I have experience with both keynote and beamer (and as a matter of fact, powerpoint as well). I think they both have a very different set of features, which depending on how you look at them, can either pose an advantage or disadvantage.

For example, keynote is a WYSIWYG editor, so that it is highly customizable in a rather easy way. On the other hand, beamer is latex based, which means that it is relatively easy to write (or even "code") elegant presentations in it, but to get to a high degree of customizability you need to be an expert in latex.

So, really, I am wondering about a few things.

  1. First, is there any way to enjoy the best of both worlds? Meaning, relatively easy graphical editing which is highly customizable in a flexible latex environment.

  2. How hard is it to create my own style file for beamer? I have some ideas about spacing, colors, fonts (though using fonts in latex has been hell for me, but I won't get to that...) that I want to set up, but I am not sure where to start. I wish there was some tutorial that does not describe how to use beamer, but instead describes how to write a style file for beamer.

  3. Still, even if I choose beamer, I will have easy time with any structured text - but what about things such as diagrams? Or simple things such as drawing arrows between various sections of text? All of these things become complicated because of the positioning in latex which is done almost automatically.

I wish I had some idea how to resolve this "conflict" - should I opt for beamer or for keynote? As an avid programmer, I tend to like beamer more, but WYSIWYG capabilities are sometimes very very useful.

Any opinions will be gladly accepted!

  • 2
    If you need to insert math into your Keynote presentation, my good friend Alan Munn once suggested me to use LaTeXiT. It uses LaTeX under the hood, so you can type complex math formulas and drag and drop them in vector format (e.g. PDF) directly to Keynote. – Paulo Cereda Jul 28 '11 at 21:34
  • I consider Keynote too ostentatious for any of my presentations. Of course, Keynote plus LaTeXiT is an option—you can drop this here and slide that there—but after some time, I find Beamer in fact more effective and easier to work with. I can use the output on almost any possible computer and do not have to care about pointless and distracting effects, which is exactly what I generally dislike on other persons' presentations. The content is scalable and you do not have to worry about fancy, but low resolution backgrounds. Finally, making a handout version is very easy. – Harold Cavendish Jul 28 '11 at 21:38
  • Regarding the second question, the best is to find an existing style and learn by trying to modify it. At least that is how I have made mine. – Harold Cavendish Jul 28 '11 at 21:42

I also used beamer and Keynote, but never tried to combine them. But some times ago I found PDF to Keynote. So one could produce a PDF with beamer and present it with Keynote, e. g. to add Notes easily and access the presentation tool like countdown and multiple monitor support.

I’d say that the graphical options of beamer in combination with TikZ/PGF/pgfplotsare very powerful for creating diagrams/charts, math plots and even other graphics. Furthermore there’s no easy way to typeset equations with Keynote.

Q1 I never created an own style but I think beamer is very well documented so it should be possible to create one. You could start with adapting an existing style.

Q3 TikZ allows overlay that are calculation the positions of text automatically to set arrows and other stuff. At the moment I haven’t any time to create an example but have a look at TeXample (tag: beamer).

For me it depends on the content of my presentation, if I need just some simple keywords on a slide (or if I need to work together with nontex people) I prefer the more beautiful Keynote presentations, but if I need equations, code listings, complex graphics etc I’ll use beamer instead—and maybe try the PDF to Keynote tool the next time …


I have had the same feeling of being torn between the two. Powerpoint is not a consideration at all for presentations that do not have to be shared. Its just too kludgy.

Keynote: plusses - you can quickly (this is vital if you are in academic profession and can't spend hours just refining the beamer output) create pretty content rich slides. In my opinion, this is faster than powerpoint. The drag and drop feature is a killer if you are copying illustrations or figures from elsewhere. Time savings for medium to long presentations (such as for lectures) are immense.

minusses - you can't do beamer style overlays. Though builds are quite useful in explaining things to an audience, the precise control over the equations (or rather, parts of equations) is lacking. I use LaTeXIt for typing up my equations. Only an idiot would want to use anything other than LaTeX for mathematical stuff.

Beamer: plusses - the sheer power of precise control over everything. A huge advantage is the quality of the output. The fonts are just right, sharp and clear. The result is a joy to behold.

minusses - the time overhead is just too large. If I am preparing a lecture or a quick presentation for 8 AM the next morning, I would have to be insane to mess with beamer. I wanted to do a pure beamer setup for my lecture notes (especially since I am writing a book), but it just takes too much time. Compared to an ordinary LaTeX document (a journal or article), the overhead of the markup (compared to the content) is crazily high. Part of it is due to the simple fact that slides are a different beast to other documents - you have a lot of graphics, several equations, and comparatively little text.

I have settled on using Keynote + LaTeXIt for my needs. No other combination provides the combination of power and speed I need.

Hope this helps someone (though it is a very late response).

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