A confession: I love working in Keynote. Love it.

(I’m speaking, of course, of Keynote ’09. Not the feature-stripped version that was released last month. Still, I’m hopeful it’ll improve over time, since it is so very pretty.)

It’s not perfect, mind you — after four or five years of use, the program’s got some not-insignificant stability issues, crashing way more often than I’d like. But after all that time it’s still one of my favorite visual editors: it’s great for quickly prototyping UI components, sketching out rough animation ideas, and, yes, making slides.

Anyway: over the years, folks have said some very kind things about the visual design of my presentations. I don’t have any special knowledge about Keynote, mind, but thought I’d share a couple things I use in my presentations, in case anyone else finds them helpful.

First up: Magic Move.

Basically, Magic Move is a transition you can apply between two slides. If the second slide shares any objects — images, text boxes, or what-have-you — with the first slide, those objects will be, well, magically moved from one position to the next.

Here’s a very, very simple example:

As you can see, there’s just one object on both slides: a picture of my good friend Dwayne. The image is the same on both slides — you can duplicate the slide, or copy/paste the object to the second slide — but since its position changed, Magic Move kinda tweens the photo to its new position.

Now, I don’t use Magic Move a lot, usually preferring to just lean on simple dissolves between slides. But it’s great for managing more complex animations, like this one:

This animation requires a bit more setup, but the principle is basically the same:

  1. In the first slide, the “screenshots” you see are basically a lot of tiny little screencaps, each containing just one element of the interface. (So there’s an image for the toolbar in Editorially’s editor, another for the discussion panel, another for the account menu avatar, and so on.)1
  2. Then, in the second slide, I move all those small images where I’d like them to end up, and delete the “big” screenshots for each page.
  3. Turn on Magic Move, and you’re left with a neat little flyout cross-section of an interface.

As with most things Keynote-related, Magic Move is pretty reliable…but the more you use it, you’ll probably run up against a couple idiosyncrasies. You can’t magicmove (oh god i’m so sorry) an object if it has any builds or actions on it; animated objects (YES MOM, I’M TALKING ABOUT GIFs) will just blink to their new position; and some objects might move completely counter to what you’d expect.

And as with anything animation-driven, it’s very, very easy to overuse and abuse: try to consider marrying the animation with what you’re actually saying, and ensure the visuals don’t outwhelm your words as you’re presenting. That said, Magic Move is a fantastic tool to keep near at hand — when used just right I think it can be, well, kinda magical.

  1. When I’m arranging complex flyouts like this, I’ll usually have a reference screenshot on the canvas as a base layer, and place the smaller screencaps atop it. Just to make sure everything’s aligned, that is.