The Right Office Apps for the iPad at Work, Round 2

The best presentation software for the iPad

Keynote. Apple's presentation app is simply amazing. You can create beautiful presentations with sophisticated transitions and animation effects, as well as draw on capable text and object formatting tools. It's the only iPad spreadsheet editor that has find-and-replace capabilties. There's also a presenter notes feature, and you can add graphics from the Photos app, as well as create charts, tables, and shapes. And you can display your presentation on an external monitor, while seeing it and (optionally) your slide notes on the iPad. Chances are you won't miss PowerPoint if you're using Keynote.

My only frustration with it (besides the lack of Save As across all iWork apps) is that it displays only in landscape orientation -- a real puzzler, given that Apple's other iWork and native iPad apps are orientation-adjusting.

keynote ipad app
A great, essential add-on for Keynote is Apple's Keynote Remote ($1), which lets you control a Keynote presentation from an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. When I first gave presentations from my iPad, it was hard to walk around without inadvertently yanking the cable from the iPad out of the projector. Keynote Remote lets me set my iPad down on the lectern and then use my iPhone to remote-control it as a I stroll; it also controls Macs running Keynote. Keynote Remote uses either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, as available, to automatically connect the devices once they have been paired, so you can remote-control your presentation pretty much anywhere.

Quickoffice. The Quickoffice suite added the ability to view, edit, and create presentations in late December. Its tools are fairly sophisticated: You can add shapes, photos, and text boxes on any slide, including new slides you create, and you can add and edit text using formatting controls similar to what the Quickoffice word processor offers. You can also change the stacking order of a slide's elements using the Properties control in the Formatting controls (not where I expected to find it, but it works easily). And Quickoffice lets you display your presentation on an external monitor, with a neat additional feature of being able to tap on the screen to display a laser-pointer-style highlight on the external screen. But Quickoffice has no slide-notes capability.

The handy slide bar shows your slideshow elements and lets you rearrange them by dragging their thumbnails, as well as delete any selected slide by tapping the X icon in the lower-right corner of the thumbnail. There is no outline or notes view, though.

DocsToGo. The DocsToGo suite lets you open PowerPoint presentations and add notes to them, such as to make comments or provide feedback to your spreadsheet jockey.

DocsToGo also has some very basic slide editing capabilities. You can edit the text in your slides, though to do so you must switch to outline mode. Furthermore, you can do no formatting. You can also create blank slides and duplicate or delete existing ones. Note that if you're in outline mode, you have to switch to slide preview mode to insert a new slide. You can't delete or duplicate slides when in outline view, nor can you display your slideshow on an external monitor.

The result is that DocsToGo is fine for touchup work on existing presentations or to create a basic text-only presentation that you might use as the starting point for a slideshow you will complete on the desktop -- but that's all.

Soonr Workplace. The slide editing tools are basic: You can edit text and format it (including working with lists, spacing, and alignment); add, delete, and resize graphics; and ... well, that's it. Soonr works fine for presentation touchup, but you won't be able to revamp a presentation with it.

The verdict: The best choice is Keynote. It's easily the strongest of the three iWork apps, able to replace PowerPoint completely for many users. Quickoffice is certainly capable enough for basic slideshow work, unlike DocsToGo.

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Product mentioned in this article

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  • Apple iPad 2 family

    The iPad 2 remains a solid choice, thanks to its lower price and strong app choices.

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