Fell From the Tree

Keynote’s Enhanced Presenter Display Options

Apple’s iWork suite received an update this week, adding back a few of the missing features. Particularly interesting was this gem in Keynote’s release notes:

Enhanced presenter display options

As Michael Lopp points out, all Apple did here was add a button to swap displays — something that was already available as a keyboard shortcut. It did however, do one other thing I’ve noticed so far: it now saves the user’s preference. Before this week’s update, whether intentionally or not, every time I began a presentation, I had to fiddle with the presenter display again.

The presenter display in Keynote 6 is atrocious, almost unusable in practice. The 6.1 update does nothing to fix this. It provides options to turn certain elements on or off, but not much else. I tend to use the presenter display in much the same way Michael does:

For me, I often place most of my context in my presentation notes. These are notes the audience never sees, but I use to keep track of the narrative – especially when a talk is new. This means I usually make the presentation notes ginormous because that’s what I need to see.

But Keynote 6 provides no way to resize or rearrange the elements on screen. In a response, Marco Arment notes that the defaults for the presenter display have always been designed for the average use case. But prior to Keynote 6, these options were fairly customizable. I typically kept the presentation notes at the bottom, but extremely large. While it’s helpful to see what slide I’m on, I’ve always kept these small. I need to glance at them, not read them. Previous versions allowed me to do this.

Most of what I’m saying never appears on screen — and isn’t that the point? Keynote has long been the presentation tool of choice for those of us who choose to abandon the conventional bullet points and create presentations that delight the audience.1 With the lack of customization for the presenter display, it’s not actively fighting against this use case.

Here’s to hoping a future update gets some real enhancements to the presenter display. Or at the very least, the return of the options we once had.


  1. Famously, Keynote was initially designed to allow Steve Jobs to deliver his Keynotes