Keynote for Print

Here’s how much I like Apple’s Keynote presentation software. I just used it the way I might have used QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign: to create a document intended not for the screen or projection, but for printing, and being held in one’s hand.

The document is my final, outgoing treasurer’s report as I finish up my two-year term as a board member for AIGA New York. (My work isn’t quite finished yet, though, as I’m moving on to the national board.) When I started to create the report, I originally tried to use InDesign and Illustrator, but the prospect of using those lumbering programs seemed slow and tedious compared to Keynote, where all of the charting and graphing tools are built right into the application and are lightning fast.


There are no style sheets in Keynote, of course, which makes it an impractical tool for complicated documents. Also, in its final form, the report is intended for output on nothing higher in resolution than the laser printer in my office, as Keynote is simply not a serious tool for preparing print-ready documents.

AIGA New York Treasurer’s Report

Still, it suited my needs perfectly: fast, lightweight and no-nonsense. Keynote’s completely logical and intuitive approach to design is completely engaging and unexpectedly powerful, given how bare bones it is. Which, compared to the complexity of Adobe’s products, made the process of designing this document fun. That counts for a lot.

  1. Seriously, Khoi, you never cease to amaze. I hope that the end result of those screenshots become available to the masses in some form or another; I’d love to see those pages in full detail.

  2. Very nice indeed. Haven’t used Keynote much, but after seeing this; I sure am going to.

    Does a document designed for print in Keynote also do well in a presentation?

  3. *lumbering* would be the key word, making posters for conferences with Illustrator or Powerpoint edges one towards almost toward not submitting a poster especially since idea to execution gets severely compromised, with Keynote it has been a breeze, adhoc resizing to DIN size makes it perfect, and working at that size does not slow it down either

  4. Bravo, Khoi!

    First rule: use the best tool for the job. Pages and Keynote are fast, simple, intuitive, and will do 80% of what any of the bloated BaconWare Adobe applications will do. More importantly, as you pointed out, using Apple’s apps is FUN.

    Great post.

  5. Also: I second Omar McFarlane’s request for full-resolution images of the 4 pages shown above. PDFs?

  6. I, too wish to know, ‘Why Keynote, and not Pages?’

    For those interested, Apple offered free poster templates for their Student Scientific Computing competition in 2006(?) for both Keynote and Powerpoint. I have used them and they are clean, elegant, and professional. Enjoy.

    Cambridge maintains these templates for download here:

  7. This is something I should try someday.

    Sometimes I’ve been required to use InDesign to assemble this kind of stuff and, for me, it is as pleasant as swallowing a box of tacks. Give me ‘simple and fun’ over ‘feature-laden and hellishly complicated’ any day, please.

  8. I had to use Powerpoint on a colleague’s computer the other day and it is so clunky and difficult to use. The slide transitions are pretty defunct!

    Great job Khoi, definitely designed by you with is subtle subtraction flavours, that’s for sure.

  9. THANK YOU. Keynote alone is almost enough to make me wish these Apple-buying-Adobe rumors were true. There’s a sad irony in how terribly bloated, buggy, inconsistent, and unintuitive the Creative Suite apps have become.

  10. For those asking, ‘Why Keynote and not pages,’ I have an answer. You can use either. The features and functions and the simple, light-weight nature of Pages are identical to Keynote. I think it may just be a matter of which program you ‘live in’ more. As someone who presents a lot but hates to use bullet points, I spend lots of time in Keynote so I’ve discovered the side benefits that Khoi explains here. I’m sure if I lived in Pages the same amount of time, I would have also discovered the kerning, tracking, ‘alpha tool’ features it shares w/ Keynote. (Another cool hack – Using Skitch w/ Keynote is a great Photoshop-free way to quickly pull together design concepts.)

  11. I suspect that the ‘why Keynote and not Pages’ questions revolve around the fact that Pages does have style sheets, where Keynote does not.

    I also suspect that Khoi is more of a Keynote user than a Pages user, and since this is, after all, only a few pages, chose to use Keynote.

    Khoi? Am I right?

  12. As a web developer I’m starting to question my need for the Creative Suite. I’m wondering if my money wouldn’t be better spent in chunks of $19 to $79 for lightweight applications. Adobe seems to make most of their professional tools with the most basic tools and building blocks. They can be put together in incredible ways but it is often painstaking.

  13. Folks: basically I used Keynote rather than Pages because I haven’t really spent much time with Pages at all, while I’ve logged hundreds of hours with Keynote.

    As I was making headway in the document, it occurred to me that my Keynote skills would probably transfer pretty well into Pages, so maybe next time I’ll try that.

    However, I will say that I didn’t really miss the style sheets feature at all; sometimes the act of setting up style sheets consumes more time than the style sheets themselves save. Not having them available in Keynote forced me to be much simpler and restrictive in the typographic styles I use.

    Finally, I doubt I’ll release this document as it contains sensitive financial information from the New York chapter.

  14. Nice post on using Keynote for your preso. Absolutely agree on Keynote’s quickness, ability drag and drop images or files from Finder, sample colors (like iWork Pages)and super results. I have Adobe Creative Suite loaded on my Mac, but for quick jobs and invoices, I pull up Keynote or Pages. They both accept PSD files when drag and dropped from Finder which is cool.

    Thanks for the great article!

  15. agree 100% khoi_ the slew of apple app solutions from keynote to pages to iweb are a joy to behold and use_ they make what used to be a chore seem so intuitive_ thanks for vaildating my feelings about it


  16. Yeah! It’s good to see grid design applied to iWork!

    By the way, have you been using Numbers to generate the graphs and tables? They look stunning!

  17. Yeah I like the whole iWork package for the exact same reasons you state here. I keep using keynote for numerous projects. It works for print, video, web, mock-ups, interactive… the list goes on. It may be limited, but makes up for it with ease of use, & you can show clients a rough outline of a project without it looking rough at all.

  18. Also, iWeb is also great for print in a pinch. It won’t do the graphing that was presented in this article, but for a simple flier it works well. Print right from iWeb, or, Save as PDF in the print dialogue. The text and graphics print beautifully on a home printer.

    What’s great about Keynote/Pages/iWeb is that they copy and paste beautifully to and from each other. In fact, you can create some print materials in Pages, and make an exact duplicate web page.

    Search ‘iWeb for print’ in google. There are some handy articles.

    I should hope one day Apple makes an iWeb Pro, or a Pages Pro.

  19. My dirty little secret. I’ve used Pages to create documents instead of InDesign and Keynote to quickly create docs, Web sites, and .swf animations. Somehow I’m never really able to do the final project that way though but they are simple yet powerful applications. Keynote is so much better than Powerpoint it’s laughable (the keyboard shortcut cmd-shift-v for placing images should become a standard).

  20. FYI, Pages 3 (iWork 08) contains a ‘Blank Canvas’ template the gets Pages to behave pretty much exactly like Keynote by removing the text column.

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