Apple’s Keynote is an easy-to-use tool for creating professional presentations whose simplified interface belies its power and capabilities. And, don’t let the fact that it’s free throw you. With no licensing costs and native iPhone, iPad, and Mac compatibility, as well as the ability for Windows PC users to view and edit presentations using iCloud on the web, Apple’s Keynote application deserves consideration.

If you’re new to Keynote, or if you’re considering replacing Microsoft’s PowerPoint with Apple’s alternative, here are three keys to maximizing Keynote.

SEE: Software usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

1. Master the basics

If you’re not familiar with Keynote (Figure A), here’s a quick guide to performing the most common presentation actions.

Figure A

  • Add a Slide: Click the + icon to add a new slide. Keynote will display a range of new slides, including Title, Title & Bullets, and Photo Horizontal, that can be immediately added to the presentation.
  • Add Text: Click the Text icon at the top of the Keynote application, move (if required) the new text box, and then click within the text box to begin entering text.
  • Add a Chart: Click the Chart icon at the top of the Keynote application, select the chart design you wish to add, and then configure your chart using the style, options, and customization settings that appear within the Inspector.
  • Add Media: Click the Media icon at the top of the Keynote application, select the photo, music, or movie you wish to insert, and then customize the selection using the corresponding settings Keynote displays within its Inspector.
  • Add a Shape: Click the Shape icon at the top of the Keynote application, select the shape you wish to add, and then configure the arrangement, size, position, and rotation using the customization settings that appear within the Keynote Inspector.
  • Add a Table: Click the Table icon at the top of the Keynote application, select the table design you wish to add, and then customize the table using the styles, headers, footers, font, outline, and other settings Keynote presents within its Inspector.
  • Adjust Fill, Border, Shadow, and Reflection: Click the element in question, click the Style tab within the Inspector pane, and use the fill, border, shadow, and reflection options to customize those elements.
  • Adjust Slide Order: Move a slide’s position within the presentation by ensuring you’re using the Navigator view (click View and select Navigator), and then click-and-drag slides to your intended locations.
  • Arrange and Align Elements: Click the element in question, click the Inspector Arrange tab, and customize the arrangement and alignment using the provided buttons and slider boxes.
  • Configure Animation: Click the element to animate, and then select the Inspector’s Animate button. Click Add An Effect to create an animation. Use the provided slider bars and drop-down menus to adjust the selected action, which include dissolves, fly ins, and wipes.
  • Deliver a Presentation Over the Internet: Click the Keynote Live icon at the top of the application (clicking the icon places a copy of the presentation in iCloud, enabling you to share the presentation with other users on a Mac or iOS device or via the web). Keynote will then walk you through inviting viewers and generate a URL you can provide others to view the presentation.
  • Format Text: Highlight the text to adjust and click the Text tab within the Inspector pane that appears on the right-side of the Keynote screen.
  • Rehearse a Presentation: Click Play from the menu bar and select Rehearse Slideshow.
  • View and Edit Presenter Notes: Click View from the menu bar and select Show Presenter Notes. Just as in PowerPoint, you can enter speaker’s notes within Keynote’s bottom pane.

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

2. Leverage PowerPoint compatibility

Keynote is compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint. If you’re creating presentations in collaboration with PowerPoint users, or if you’re sending your Keynote file to a PowerPoint user, you can save a Keynote file as a PowerPoint presentation or export the Keynote file as an PowerPoint presentation to minimize trouble.

Complete step-by-step instructions for saving a Keynote file in Microsoft’s PowerPoint format are available on TechRepublic.

Note: While most presentation elements translate well between both platforms, anomalies sometimes arise; for example, OLE objects and image effects may not translate perfectly. For a complete list of compatibility features and behaviors, view the comprehensive PowerPoint-to-Keynote chart Apple maintains on its site.

SEE: How to avoid and overcome presentation glitches (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

3. Tap iCloud integration

All of Apple’s iWork applications–Pages, Numbers, and Keynote–are integrated within iCloud. Apple’s iCloud users will find separate directories created by default for storing each application’s files.

I initially found the iCloud behavior of storing files by default within the corresponding iCloud directory (in this case Keynote) a little presumptuous, as I leverage a variety of storage locations for files. But as I’ve increasingly become dependent upon cloud services to share, view, and edit files including presentations using an iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even Windows PC, the feature has proven helpful and saved me time.

SEE: Apple transfers iCloud operation in China to a local government-backed firm (ZDNet)

iCloud also enables sharing Keynote files with other iCloud users, including PC users who might otherwise use PowerPoint. Depending upon the permissions you set, iCloud users can subsequently access and even edit Keynote files using their Apple devices or Windows web browser.

You can enable collaboration features when building a presentation by clicking the Collaborate icon at the top of the Keynote application. The Add People window will display, permitting you to use email, Messages, AirDrop, and other sources to send the presentation to others. You can also configure share permissions, such as specifying whether changes can be made, from within the same Add People window.

More tips about Apple Keynote

After you master the basics of Apple’s Keynote, be sure to elevate your Keynote expertise by using pre-formatted themes, split view, and the app’s media browser.