Will Apple do to the next Keynote what it just did to Final Cut Pro? A complete redesign? Me? I certainly hope so…

If plentiful rumours hold to be true, in the next 72 hours we may well see Mac OS X Lion released into the wild. As I write this, it has just become July 14 in Australia, Bastille Day for Francophiles.

How timely would it be that a software which has leant itself to revolutionary products would be updated on a day which recognises freedom and independence? It would be a fitting acknowledgment of the contribution to OS X (and NeXT before it) of retiring Apple senior VP, Bertrand Serlet. Personally, I think Steve Jobs is something of a Francophile, having featured crosses to Paris when first demonstrating iChat at Macworld many years ago, as well as featuring the Eiffel Tower when showing off the iPhone’s Google maps in 2007.

The rumours of Lion’s imminent release gathered further credence in the last day or so with the updating of iLife’s elements, including curiously iWeb and iDVD which some have presumed are to be end-of-lifed soon.

And of course with Lion imminent, iLife updated and iCloud waiting in the wings, thoughts to turn iWork being updated.

It’s been two years now, and amongst other things, online training has become a billion dollar business. I have managed to convince my own professional society not to go with a Continuing Education online program which features Adobe Flash, so as to encourage more members to become mobile users of its website where the training is undertaken.

While I wasn’t able to convince them to use Keynote to create the training, it’s my belief more and more organisations will see Apple’s inexpensive application as offering real advantages for creating engaging presentations.

But now I’m going to stick my neck out and ponder the likelihood of Apple doing a “Final Cut Pro X”: that is, a radical rethink and repurposing of Keynote to meet the needs of modern presenters.

We know that many professional video editors have expressed sincere unhappiness with the new version of FCP, while others have expressed admiration for Apple’s desire to change familiar programs in the belief they can be significantly improved, but only with a complete rewrite and rethinking.

I for one will not be surprised if this same event occurs for Keynote in the next few days. While much of its energy has been expended on Keynote for the iPad, the small Keynote team has also been working on Keynote for the desktop to judge from keynotes delivered at Apple events in the past year.

While we’ve seen nothing radical in its effects, we haven’t been exposed to how Keynote is constructing these presentations. I’m going to offer an educated guess that one of Keynote’s most requested items, a timeline to better manage events on a slide as well as across multiple slides, will make its appearance, and will require a completely new look-and-feel. I’m aware from discussion with the Keynote team this has been a high priority but a difficult one to institute to match the velvety smooth workflow Keynote offers when compared to Powerpoint.

For instance, in the last day to two, I’ve once more had to resurrect a slide I constructed for a consultee. It’s a complex slide, incorporating several movies, builds and a voice over narration.

The builds require precise timing to match the voice over. But moving from one Mac to another and with repeated playings, the timings become inconsistent. Moreover, when adopting the workaround of exporting the slide to a Quicktime movie, the timings become even more bizarre. The best handling of this dilemma is to play the slide manually while recording a screen movie using something like Screenflow.

This is hardly the best solution for a professional software. Having a sophisticated timeline device to manage multiple media and their ins and outs is a truly missing piece of the presentation puzzle for Keynote to overcome. Professional users really don’t need that many more themes, transitions and builds styles, but better management of existing ones.

Other desirable elements include editing of sound and video within the Keynote slide. Editing currently is terribly crude, allowing for alteration of beginnings or endings, but altering something in the middle or multiple edits requires the user to head to an external app and do the editing there, and re-import  the finished file.

While masking and Alpha masking photos has been a terrific addition to the most recent Keynote (2009), Powerpoint has caught up, and Apple needs to lift its game and improve the Alpha masking for finer detail. Moreover, it truly needs to find a way to perform masking for the moving image. We know Apple can do it judging from its recent efforts with masking with iChat, due to be updated in Lion.

And of course, exporting Keynote to another format, such as Powerpoint or Quicktime is a very hit and miss affair. With iCloud and document updating and perhaps some extra features in Lion to come, Keynote’s sharing abilities will also be enhanced.

We’ll know hopefully in the next little while whether the long wait for a new Keynote has been worthwhile. But given Apple’s history with successful apps., such as Final Cut and iMovie, whereby an inspired worker can initiate a radical shift in work flow, resulting in upset professionals, I won’t be at all surprised if we soon see a new Keynote with familiar features left out. But I’d expect that in time, with new features added which simply couldn’t be managed in the old but familiar version, long-time Keynote users will manage the transition with aplomb.

After all, some people did amazing things with Keynote 1.0 when it was released in 2003, coming as it did as a breath of fresh air when compared to the dominant Powerpoint. It’s eight years later, and it’s time for a new look and feel Keynote which takes presenting to whole other level.

Comments invited below.

12 responses to “Will Apple do to the next Keynote what it just did to Final Cut Pro? A complete redesign? Me? I certainly hope so…

  1. Have you looked at Motion 5 review in macworld.
    FCPX uses it for templating effects, transitions, etc.
    Keynote and even iMovie could possible use its plug-in
    to create more powerful effects.
    so you just have to create it motion 5 and you can either
    sell it or create it yourself all the transitions you want.

