Keynote Essentials: A Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Presentations

Keynote MacOS

Keynote, a powerful presentation software available exclusively on Mac OS, is the go-to tool for users seeking to craft impressive and polished presentations. With its intuitive interface and a wide array of built-in templates, Keynote offers a seamless experience, allowing users to effortlessly create visually stunning slideshows.

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, Keynote caters to your needs, enabling you to design anything from simple presentations to truly awe-inspiring showcases.

In this article, we will delve into the fundamentals of Keynote and explore how to initiate the process of creating an introductory presentation. While Keynote offers numerous advanced features to elevate your presentations, we will focus on those in subsequent articles.

Getting Started with Keynote

Keynote is a part of the iWork suite and is completely free. It comes pre-built for Mac, iPad, and iPhone devices. This means that users can access and utilize Keynote without any additional cost.

Step 1: Open Keynote

There are several convenient ways to open Keynote on a Mac. Here are two common options:

Option #1: Using Launchpad

  • Navigate to Launchpad on your Mac.
  • In the Launchpad interface, you have the option to search for Keynote.
  • You can either utilize the search bar or manually locate it.
Mac Keynote

Option #2: Using Finder

  • Open a new Finder window by clicking on the Finder icon in the Dock or using the Command + N shortcut.
  • In the sidebar of the Finder window, locate and click the ‘Applications’ folder.
  • Scroll through the Applications folder until you find the Keynote icon.
  • Double-click on the Keynote icon to open the application.

Step 2: Choose a theme

The easiest way to get started is to choose from professionally designed themes. These themes are equipped with pre-configured layouts and styles. By choosing a theme that closely aligns with the tone and purpose of your presentation, you can ensure a cohesive and visually appealing design.

Choose a theme in Keynote
Choose a theme for Keynote
  • To change themes in Keynote, go to File > Change Theme.
Change Theme in Keynote

Explore different categories and select a new theme to instantly update your presentation’s layout and visual elements. Feel free to try multiple themes until you find the one that suits your content and design preferences.

Step 3: Begin your presentation and adjust slide layout

Once you open Keynote, you’ll be presented with the first slide of your presentation. To get started, click on the text boxes and begin writing your presentation topic and sub-topic.

To customize the slide layout according to your needs, follow these steps:

  • On the right sidebar, locate and click on ‘Format’.
  • In the ‘Format’ section, you can edit different elements of the slide, including its layout, appearance, and background color.
  • To change the slide layout, click on the dropdown arrow next to ‘Slide Layout’.
  • Choose from a range of layout options such as title, title and photo, title and photo alt, title and bullets, bullets, section, and photo.
Change Slide Layout

By utilizing the ‘Format’ section and selecting the appropriate slide layout, you can tailor your presentation’s design and structure to effectively convey your message.


Let’s walk through an example where we change the slide layout to ‘Title, Bullets & Photo’ in the presentation. By default, there is an image present, but you can replace it by clicking on the image icon if desired.

Next, in the appearance section, you can select which fields to display, such as title, body, and slide number.

Moving on to the background options, you can choose between ‘Standard’ and ‘Dynamic’ to change the slide background.

A dynamic background in Keynote incorporates a moving effect on the slide using wavelengths. You can select from the available dynamic options.

Additionally, you have the flexibility to modify the dynamic movement by adjusting parameters such as ‘Speed’ and ‘Amplitude’. The ‘Amplitude’ setting corresponds to the wavelength of the moving effect.

Add Dynamic Background in KeyNote

Under ‘Standard’, there are additional choices like no fill, color fill, gradient fill, advanced gradient fill, image fill, and advanced image fill.

For this example, we will select a gradient fill with an orange color. If you want to change the color of the gradient, simply click on the ‘color box’ and adjust it to your preference.

Step 4: Add a new slide

With your introductory slide complete and satisfactory, it’s time to add the next slide to your presentation.

To do this:

  • Locate the toolbar and click on the ‘Plus’ icon.
  • This action will open the ‘Add a Slide’ dialog.
  • From the dialog, choose a slide layout that suits your needs.

For this example, we will choose a slide layout specifically designed for a ‘Quote’.

Keep in mind that you can select any slide layout and further customize it by adding or removing elements.

Step 5: Change the background image

While the slide already comes with a visually appealing background, if you want to align it more closely with your quote, you have the option to change the image.

To change the image, you can follow these steps:

  • Click on the image icon located at the bottom left of the image.


  • Go to the ‘Image’ tab in the slide sidebar.
  • You will see the file name associated with the current image.
  • Below the file name, click on ‘Replace’.
  • This action will open a file selection dialog.
  • Select another image from your files to replace the current one.

Step 6: Customize font text and style

Once you have changed the background image, you may want to make adjustments to the text’s font, style, and position.

To modify the text settings:

  • Navigate to the ‘Format’ > ‘Text’ tab in the slide sidebar.
  • In this section, you can customize the font style, font size, and font color.
  • For instance, in this example, we changed the font color from blue to orange.

To edit the font of specific text:

  • Click on the text box containing the desired text.
  • Observe the current font displayed in the dropdown menu.
  • Click on the arrow to expand the list and explore different font options.

Feel free to switch between various fonts to find the one that best suits your needs.

Step 7: Add animated effects

Now that you have become familiar with adding slides and customizing text and images, let’s take your presentations to the next level by incorporating animation effects.

