Keynote 6 for OS X Makes a Great Leap Forward

| In-Depth Review

Keynote 6, part of Apple's new iWork family, has made the leap forward to 2013. It's a complete rewrite of Keynote '09 and now has file compatibility with the iOS version. Here's my review.


Keynote is Apple's counterpart to Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation application. Keynote has always been considered easier and more fun to use, yet can create very professional looking presentations. Best of all, Keynote can import, edit, and export PowerPoint files.

How Do I Get It?

Keynote 6 for OS X, along with its siblings, Pages and Numbers, is free and available several ways.

  1. If you buy a new Mac or iOS device, all the iWork apps are free.
  2. If you already own iWork '09 or bought the iOS versions and have upgraded to Mavericks, all three are free.

You'll download it from the Mac App Store, in the Menu Bar: Apple > App Store... Mavericks users are already seeing it in the Updates tab.

For more information, see the article by our Chuck La Tournous, "Looking for Those ‘Free’ iWork and iLife apps? Start Here."

Why Should I Upgrade?

Keynote 5.3 for OS X, while a solid app, is getting old. It doesn't have the finesse and features of Keynote 6. Keynote 6 can import and export Keynote 5.3 files, so there's no loss in access to your older 5.3 documents. Keynote 6 allows you to create a document on the Mac, sync it to iCloud, download it on an iPad and continue editing there. And it's free.

How Do I Tell the Difference?

Keynote 6 has a different icon than Keynote 5.3. They look like this:

Left: Keynote 5.x;   Right: Keynote 6

When you install any of the new iWork apps, like Keynote, a new folder will be created in your /Applications folder called "iWork '09" and the old version will be placed there. It's not likely you'll need it again, but Apple has thoughtfully arranged for it to be saved -- just in case, I surmise, the new version 6.0 has conversion glitches.

Apple's Emphasis

Apple states that there are three important design elements at work in this new version.

  1.    Powerful tools and dazzling effects.
  2.    Work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices.
  3.    Work effortlessly with MS PowerPoint.

New Features

The most important thing to know about Keynote 6 (and its siblings) is that it is a port of the iOS 6 source code. That means the old '09 code was thrown away and the iOS code was modified in order to achieve 1) File compatibility and 2) Similarity of operation. That is, similar within the bounds of the iPad's gestures and the Mac's mouse actions.

Then, with a common code base, Apple added some new features as follows:

From the opening splash screen.

Presentation apps are always adding new themes, new effects, and new features, so I won't dwell on those, but the most important thing to know about version 6 is that you can reliably import and edit files created in iOS with no conversion issues.

It gave me pause to see the item under Sharing about PowerPoint compatibility as if it were a new feature. Version 5.3 had that, and I've used it before. I didn't have time to investigate what improvements, if any, were made in the ability of version 6 to import PowerPoint slides with advanced operations.

In the past, for classes I've been teaching, I found it convenient to prepare my slides on my Mac in Keynote 5.3. Then I would use iTunes to move the presentation to my iPad. (I use a 30-pin to VGA cable to plug into the classroom presentation system.) I kept my slides simple in order to avoid conversion problems.

Top: Mac Version;  Bottom: iPad version. Very similar looks.

Now, I think I'll just use Keynote 6, sync to iCloud, and then grab it on the iPad. The iTunes transfer mechanism is and always has been extremely obtuse.

Another new feature is called shared links. If you set your document up to reside in iCloud, you can generate a URL that can be shared in traditional ways: email, Facebook, Twitter etc. You'll use the "Share" icon in the toolbar. Colleagues on PCs and Macs can then see and edit the document in their browser. Best of all, collaborators don't need an iCloud account to view and edit your presentation.

There is one problem with the current implementation, and that's described by Ryan Faas in "Apple's new iWork apps are great, but iCloud sharing has some serious flaws." The problem is that anyone who comes into possession of the URL can edit your document, and there's no way to prevent it.

Apple tends to roll out new features that are cool and elegant, but then business professionals find that some features violate their policies on control and security. Everyone complains. Eventually, with enough usage, feedback and pressure from professionals, Apple adds the enterprise level (or acceptable) functionality.

To put this in perspective, the very thing we love about these apps is that they are powerful, yet lightweight. Easy to use and unburdened by enterprise considerations that suck the life and joy out of the app. In addition, Apple's philosophy is to get the fundamentals right in the first release. Refinements can come later. (Or the app would never ship in a reasonable time.)

File Compatibility

For a long time, the Apple community was annoyed that the iWork apps weren't being regularly updated. Now we know what was happening. According to sources in a position to know, a decision was made to have a common code base between iOS and OS X. That meant using the iOS source code to create the OS X version. Part and parcel of that is file compatibility. However, the work took some time and faced various challenges as OS X evolved.

Along these lines, one of the things I wondered about was fonts. When I placed my iPad next to the Mac and looked at available fonts, I saw that there was a font on the iPad that did not appear on the Mac version: "Al Nile." So I created a presentation in Al Nile on the iPad and mailed it to the Mac. A ZIP file was created, and I think that's a clue. When I opened the presentation in Mavericks, that font became avaialble. From this quick test, it appears that Apple tacked the problem of "missing fonts" in the process of moving presentations from device to device.

Export options include:

  1.    PDF
  2.    PowerPoint
  3.    QuickTime
  4.    HTML
  5.    Images: (Just the images from a presentation)
  6.    Keynote '09

And, of course, the file can be tagged in Mavericks.