  2. Charles Szasz


    I agree with you about the possibility of a revamped Keynote program with the new feature you mentioned. After many years of yearly updated, I am just tired of waiting.

  3. Uh…Keynote was Cocoa from the start and didn’t need to be ported from Carbon to Cocoa like FCP. Not likely to get a full rewrite.

  4. I just want to see what the new Keynote looks like. But I agree with Ron, since its Cocoa already, I doubt Apple will give it a major overhaul.

    • I’m not so sure FCP was re-written in order to take advantage of Cocoa; if you’ve seen that quoted somewhere, please post the reference. My thinking was that in order to move Keynote to the next level, its look and feel needs to shift especially to incorporate a timeline. When I spoke with the Keynote team, there was acknowledgment if giving this high priority but they couldn’t get it to work the way it ought. Whether that meant S. Jobs didn’t like the implementation, or the Inspector couldn’t manage it, I don’t know. But it seemed to me a radical rethink of Keynote was going to be necessary, whether in Cocoa or not.

  5. Cocoa is not a magic pill. it is object-oriented api.
    Usefulness comes when applications share code, ui widgets, frameworks.
    Mind you that FCP was also waiting for AVFoundation
    so that old quicktime code could be thrown.
    so theoretically timeline ui can be just added and hooked up
    without much work from keynote developer if that is what is needed.
    Also FCP was waiting for GCD, OpenCL, CoreAnimation. So
    a lot of base stuff had to be developed before FCP could be rewritten.

  6. Keynote is now seriously feature poor compared to PPT 2011. I hope the new KN expands it’s potential in significant ways allowing for pro/power-user/programmer leverage, if not an official plug-in API, by supporting Apples Quartz Composer framework more comprehensively instead of it’s scant and buggy approach. Elegant control logic for objects and builds/tranistions (Visual Basic in the PPT world) would seem an obvious move to me. I can think of realy nice ways to do it in KN to keep it out of way but there if you want it. Integration of Motion X projects could be very interesting, I hope there’s a way to protect our IP in terms of themes and transitions for sale if Apple moves in that direction.

    FCP X is a real worry, not just the product itself for existing FCS users but for the way Apple mishandled the whole (rushed for June) launch. Apple had not even notified FX programmers of changes — like, oh, no more FXPlugin architecture. Too much to go into but it’s not just the film+TV editors upset, it’s the whole production house ecosystem that has invested heavily in Apple hardware and OS X software and now have the jitters about what they mean to Apple: big time. Not a good message to other Enterprise markets either, it’s being felt more widely. Take home message: Apple Pro Software is there to sell more hardware today, that’s it and don’t get to dependant on it cause your old hardware doesn’t make Apple any new money.

    The redesign of FCP X was two things, a 64bit Cocoa rewrite from the ground up (had to be done to benefit from evolving OS X) and also, just as significantly, a conceptual reappraisal of how non-linear editing is best approached in terms of the UX and UI toolset (opportunity to capture the massive DSLR pro-sumer market and that has nothing to do with writing it in Cocoa).

    I read a blog of an ex-Avid programmer who said Avid never could have attempted the conceptual redesign because of all it’s legacy customers and 100% dependancy on that market. I just wish Apple had have kept selling FCS until such time as FCP X was ready for industry, they would have avoided so much of the damage they’ve done themselves with industry.

    You mentioned Screenshare, Les (the best screen recording app I’ve used so far) Well in it’s wisdom, Apple has ditched CGL APIs for doing full screen screen capture methods in Lion — so developers of software like Screenflow are forced to rewrite with much much slower objects to do it, so for now that’s likely going to get a performance parachute. [[http://kineme.net/BugReports/v002screencapturefailtoworkwithhistogram#comment-21166 | ditched CGL APIs]]

  7. Typically Apple releases iWork with new Mac models don’t they? MacPro is overdue (27″ iMacs faster!). Not that I would associate iWork with MacPro but there may be new form MBPs coming too so that would be a match for iWork.

  8. One more thing, while improved audio and and video tools inside KN may be of benefit for small tasks, one thing that would make using external Apps (like Illustrator and Photoshop as well as iMovie, GarageBand etc) *heaps* more efficient is a Place File… using LINK function. This is not an option at present, which is why you have to keep re-importing every single edit to media. Hardly a Pro software method for using media files :-\

    It needlessly clocks up hours of wasted time on big projects, just so new KN users aren’t confused by a linked media check box in the Insert Menu> Choose… command or don’t accidentally delete/unlink something in KN by deleting/moving a source file. Really pathetic I think: Linked files have been in use for DTP for at least 2 decades.

  9. So here we are, on July 20th, Lion is in the Mac App Store, a new MacBook Air is available, and the same old versions of the iWork apps are in the store.

    While Apple may be seen to have rushed the FCPX introduction, they sure as heck are making sure iWork is well-cooked. Frustration!

  10. here it is 6 months later and still no update? Has anyone heard any rumors of when Keynote will be revamped?

  11. The job advertised for Application designer or whatever for Keynote wasn’t so long ago. If they are building keynote from the ground up as 64bit, or with some new user interface paradigm, I wouldn’t be in such a hurry. Really good software takes time, more than 6 months for an application as performance-critical as Keynote.

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