A little flakiness in KeyNote ’09?

I’ve owned the past few versions of KeyNote (since it was first bundled in iWork) but I really have not used it seriously in that time. I had played with it occasionally but, mostly because our campus is resolutely Windows fixated and everybody expects to be able to view PowerPoint presentation files but cannot view KeyNote files, I had not attempted a presentation in KeyNote.

This time, because I was preparing an actual ‘keynote’ for an EdNA workshop (likely attendance of about 50, so no big deal) I thought I’d give KeyNote a whirl. It helped that I fancied myself controlling the presentation remotely from my iPhone. After all, what’s the point of having gadgets if you cannot show them off occasionally.

I’ve been using various versions of PowerPoint since about 1987 so I’m used to working its way. KeyNote is different enough that I struggled for a bit to get my head around it. Then I found that it has some nice features that do certain things better than PowerPoint – mostly that’s looking better. However, I found it more difficult to adjust to the outlining style and it is missing some of the nicer points of the most recent version of PowerPoint (2008) which has some very effective diagramming tools and easy to use themes that swap colours and fonts throughout. I have not yet found the equivalents for those in KeyNote – if they exist.

Wanting to play safe, before I got too far into developing my presentation I decided to export a copy to PowerPoint in case I needed to jump back to familiar territory. Oops! Export failed with an unknown error. I pressed on and completed the presentation file but this afternoon decided to have another run at producing a ‘safety’ copy in PowerPoint. Export failed again.

Thinking that the problem might be with one or more of 3 short video clips I had embedded, I made a copy of the KeyNote file for experimentation and removed the 3 video clips. Export failed. I decided upon a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. I split the file into half and tried exporting each. The first half failed but the second half exported without problems. I split the first half and repeated the process until I had isolated the problem to a relatively simple slide with just 2 text boxes. I then tried versions with just one of the text boxes and found that one box appeared responsible for the problem. I reworked that piece of text, confirmed that it worked in my test file, and then replicated the fix in my presentation file. That version exported without error. If I need to use it I’ll have to hook in the video clips that were exported separately but I won’t do that unless I need to.

I really cannot imagine what it was about that simple text box that was causing a problem. I am pleased to have managed to repair it and complete the export using a simple problem solving technique. I’ll probably try KeyNote again if this presentation works well but I hope I don’t get a repeat of this export bug.