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In an attempt to further wean myself off the twelve-year-old software I’ve been using to do presentations, I prepared my presentation of a paper for my research group this week with Keynote, OmniGraffle Pro and Equation Service.

From all the complaints I’ve read about Keynote, I expected it to be a buggy, feature-poor mess. Perhaps my expectations were tempered by coming from MORE, but I didn’t have any serious problems, and was pleasantly surprised more than once by Keynote’s elegance and effectiveness.

To not seem a shill for Apple, the following are the problems I experienced: Keynote crashed once when I tried to import a graphic from inside a package (don’t do that). The insertion point would disappear at times when I was editing text. My use of Gill Sans Light in table cells reset itself to Gill Sans Regular every time the program needed to read from storage such as the Clipboard or a file on disk. The program was generally fast enough, though I noted a bit of slowness when editing tables. That’s it. Keynote is of far better quality than I’ve seen from Apple’s recent 1.0 (and even 2.0) releases of Cocoa applications such as iCal and iPhoto.

Exporting from Keynote was another story. The Keynote document (actually a package) for my presentation came to 7.3 MB; gzipped it was 6.2 MB. Exporting the slides from Keynote produced a 13.5 MB PDF. PdfCompress reduced it to 1.4 MB. Apple really needs to do something about this: while PdfCompress is a terrific product, which I’d buy if I regularly posted Quartz-created PDF files to the Internet, some type of PDF image compression needs to be available to Mac OS X programmers.

Once I got the file size down, I opened the PDF with Preview and Acrobat Reader to check its fidelity. The OmniGraffle Pro-produced graphics looked terrific, preserving every attribute I could see. Keynote slides mostly looked fine, but text shadows and image transparency were lost in Preview, and Acrobat Reader additionally showed little white specks everywhere at the origins of graphics. So if you download the PDF file linked above, be warned. Yuck—even my MORE-to-Acrobat-Distiller method came out better than that.

OmniGraffle Pro absolutely rocks; the new features in 3.0/Pro are some of the most innovative I’ve seen in any software in years, and thanks to extremely reasonable pricing and even more reasonable academic pricing, there’s nothing stopping most people from going out and buying a copy today. If you do any drawing of diagrams, or wish you could, and don’t use OmniGraffle, you must check out a demo.

EquationService, if you haven’t seen it, is a handy free application which produces PDF images with PDFLATEX or CONTEXT that can be dragged and dropped into Keynote or almost any other Mac OS X application. The main advantage over using TeXshop or similar is that you can typeset a single equation to get a small PDF image containing only that equation, rather than an entire page. The interface sucks, however, and I sent the author some changes which I hope he incorporates.

Tomorrow is the annual MSP Research Symposium, in its third venue in as many years. No free Viagra pens or trips to a nearby bar this year, as it’ll be at the auditorium of the Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory (that big imposing building across from Krannert, if you’re not familiar with it :-)).

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