Apple has online documentation for Keynote that is well organized and allows you to see the outline at a glance, then drill down to specifics for a feature. It's avaiable in many languages. The instructions are very well written. At the end of every page is the annotation, "Was this help page useful? Send feedback," with a link. It's a geat way for users to provide corrections.  All in all, it's excellent documentation.

There is also a Keynote support page.

Ease of Use

One of the things that bugged me about version 5 was the detachable Inspector. It was never where I wanted it, and it always took just a minute to inspect it, digest it, and figure out how to find and use the right function. In version 6, great strides in ease of use have been made by having the Format Inspector be context sensitive. It changes so that only operations associated with the object being edited appear. Plus, it stays right next to the composition pane, so you always know where to look, saving time. This is great, I love it, and it's a major reason to upgrade to this new version.

If you're working on the title, only the applicable controls appear.

Another nice usability feature is the Tool Bar button called "Tips." Click it, and you get small yellow boxes on the display that explain the operation of the various controls. This is terrific. Every app should have a feature like this, not just those from Apple.

One thing I don't like is the way one adds a new slide. Instead of the traditional, obvious button at the top of the slide list called "New," there's an abstract "+" button at the bottom, perhaps out of sight. Of course, there's the menu option Slide > New Slide, but the point is visual recognition. One might not be sure, at first, what the abstract, lone "+" does, but a button labelled "New" is pretty darn clear.


I've been teaching classes for years, and I always use Keynote to prepare my class slides. Keynote '09 was pretty good, but the new features of Keynote 6, file compatibility, font compatibility (it appears), iCloud syncing, collaboration features, some new, very nice looking themes and effects and greater ease of use means that this is an essential upgrade.

Product: Keynote 6

Company: Apple

List Price: Free



File compatibility with iOS version, new themes, effects and animations, easier to use, built-in tips, iCloud syncing between iOS and OS X, collaboration via iCloud, compatibility with Microsoft PowerPoint, great export options. The app is free.


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Tudor Vedeanu

There are so many features removed from the new iWork,  I can’t believe someone could call this “a leap forward”. Seriously, just take a look on the Apple Discussions website to see how many users are disappointed with the new apps.


It is a rewrite and just be patient, all the features will be brought back just like FCPX and will be further improved upon.

With App;e those who comment too soon will end up with eggs on their faces.


Apple has broken the media browser in all of the iWork apps that I have tried. It only finds iPhoto, which I never use, and not Aperture. The MS Office media browser works great, though grin.

And Adam, I think that’s nonsense about commenting too soon. If the apps weren’t ready they shouldn’t have been released yet. There is no need to be such an apologist—Apple makes mistakes.


Thanks for the review, John.

I went against my better judgement and decided to download the OS X Mavericks system despite my being in the field (left the glacially slow download on overnight and in the morning had it done) and then upgraded my iWork suite, which initially refused to upgrade, citing preflight files not found and no Apple signatures on my iWork and iLife apps (both of which were obtained via the App Store). After a reboot, and setting the Apps to update automatically in the background in System Preferences, they began to download. This was risky business, especially given the frequent power outages and connection hiccups out here (which did not happen this time) but I had a fully cloned back up at home and here, as well as Time Capsule updates at hand, so felt I could boldly go where most (smart) people fear to tread. 

I really like the new interfaces. While I note Tudors missing features, there are a number that I specifically have mentioned, more than once, to Apple that I see are already there, such as greater interoperability between Endnote references when switching between Pages and Office. This is huge. It nearly almost works, and I can tell that the Apple team have made a real effort here. At least the numbers update as if it is all one file. The bibliography format likewise changes across the board if you reconfigure it for a different journal. The bibliography itself, however, still does not quite add the references in file as you add them on one or the other app (Word vs Pages).

I am particularly excited about the interactive graphics. This is huge in trying to demonstrate clinical or epidemiological data changes over time. I am attending more international conferences where the iWork suite, Keynote specifically, is being supported by conference IT. This update will undoubtedly further the trend.

I cannot tell if those missing features cited by Tudor are actually missing or simply moved, having not played with this extensively, but I am inclined to concur with adamC; any essential features, particularly those noted by users in feedback to Apple, will most likely be fixed/put back in time. In my experience, Apple have been quite responsive in their productivity suite with subsequent updates.

Les Vogt

My brand new 27” iMac is running Keynote 6… We tried using this for a professional presentation and had to abandon it.  When incorporating images, It is incredibly and unacceptably sluggish on every machine we tried. Exports to PPT looked horrible. Automatic animation timing options were gone.  It made decent PDFs so we used Acrobat for the presentation.

J Steinberger

Calling this a “great leap forward” stretches credulity indeed. Unless you’re drawing a direct parallel with chairman Mao’s eponymous policy, that would be.

To cite but one thing, Keynote 6 rasterised all my nice vector graphics from 5.3. How retarded is that? Thank god I had an old copy of 5.3 on my laptop and that I had the good sense to refuse to “upgrade” when it offered me to. Keynote 6 also runs slower on my spanking new imac than 5.3 runs on my 2012 macbook air. Way to go.

People have been complaining about Keynote 6 all over the web and they’re well justified. I hope Apple gets over their device fever and starts making great products again, not just dumbed-down bells & whistles for the masses.

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