A (not so) Quick and Dirty workaround for the loss of builds and transitions in Keynote 6 – a temporary set of solutions while the engineers put the fixes in.

In a previous blog post, I sympathised with Keynote users who’ve upgraded from their tried and true 32-bit Keynote 5 to the latest 64-bit Keynote 6. For some the loss of much-relied upon features has proven a deal breaker.

Fortunately, upgraders have discovered that when when they performed their App Store free upgrades, Mavericks put aside their iWork 09 files (Keynote 5, Pages 4 and Numbers 3) in a separate folder. All can be used under Mavericks, taking advantage of its better screen spanning properties, with all their special features, builds and transitions intact.

But for those eager to try Keynote 6 (perhaps because so far it truly is faster and more stable, and it does contain some improved features such as a more elaborate Magic Move transition), let me offer some caveats and some ways around some of its limitations.

1. Certain builds and transitions have been deleted in their transition (ahem!) from KN5->KN6. Since there is no third party transition facility or modules to bring into Keynote 6, we can only hope that these obsolete transitions, which some say are still in the Keynote 6 package, may be liberated in a future update. In the past, Keynote’s preferences have allowed a tick-box to have obsolete transitions made available.

It’s a matter then of either proceeding ahead with a mission critical presentation using Keynote 5, or importing it into Keynote 6 and substituting new builds and transitions for the broken ones. That might be a lot of work for large files with complex build sequences, and a presenter on a limited schedule.

2. Until you can find the time to make this adjustment, let’s imagine for a moment you want to combine some of the improvements in Keynote 6 with a selection of some of your favourite slides which contain builds which no longer work.

I’ll use an example of my own which momentarily caused me to curse the Apple Keynote engineers until I developed a workaround.

The Setup

I frequently run workshops for psychologists on how IT can improve their practices. I especially focus on how IT can help both measure and offer interventions for anxiety. My suggestion to my colleagues is that rather than asking patients to rate their anxiety on a 1-100 scale (known from the 1960s as SUDS – Subjective Unit of Distress Scale), we could use inexpensive IT equipment to objectively measure a parameter of anxiety – heart rate variability or HRV – and help anchor the subjective to the objective.

I usually spend some time going through the biology of arousal and anxiety, its brain foundations and links to heart function – not all psychologists are well-versed in such matters.

One of the things I impress upon them in setting up the demoes which follow, is the history of using the human heart as a measure of emotion, when historically the brain was seen as merely a body part producing phlegm (as in phlegmatic, one of the ancient humours). The heart historically, according to Aristotle, was the residence of the soul, of emotion and intelligence.

And so to bring some entertaining weight to that, I show the audience a Keynote slide which visually demonstrates movies with the word “heart” in their title, while simultaneously, on the same slide, playing short snippets of well-known songs with the word “heart” in them.

To do this, I use the Smart Build “Turntable” effect to rotate movie covers – downloaded from IMDB – while play music snippets derived from an iTunes Music store search (I also own some of the tracks) and recorded using ScreenFlow, my screencast software of choice.

Here’s a section of it where I have exported the Keynote 5 file to a Quicktime format (then uploaded to YouTube. Let’s hope the short snippets do not attract a copyright notice, nor the cover art):

This gives you an idea of what the audience would see.

Now let’s take the same slide and import it into Keynote 6, and see what results:

Yuck! Unuseable.

So what to do? Well, as long as one is happy with the background theme as is (its Spotlight from keynotethemepark.com), simply export this one slide as a Quicktime movie of high resolution (might become a large file) and then import it into your Keynote 6 slide deck. As it turns out, you actually have even greater control of the Smart Build (a “Smarter Build”?) because you can control the resultant movie – stop it if you want to make a comment and advance it by scrubbing through with your mouse. No one will notice if it’s not a “true” build sequence, and no one will care it’s a movie. Only you will know that.

Here, I’ve used ScreenFlow to show you the QT movie in Keynote 6, then have it play full screen as it to an audience, below:

Now while I did this with Smart Builds you could do the same with lost transitions and other builds you’ve created for existing Keynote 5 presentations which you’d dearly like to have a place in a new Keynote 6 presentation. Just export the slides as a Quicktime movie, do some fine editing in Screenflow or a similar software – even iMovie – or Quicktime itself (I still like to use Quicktime 7 Pro), then import into Keynote 6.

This is a rather quick and dirty (actually, not so quick) effort to deal with the changeover period between the two Keynote versions.

Unfortunately, I have also been in touch with third party developers who confirm that the current Mavericks/Keynote 6 combo has destroyed the alpha channel masking of Quicktime movies. And for that I have no quick and dirty solution other than once more contracting the slide you wish to use in Keynote 5 and importing it as a QT movie of high resolution – no pixelation please!

Let me show you what I mean by the loss of alpha channel using another slide from the Heart Keynote deck referred to earlier, imported into Keynote 6:

Notice how the large red heart initially looks fine, but once it starts pulsing (its an alpha channel QT movie), a black box appears around it. In Keynote 5, you don’t see the black box, just the pulsing heart. By the way, I showed this slide with another 10 or so pulsing hearts to the Keynote team in Pittsburgh and it looks like one can now take a png file of the heart and use the “pulse” build to get a heartbeat going in Keynote 6.

Let’s hope that whatever has caused this loss of alpha channel – a real deal breaker for some presenters and developers – gets attended to quickly by the Keynote iWork team and in a show of good faith, lets unhappy Keynote campers know there is a bright future. A return to Powerpoint can wait another day (or decade).

Let me know in the Comments section if you have discovered some workarounds for the feature loss in Keynote – nothing too overwhelming, please!

2 responses to “A (not so) Quick and Dirty workaround for the loss of builds and transitions in Keynote 6 – a temporary set of solutions while the engineers put the fixes in.

  1. It’s a shame we’re forced to magic up hacks like this to do previously fundamental stuff, and lose all flexibility in the process.

    In the meantime I’m just sticking with Keynote ‘09 but I’ve just discovered my IR Apple remote doesn’t work with K09 in Mavericks having installed K13. It does still work with other apps, most annoyingly with K13. Les, I expect you use a RF device but has anyone else got problems with IR and Keynote 09?

    • Yes, I use a Kensington remote with its own 2GB usb wireless receiver.

      Believe me, I too don’t like hacking this way, but then again in true absence of pro features in Keynote 09 – my beloved timeline and Quicktime editing amongst a list of indeterminate length – all Keynote power users historically have employed a hacking mentality to get the job done. There was a time when all Keynote users were power users, fleeing from Powerpoint. But the advent of iOS devices, and the drift into schools of the presentation metaphor, means Keynote now becomes a tool for a different user base with different needs. I am hoping this rebuild will be robust enough to see previously loved features returned but more evolved, plus newer cinematic features, like cinematic titling and 3D effects (unless Jony Ive gets his hands on Keynote’s feature set).

      Ta for your comment.

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