Keynote ’09: Default font for Notes section

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
March 30th, 2011 • 1:42 pm

For the first time in my life, I have to design a presentation to be shown to an audience as part of a conference, using an LCD projector.

Given my long and painful experience of having to translate PowerPoint presentations for various clients using the various flavours of Microsoft PowerPoint that I unfortunately have been forced to install and run on my Mac over the years, and given my very happy switch from Microsoft Word to Apple’s Pages as my word processor of choice, I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that I decided to give Apple’s own Keynote ’09 a spin.

Overall, I am very pleased with the experience. Keynote ’09 suffers from none of the atrocious glitches and decidedly un-Mac-like behaviours that plague Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac OS X. In my view, it sticks a bit too close to the PowerPoint model in some aspects, which create some rather unnecessary frustrations. But on the whole, using Keynote ’09 is obviously a much more pleasant experience that using PowerPoint for Mac OS X, and it produces results with a much higher level of polish and overall quality.

There are still a few things that I cannot fathom, though. One has to do with the Notes section, and with the puzzling limitations regarding font choices. All the themes that I have tried use Lucida Grande as the default font for the Notes section.

The font can be changed manually, but:

  1. As far as I can tell, it cannot be changed once and for all. It has to be changed in each and every slide that you create, unless you create a new slide by duplicating an existing slide, in which case the duplicate slide keeps the font you selected for the Notes section in the existing slide.
  2. You cannot edit the Notes section in a master slide (the Notes section, if visible, is greyed out).
  3. Lucida Grande is one of the few built-in Mac OS X fonts that does not have an italics variant. This means that, with the default font for Notes sections in Keynote (which cannot be changed other than manually), you cannot use any italics in your notes!

I know that Lucida Grande does not have an italics variant because it’s a font designed for the Mac OS X UI and the Mac OS X UI does not use italics. But that’s precisely the point: it’s a font designed for the UI, not for regular text. And what is a Notes section in Keynote if not a section intended to contain text?

It makes no sense. The default font choice makes no sense, and the fact that it cannot be changed makes no sense.

I ended up using the “Duplicate” command to duplicate existing slides (with Notes in a different font) just to work around this problem, but inevitably there were cases where duplicating an existing slide was not the most convenient thing to do.

I can understand (barely) Apple making this design mistake in version 1.0 of the product. But Keynote is now a fairly mature product. It needs better font choices!

There are other things that bother me about the Notes section. For example, there is no padding/margin between the text and the edges of the Notes section:

No padding

(I’ve changed the font from Lucida Grande to Myriad Pro here.)

The missing padding is a minor, mostly aesthetic thing, but it bothers me.

I initially thought that it was not possible to display the notes on a secondary screen while projecting the presentation on the main screen/projector, and I thought that I’d be forced to print out my entire presentation just to be able to read my notes.

But I have since discovered that the Notes can be added to the secondary display via an option in Keynote’s preferences, so that’s a relief, although the display options are limited and rigid. (The notes only occupy a small section at the bottom of the secondary screen.)

My presentation is next week. We’ll see how it goes.

[UPDATE: A kind reader writes to mention that the secondary display is fully customizable. You just need to click on "Customize Presenter Display…" in the preferences, and this gives you access to all kinds of options. I don't know why I didn't notice this right away, but I guess I was expecting to see some kind of control to access such options while using the presenter display.]


One Response to “Keynote ’09: Default font for Notes section”

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