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How to Create an Interactive Presentation in Apple Keynote

In the dim, distant past of the '90s, it was possible to use multimedia tools like Macromedia Director (powerful, heavy) and Apple Media Tool (a lovely, little-known beast) to create interactive educational, artistic or entertaining works. Often they were distributed on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM, and while those distribution formats have been superseded by fast networks and USB sticks, the web isn’t a drop-in replacement for old-fashioned interactive multimedia.

Director is, amazingly, still available. Though it’s from Adobe, it’s not part of Creative Cloud, and hasn’t been updated in a few years. Unless you have a large existing project in Director, it’s probably best to start fresh. We’ll be using Keynote, Apple’s equivalent of PowerPoint. It’s capable, modern, iPad-friendly and fast. It’s suitable for a variety of projects, from a quick quiz to a choose-your-own-adventure-style story.

Set it up correctly first 

Start Keynote, then choose File > New to make a new document. Choosing a good theme is important, and picking one that’s closest to what you want to make will save a lot of redefining styles, backgrounds and image formatting.

I’m going with Photo Essay.

I’m going with Photo Essay.

Some tips:

  • Editorial or Classic if you want cream paper in the style of a storybook
  • Photo Essay if you want dark backgrounds with modern styling and huge photos—The one I’m using in this demonstration
  • Modern Portfolio if you want white backgrounds with Helvetica and huge photos

Don’t hit “Choose” just yet though. Just as important as the theme is choosing the correct aspect ratio. While I’m a big fan of widescreen, if you’re making something that targets a 4:3 iPad, then that’s what you should be doing here too. If you’re aiming for a desktop audience, perhaps choose Wide, and for an iPad audience, choose Standard.

Planning your content

The basic unit of Keynote is the Slide, and it’s going to best to think of your interactive piece as made up of a series of slide-sized chunk. If you’re going to tell an interactive story, then you should write it a slide at a time, in words, pictures, videos, or short animations.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Are you sitting comfortably?

For this quick demo, we’ll create an introduction slide, a slide with a hard-to-find button that leads onto another slide, and a choice with two possible endings. This is the same basic structure you could use for a product prototype with pushable buttons, or for a kiosk-based virtual product brochure. At the end of the day, it’s all about linking pages to one another, and making each page attractive with good use of design and animation.

If you were building a real project, you’d get out a big sheet of paper and draw plenty of boxes with arrows leading to one another. Right now, we’re only doing something simple, so we can wing it. 

Create your content

The first page will be a title slide already, so change the text already on this page to read “Welcome to this interactive storybook”.

That red dot will be an invisible button soon.

That red dot will be an invisible button soon.

Press the Add Slide button and create a second slide from a template with a photo on the right. Change the text to invite your readers to tap on a specific “secret” point in the photo to continue, being as sneaky as you like. Create a small circle and place it on the point you want people to find. Don’t worry about its color, as we’ll be making it invisible shortly.

Two images and a text box to tell a story.

Two images and a text box to tell a story.

Press the Add Slide button and create a third slide from the 3-photo template. Delete one of the photos, and replace it with a text box that invites readers to tap on one of the images below.

A happy, feel-good moment.

A happy, feel-good moment.

Press the Add Slide button, adding a slide (any kind you like) and write a happy ending.

An unhappy outcome.

An unhappy outcome.

Press the Add Slide button, adding a final slide and write an unhappy ending. 

Short animations 

It’s easy to control how the pieces of a slide appear, and you can select:

  • a Build In to make an object appear when entering a slide
  • a Build Out to make an object disappear when leaving the slide
  • an Action to make an object move, fade, transform, bounce, jiggle or otherwise grab attention while the slide is visible
A nice way to make an object appear.

A nice way to make an object appear.

First, select an item on one of your slides, like the image on slide 2. Next, select the Animate button at the top right, to show the Animation Inspector.

Under Build In, choose Add an Effect, then Scale or Scale Big. Click Build Order at the bottom of the pane, then look for the pop-up window that appears. Select the image, then choose After Transition from the Start menu at the bottom.

Select the top text item, then choose Add an Effect, then Typewriter. At the bottom of the Build Order window, choose With Build 1, to make it happen at the same time as the image scaling.

Build Order is critical to a smooth result, and you want With or After.

Build Order is critical to a smooth result, and you want With or After. 

Select the following text, then choose Add an Effect, then Typewriter again. At the bottom of the Build Order window, choose After Build 1, to make it appear after the heading does. To make sure everything happens when you arrive at a new page, always use With or After the previous build, not “On Click”.

Go ahead and add some simple animations to the other elements on the other pages, making sure to use “After” or “With” in the Build Options. Play with delays if you wish, and drag items to rearrange if needed.

Select all the slides on the left, then you’ll see Transitions.

Select all the slides on the left, then you’ll see Transitions.

It’s also easy to add transitions to each slide, but a transition will play as you leave a slide. If you like, select all the slides, then choose Dissolve, and set a short duration under 0.5 seconds. Leave the Start Transition setting as “On Click”. 

Add the buttons

Return to slide 2, then select your “secret” circle. Under Format, find Opacity, and drag it all the way to 0. Press Command-K to bring up the interactive options (also Format > Edit Link) and choose Slide, then slide 3 from the drop-down menu. Click away to finalize it (you don’t need to press Go to Slide).

 

Select an object, then Command-K to add a link to it.

Select an object, then Command-K to add a link to it.

Any item can be made interactive in the same way. Go to slide 3 and select one of your images, then Command-K on each one, targeting a specific numbered slide. If slides are rearranged, you don’t need to worry—the correct slides will be targeted even after reorganization.

Repeat this process, linking some instructional text on slide 1 to slide 2, and a “Return to Start” line of text from your endings to slide 1.

Links only is a great way to limit how a presentation can be explored.

Links only is a great way to limit how a presentation can be explored.

Deactivate regular playback

In the Document inspector, change Presentation Type to Links Only. This means that only the links can be used to navigate, and therefore every page must have a link, or it’s a dead end.

 

And yes, you can view it on your iPad as well.

And yes, you can view it on your iPad as well.

 

Present it!

Go ahead — press Play and test out your book. Everything should work as you’d expect, and you can press Escape to exit. Save your Presentation to iCloud, then open it on your iPad, and everything will work just the same there.

Conclusion

Turns out that multimedia isn’t dead, it just changed form. While most things we used to enjoy on discs have moved to websites, sometimes that offline, personal experience is just what you want, and it’s easier to create than it’s ever been. Enjoy! 

Learn more about Keynote in this video course on macProVideo.

Iain Anderson

Iain Anderson | Articles by this author

Iain Anderson is an editor, animator, designer, developer and Apple Certified Trainer based in Brisbane, Australia. He has taught privately and in tertiary institutions, and has freelanced for Microsoft and the Queensland Government. Comfortable with anything from Quartz Composer to Second Life and Final Cut Pro to Adobe Creative Suite, he has laid out books, booklets, brochures and business cards; retouched magazine covers and product packaging, shot and edited short films and animated for HD broadcast TV, film festivals and for the web.

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