Keynote for iPad — First customer reviews

Now that the iPad has arrived — to US customers at least — we are eager to listen to the first hands-on experiences of real-life customers. The app that interests us most is Keynote. We have been Keynote users since day one and know the program rather well. Our main question is: Can we use Keynote on the iPad for serious work, can we just import our Keynote files to the iPad and present them in our seminars? So far, we know little more than what Apple tells us: “Keynote is the powerful presentation app you love from iWork, completely reworked for iPad and Multi-Touch. So you can do everything on iPad with a tap or drag of your finger — from creating your first slide to presenting your work.” Let’s see how Apple’s claims stand up to the first customer reviews on iTunes, three days after the release…

The customer reviews range from “Amazing evolution of a fantastic product!” over “Excellent, except…” to “Practically unusable” — almost evenly spread between excitement and frustration. Since Keynote on the Mac is a very powerful program, the expectations for it’s iPad version must be high. And a few customers seem to be completely satisfied with it; their delight has been noted. Now let’s look at the rest and focus on two features that are important to us: compatibility and handling.


If you have a pool of Keynote files on your Mac, you might just want to import them onto your iPad, hook your iPad up to a projector (via the optional iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter for $29), open your Keynote file, and start your presentation. But, there seem to be some issues that Apple failed to talk about:
  • No proper import of PPT files (missing fonts, missing animations, distorted graphics)
  • No proper import of Keynote 4 (iWork ‘08) files — Keynote 5 (iWork ‘09) files only
  • Only rudimentary import of Keynote 5 (iWork ‘09) files (missing fonts, missing animations, distorted graphics, missing media content).


There are basic features that have to be expected from modern presentation software. Keynote for iPad seems to have some difficulties or lack some of them:
  • No presenter notes — that is an essential tool for serious presenting who’s missing is not excusable (some students use it for note-taking in classes, not that we agree with this practice, but they will miss the feature too)
  • Difficulties with media content — audio files, movies, and even some pictures cannot be displayed properly or are completely missing (that is a major draw-back, for some it could well be a Keynote-killer)
  • Far less animations and effects compared to the desktop version (even something as basic as grouped images seems to be missing)
  • No PPT export (that feature is a must-have in a Microsoft dominated business environment, the possibility to export into Keynote-for-Mac files and PDF cannot remedy that fact, like it or not).


Without a doubt, the iPad is a stunning device. It is not the first of it’s kind, but it will change mobile computing and disrupt the market in a way the iPod did for MP3 players. What we are experiencing is the very beginning of that process. It was an essential move for Apple to bring productivity to the iPad, and if we can believe Microsoft, there is no Office-equivalent for the iPad to be expected from their side. Rewriting the iWork apps for the iPad cannot be an easy task, given how “heavy duty” they are. But, that doesn’t change the fact that, once released, we expect them to work as smoothly as the desktop versions.

After reading all the customer reviews we can’t help but to be disappointed. We use Keynote in two ways: as a presentation tool in our seminars and as a design tool for custom made PPT presentations. For both tasks the iPad version doesn’t seem to be ready yet. Doing mostly presentation seminars, our slides contain a fair amount of media content, lots of drawings including features such as Bézier curves, grouping, and complex animations — all of which the program cannot master.

For the actual presenting there seems to be no way to control the program via a remote control. That might be fine for a 20-minute presentation. But, for a two-day seminar it just won’t do. We have no doubt that Apple will improve the program considerably over time — as they did with the desktop version. But for now, we cannot suggest Keynote on the iPad for professional use. Still, this verdict is highly subjective and far from definitive. As soon we get our hands on an iPad ourselves we will post a detailed review.

Read more in the article Twelve weeks with the iPad — Tool or toy?.

Axel Wendelberger