into Keynote. Or perhaps you could use some other app to create the graphic for you. Do whatever you want, but it just has to be done outside Keynote.
How is it possible that Apple could have omitted such a fundamental feature?
Here I’ve learnt a fundamental design principle in Keynote. Apple thinks every presentation should be original, unique, and fresh. You should be creative in designing your slides. If Keynote had included SmartArt Graphic, then everyone would create similar looking graphics in their Keynote presentation. It would be very boring. Everyone’s presentation would look familiar. Without SmartArt Graphic, you’d have to build the graphic from scratch. (Yeah, you could still use PowerPower to create it eh.)
I got annoyed. If my job was all about creating presentations, then perhaps I’d agree, I should spend time creating original, refreshing graphics. But presentations are just a communication tool that I need to use in my job. I am too busy to create graphics from scratch.
That’s how I found Keynote to be different. Keynote is beautiful. The themes are beautiful. The transitions and animations are beautiful. The multimedia stuffs are really sleek. You can build really beautiful presentations with Keynote. Some of the features have no equivalent in PowerPoint.
But some things Keynote leaves you to figure out yourself. I’m not willing to do that.
I must point out that PowerPoint can do quite a bit of the beautiful stuff that Keynote is known for. The animations and transitions are mostly (but not all) doable in PowerPoint. It might need more effort, maybe a whole lot more effort, but it’s possible to arrive at the same end result.
I need a tool that was functional, and helped me get my work done. I can with slightly less of the flashy stuff. However, I definitely need SmartArt Graphics. So, I’ve gone back to PowerPoint.