Two Keynote Book Reviews

I’ve always enjoyed Presentation software, and I recently got my MBA (Masters Degree in Business Administration), which required bimonthly presentations. I’ve used Keynote quite a bit lately, and had sort of a love/hate relationship with it. Some features like quality of output are fantastic along with the price; others like ease of input, power, compatibility fall more into the “less than love” side of the equation. But this review isn’t about Keynote itself; it is about two new books to teach it to you.

The two books I’m reviewing are:

Creating Keynote Presentation with iWork by Tom Negrino
Keynote 2 for Mac OS X by Tom Negrino

So we’re lacking a lot of versatility in authors. Peachpit Press also produces them both; so we’re lacking versatility in publishers as well. Fortunately, I didn’t dislike either the publisher or the Author, or this would lead to a rather depressing review.

Creating Keynote Presentations with iWork
By Tom Negrino
Peachpit Press – $12.99 U.S.
ISBN: 032135754X

While the title doesn’t call it out, this book is for Keynote 2. The iWork reference in the title may help people, since Keynote isn’t a stand-alone product any more. But on the other hand, some may feel a little like they only got half of the iWord suite covered, compounded by the books short 146-page format. But if you are a harried Executive that wants to learn how to do a Presentation, or harried anyone, this sort of concise and targeted book may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Big text, lots of color pictures, well organized, but rather quick fly-over of features; this is targeted more at teaching someone how to make a presentations using Keynote and very high level overview, as opposed to a regular presenter learning how to become a Power User of all things Keynote. Did I mention I was really impressed by the color and non-intimidating text size?

Along with intro, appendix and index, I’ll let the chapter descriptions describe what the book covers:
Explore Keynote
Write Your Presentations
Gather Images and Sound Files
Pick a Theme
Working with Text
Illustrate your Presentation
Make it Move
Prepare to Present
Deliver your Presentation
Present Everywhere

The book is both a tutorial and a reference book, for the newbie to the subject. Sort of. It says it is for beginners; but I think of beginners are more beginner than this in some ways. Some of the tone implies that users have seen lots of presentations before, or it does things like assumes that users know how to write a presentation: no tips on how to shorten bullet points in the outline, how to structure a presentation, how to break the presentation into chapters, it shows you where to get video but few hints when to and when not to use them, and little things like that. So the book teaches you how to build a presentation with this tool, but not as much on how to build a presentation.

The good news is the book is brief, and that is non-intimidating. And it couldn’t be as brief if it did cover the stuff I’d have liked to have seen. But I still felt it might gloss over a few things that would be helpful. Or it is just that Tom’s way to teach presentations is just slightly different than my own workflow, or the way I would teach someone. So if I’ve been left wanting a little more, it might just be because we think about the same problem a little different. That being said, it was his book, not mine.

This book is an easy read, loaded with information it has a logic that works, there are lots of good tips, and it does cover most of the basics very well. So putting my whines aside, and realizing there’s areas that it doesn’t cover, there’s also vast amounts of territory area that it covers very well. So, I’d recommend it readily.

While a complete newbie might not get as much info as they could about how to build a good presentation, they would definitely go from knowing little or nothing, to being able to put a presentation together. And the suggestion of getting peer reviews of your presentation can fill in many gaps, if you have the kind of people around that have opinions and some time to spend. And let’s face it, nothing can substitute for experience anyway; so just get out and do it, and you’ll learn more for the next Presentation. And this book should be motivation to help people over that hump, and get to the next step. That’s quite an accomplishment for $13 book.
MyMac rating: 3.5 out of 5

Keynote 2 for Mac OS X
by Tom Negrino

Peachpit Press – $21.99 U.S.
ISBN: 0321246616


First let me say, that I liked this author more than I liked the other one. Now those of you paying attention might think, “but it is the same guy”. It is, but this is a level that I think he works even better at: as a beginner to intermediate book with more room for him to flex his synapses instead of targeted at the complete neophyte.

This book is a much more comprehensive book, with 312 pages, with tighter text and smaller pictures; so it is a tad more intimidating, but still an easy read. The book has the usual intro, appendix and index, and is broken into the following chapters:
Getting Started
Creating a Presentation
Mastering Slide Masters
Getting the Type Right
Working with Graphics
Rich Media and Hyperlinks
Working with Tables
Creating Charts
Using Slide Transitions and Animation
Working with PowerPoint
Working with Other Applications
Giving the Presentation
Creating Custom Master Slides
Creating Custom Themes

While the chapter outline looks similar, the depth of each chapter is generally deeper. Actually, comparing the two side by side, you can see that there was definitely some borrowing going on; with either a dumbing down (not in a derogatory way) for the first book, or diving-in deeper for this one. Chapters 1 and 2 in this book, seems to cover Chapters 1, 2, along with some of 4 and 5 and some other info as well.

I personally, far preferred the tone and style of this book. It got to drop some of the talking down stuff, so functions better as a reference, and can convey a lot more information. I also didn’t have any issues with structure; for a beginning-intermediate book, it just felt right to me. And the depth was much more useful. I especially liked the Graphics and Charts sections that didn’t just say, “Here’s how you get and place images them”, but actually could afford the time and space to explain more about the features and functions like opacity, drop shadows, layering, compositing and so on.

The only bummer is that while the other is beautiful color on better satin paper, this book is in black and white and on a lower grade stock. Still, that being said, it was easily a bargain at $21.00.
MyMac rating: 4.5 out of 5

Each of the books had its place.
I would consider the first book (Creating Keynote Presentations with iWork) for a neophyte that knew a bit about computers, but wanted to learn presentations, and would follow up with feedback from friends, and explore on their own. Or for the reader who suffers from attention deficit disorder, and is unlikely to get through a book unless it’s very quickly. That’s not meant as insulting either, there really are a lot of impatient people that this would be great for. It more plants the seed of how to do things, and gets them started over that hump to create a reasonable presentation. And then it is up to the reader to tend the garden and learn more if they want to create really good ones.

The second book (Keynote 2 for Mac OS X) is a much broader book and better value, even at the higher price. It helps self-starting semi-beginners get more into the meat of the presentation tool. And while it glosses over some areas of making good presentations too, there’s less expectations in this type of book for that. It covers many more things that users may want to learn over time; but does require more discipline to get through.

When it comes to Presentations, I’m sort of conflicted; I enjoy smaller and less formal presentations and teaching on subjects that I know well. I enjoy less the stress of much larger and more formal presentations, on less versed or rehearsed topics. A good presentation tool is a safety net, and an aid for creating a clearer message in either case: and either of these books would help someone learn how to create that presentation.

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