When you access the ‘Animate’ option in the sidebar, you will notice three sub-options:

  • Build-in: This refers to moving an object onto a slide, creating an entrance effect.
  • Action: An action button is an interactive object on a slide that performs a specific action when clicked or pointed to, such as navigating to another slide or playing a sound.
  • Build out: This involves moving an object off a slide, creating an exit effect.

Keynote offers a wide range of animation effects categorized into groups like appear & move, flip, spin & scale, and special effects. Each effect provides unique customization options for adjusting the movement of text and other elements, enabling you to enhance the visual appeal and engagement of your presentation.


In this example, we will add a slide with a title and text. Within the text area, we will create a bullet list and animate the bullet points to appear one by one, creating a dynamic and engaging presentation.

Here’s how we can achieve this:

  • Go to the Animate > Build In tab since we want to add an entrance effect.
  • Click on ‘Add an Effect’ to choose an animation effect.
  • Let’s select ‘Appear’ for this example.

Now, you will have several options to customize the effect:

  • The ‘Change’ button allows you to switch to a different animation effect if desired.
  • The ‘Preview’ button enables you to preview the animation to ensure it meets your expectations.
  • The ‘Text Animation’ dropdown allows you to choose between animating by object, word, or character.
  • The Delivery’ option enables you to control how the text is presented on the screen, such as all at once, by the bullet, by bullet group, or by the highlighted bullet.

Since our goal is to create a bullet list with animated bullet points appearing one by one, we will select ‘By Object’ in the ‘Text Animation’ dropdown and ‘By Bullet’ in the ‘Delivery’ dropdown.

Step 8: Add transitions between slides

To keep your audience hooked and prevent them from getting bored during your keynote presentation, try adding some cool effects and transitions. You know, those fancy moves where one slide smoothly transitions into the next?

Well, guess what? Keynote has got your back with a bunch of those cool tricks!

Keynote offers a wide range of transitions and build effects that can be applied to individual slides. By leveraging these features, you can add a touch of elegance and professionalism to your presentation while ensuring a smooth flow. These dynamic effects not only make the slides visually appealing but also create a sense of movement and progression, making it easier for your audience to follow along.

With these funky effects, even the most boring topics with lots of numbers can suddenly become way more exciting!

Here is how to easily customize the dynamic effects and transitions in your presentation to make it more engaging and captivating for your audience.

  • Select the slide you want to work on.
  • Look for the ‘Animate’ option in the slide sidebar.
  • Click on ‘Add an Effect’ to open up the effect selection menu.
  • Choose any effect you like, let’s say ‘Blinds’.
Add Transition to Slides
Add Transition to Slides

You will find several options to customize how the animation behaves.

  • If you want to change the transition effect, click on the ‘Change’ button. This will display a list of different effects to choose from. Select the one you prefer and the transition effect will be updated accordingly.
  • For the ‘Blinds’ effect, you can adjust the duration and direction.
    • The duration determines how long the effect will stay on the screen.
    • The direction options include right to left, left to right, top to bottom, or bottom to top.
  • You can set the start transition to either ‘On click’ or ‘Automatically’. If you choose the automatic option, you can also add a delay before the transition occurs.
  • To get a preview of how the transition will look, click on the “Preview” button. This will show you the effect in action.

Step 9: Review and Refine

Once you have unleashed your skills and let your thoughts and creativity run wild, it’s time to fine-tune your presentation. After adding all the slides, content, and animations, it’s crucial to review and refine your work.

One key aspect is maintaining visual consistency throughout your presentation. Make sure to use the same fonts, colors, and styles across all slides. This creates a cohesive and polished look that enhances the overall professionalism and aesthetic appeal of your presentation.

Take a thorough look at your presentation to ensure that all animation effects and elements appear as intended. Pay attention to any formatting, spacing, or alignment issues that may arise, and take the time to address them. By fine-tuning these details, you can ensure a visually pleasing and seamless experience for your audience.

Remember, a well-crafted and visually consistent presentation not only demonstrates your professionalism but also helps to captivate and engage your audience effectively.

Step 10: Save and Export

Once you’re happy with your masterpiece, it’s time to save it in Keynote’s native format (.key) to keep the ability to make future edits. You can also export your presentation in various formats to suit different needs, like PDF, PowerPoint, Movie, Animated GIF, Images, or even HTML.

Let’s say you want to export it as an Animated GIF. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Go to the ‘File’ menu.
  • Click on ‘Export To’ and then select ‘Animated GIF’.
  • By default, it will export only the first slide. But if you want to export specific slides, you can specify the range. For example, if your completed presentation consists of slides 1 to 5, enter that range.
  • Once you’re ready, click on ‘Save’.
  • Choose a suitable name for your file, something that captures the essence of your presentation.
  • Lastly, select the destination where you want to save your exported Animated GIF file.


Keynote is the ultimate tool for effortlessly creating modern and professional presentations. With its user-friendly interface and an extensive collection of pre-designed templates, you can dive right into crafting your slideshow without any hassle.

In this article, we have taken you on a step-by-step journey of how to get started with Keynote. We covered everything from launching the app, selecting a theme, and beginning your presentation, to adding slides, adjusting content, and customizing font sizes and styles. We even explored the exciting world of animation effects, allowing you to bring your content to life, and smoothly transition between slides.

Think of Keynote as your personal playground, where you have the freedom to experiment with the wide range of options available. Unleash your creativity to the fullest extent and take your presentation to the next professional level.

With Keynote, the possibilities are endless, and you have all the tools you need to make a lasting impression on your audience. So go ahead, explore, and create a presentation that truly stands out.

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