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.
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