Keynote Finds Missing Link

10/4/2012 3:10:43 PM

iOS developers rejoice: hyperlinks created in Keynote for the Mac now work on iOS

I’ve mentioned before how Keynote’s usefulness extends far beyond the limited boundaries of presen­tation software. In fact, over the last few months, I’ve pressed it into action - admittedly in an increasingly Heath Robinson fashion - to create illustrations, draw organizational charts and make title sequences for iMovie, but it has never let me down.

Description: Keynote now supports hyperlinking on both the iPhone (above) and the iPad (opposite)
Keynote now supports hyperlinking on both the iPhone (above) and the iPad (opposite)

And its versatility doesn’t end there. I also wrote a while back about how well Keynote works as a wire framing and pro ­typing tool for designers and developers. That’s something that has caught the attention of influential thinkers in the web design field recently.

There’s good reason for Keynote’s popularity among web developers. Most importantly, it’s fantastically quick to build mockups in iWork. Keynote is hugely versatile. You can hap­pily drag all sorts of potential elements - from Photoshop .PSDs through movie files to text documents - onto a slide and Keynote won’t blink. And when you get them on the slide, it’s much easier to organize them compared with other tools. Keynote’s Auto-Align tool puts the rudimentary alignment tools in Photoshop and Illustrator to shame. As you drag items across the screen in Keynote, the alignment guides show clearly when you’ve lined them up correctly or when multiple elements are arranged at equal distances from each other.

And even if you leave out its far superior text controls, what really sets Keynote apart is that unlike more established wire framing programs, you can add interactive elements to your mockup. That’s the difference between a static previews and a prototype of a web­site or an iPhone app that will actually respond to user interaction.

The key to this inter­activity is Keynote’s ability to turn any text, shape or image into a clickable hyperlink - simply go to the Hyperlink Inspector and click the 'Enable as Hyperlink’ option. You can then choose from the vari­ous linking options in the drop-down menu to link that element to any other slide in the presentation, a URL or to trigger an email. You can instantly recognize a hyperlinked element while you’re in Edit mode, as it has a small blue arrow icon at the bottom-right corner. This icon disappears in Playback mode.

Description: Tap an object or selection of text to add a link
Tap an object or selection of text to add a link

You can add an extra layer of polish to such interactivity using Keynote’s transition effects. For example, if you want to create a preview of what might happen on an iOS device when the user clicks a button or makes a pinch gesture, you create before and after slides to show what might happen before and after the interaction occur. Then you use Keynote’s wonderful Magic Move transition to build a smooth transition between both states.

There’s an obvious problem with mixing hyperlinks and transitions, though. What’s the point of creating lots of button hyperlinks to trigger a move to another slide when you come to play back the presentation and clicking anywhere on the slide will implement it?

To guard against this, you only need to save the Keynote as a special type of document. In the Document Inspector, under the Presentation section, choose ‘Hyperlinks only’. Presentations saved in this way don’t recognize any clicks outside the hyperlinks and the presentation will only advance when the hyperlinked button is clicked. It effectively turns your presentation into a simple standalone app that you can let users navigate themselves. Transitions that you’ve set up to start on a mouse click will still work, but as not all clicks are recognized, they’ll only be triggered when you click the hyperlinked element.

Still, there was always one major drawback with creating mockups or prototypes that you planned to demonstrate on iOS devices. And that was that Keynote for iOS neither let you create hyperlinks in presentations nor understood those created on the Mac. That meant that if you wanted to demonstrate a website or app on your iPhone, you couldn’t just transfer the presentation you’d crafted on your Mac. Instead developers would have to go the extra mile and build the presentation on the Mac and then export it to iOS as a PDF, with clickable hyperlinks. You’d then need to run it through an app such as GoodReader on the iOS device to produce the interactive effect. However, a recent update to Keynote means that this circuitous route is no longer required. You can now take an interactive presentation that you’ve cre­ated in Keynote for the Mac, transfer it to Keynote on the iPhone, and the hyper­links work perfectly. 'Hyperlinks only’ documents complete with transitions transfer intact, too.

Description: The alignment tools in Keynote are well ahead of the alternatives
The alignment tools in Keynote are well ahead of the alternatives

Nevertheless, I’ve often thought that the best way to create an iPad or iOS prototype is to do it in the app itself. And the good news is that Keynote is finally fully capable, and you can now create what Apple calls a ‘viewer-guided’ pres­entation. First, to create a hyperlinked button on the iPad or iPhone, you select the Spanner icon in the toolbar and choose Interactive Hyperlinks from the advanced sub-menu. The resulting dialog gives the same options available on the Mac. Then choose 'Presentation type’ from the same advanced sub-menu and tap ‘Hyperlinks only’.

Bringing Mac and iOS versions of Keynote up to feature parity is great news for all Keynote users, not just iOS ones. Now you can create a standalone prototype on either platform and show it on the other.

Moreover, the opportunities for interaction are immense. You could, for example, create a mockup to be com­pletely controlled by the user and at its conclusion use a hyperlink to open an email message to send comments or trigger a web-based order form. The pos­sibilities, as they say, are only limited by your imagination.


If you’re serious about prototyping iOS app interfaces, you’ll probably find that, in the long term at least, the best way to develop them is to store common elements - iPhone or iPad template for iOS app prototypes, or con­trols and buttons for website mockups, for example - on master slides.

There are some great templates around for wire framing, but it’s hyperlinking that sets Keynote apart from the rest, text handling is better, too

Doing this is a great time-saver. Rather than having to add elements anew each time you create a new slide, the elements will automatically appear on the master. Equally, if you build up a library of common elements, the best way to store them permanently is to store them as a Keynote theme so you can access them quickly when you open a new document.

While it’s fairly easy to create your own buttons and user interface ele­ments (if you create them in Photoshop, you can simply drag them over), its worth investigating some of the excellent Keynote wire framing templates. One of the best kits that include templates for mocking up an iPhone inter­face is the free Sketchkit (, while the excellent Keynotopia ( and Keynote Kung-Fu ( both offer a variety of high-quality commercial Keynote-based wireframe templates.

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