Tag Archives: Keynote

Telling Stories with Keynote and Scribd

My favorite layout tool is Keynote – Apple’s presentation graphics app. It gives me the flexibility to build publications that are part story and part scrapbook – my favorite format. Keynote is not a writing tool and it doesn’t handle the linked text boxes that flow from one page to another like Pages – Apple’s word processing app. It does make it easy to place and arrange photos and other graphical elements and I can create some interesting text effects. In this particular publication, most of the stories come from blog articles I’ve written over the years, so I’m taking that “finished” text and styling it with layout, fonts, graphic effects and photos to get the look I want.

The Scribd online library and publishing platform makes it possible to publish my stories in this unconventional format, letting others read it online or even download a PDF if I choose to make that feature available. The built-in revision system makes it easy to upload a new version when I have more stories to add. One of my family history projects, Behind the Alligator Farm, is posted at Scribd. You can view it via the embed below. Like most family histories, this is a work in progress. As new stories are completed, a new version replaces the previous edition. Currently, you are looking at the second edition.

Update: Both Lulu and Smashwords support distribution to Scribd’s membership service where members can read as many books as they want for a single monthly fee. Author/publishers earn royalties for each time their book is read by a member.

A Letter Archive Option

From the Gazette archives . . .

A while back there was an interesting discussion in the Technology for Genealogy group on Facebook about handling letters – scanning, transcribing and displaying them. It’s a great discussion and full of useful suggestions. Since I’m also working on a collection of letters, it’s been very helpful.

Grandpa’s letters.

My project is a collection of letters my grandfather sent my grandmother before they got married. She came to the tiny Holland, Georgia, community to teach school in 1908. There, she met my grandfather. She was only there for one year before moving on to teach at other rural schools around Georgia. For the next five years, they corresponded – and met occasionally – until he finally convinced her to marry him in 1913. He died in 1921 so these letters and a few photos are our only connection to him.

I’m slowly scanning and transcribing the letters using Keynote, Apple’s presentation graphics app, as my publishing tool. As you can see here, each page of the letter gets its own slide with both the page’s image and its transcription. I chose Keynote because it is a very flexible platform. Each slide can be treated as a separate entity to be quickly reordered or even pulled out of one presentation file and inserted into another. Slides can be duplicated for use in other projects. I can quickly export a presentation as a PDF document, an HTML slideshow or a video. I even have the ability to export each slide as an individual image file.

Currently I’m building each letter as a separate presentation file, but as this archive grows, so do my options for creating things from them. For example, I can pull out an individual slide as a graphic image to include it as a figure in another document. I can combine several letter files – like those he sent discussing a trip to Lookout Mountain – with new and old photos to build a slideshow documentary. Add some narration and that slideshow can become a video documentary.

Keynote is my presentation app of choice, but PowerPoint, Presentations (from the WordPerfect suite) and Impress (from OpenOffice) all have much the same capabilities and would all work well for this type of project. And, if you’re looking for an online archive platform for these project files, Scribd will store and display them quite nicely. You won’t get the multimedia capabilities of the online slide-sharing platforms, but your transcriptions will be searchable.

Take another look at your presentation software. You may find it has many uses for presenting your family’s history.

Found Ephemera: Keynote Vector Graphics

If you have Keynote for Mac, you can draw your own decorative embellishments using the built-in vector drawing tools. What is vector drawing? It’s is the creation of digital graphics using lines, curves and shapes. Unlike bitmap graphics which are made up of a collection of tiny dots (pixels), vector graphics can easily scale in size (larger or smaller) without affecting its quality. Photographs are bitmap graphics while illustrations such as architectural drawings, logos and most digital art creations are vector drawings.

Keynote’s drawing tools don’t provide the features found in full-blown illustration programs such as Adobe’s Illustrator or CorelDraw. Keynote doesn’t have their learning curve either. You can be creating your own scrapbook-style embellishments in minutes rather than weeks. Here’s how.

Keynote screen

Choose the Draw with Pen option from the Shape panel.

To begin, create a Keynote presentation with a blank slide. Click the Format icon on the toolbar to display the format panel on the right. Now, click on the Shape icon in the top toolbar and choose the Draw with Pen option at the bottom of the shape panel. It doesn’t matter which colors you’re using at this point.

Click anywhere on the slide to start.

Click anywhere on the slide to start.

Click anywhere on the screen to create a starting point. Click somewhere else and you create a straight line between those points. When you click, you create straight lines. To create curved lines, drag your mouse. Double-click to end the line. The dark line you see in the example above shows a number of points along its length. Once a line has been created, each of these points can be dragged to adjust it. The purple squiggle began as a collection of straight lines. Experiment to see how this works.

Now look over at the format panel on the right. When an element is selected, the panel displays the styling options available to you. The selected item is formatted as a “rough pencil” line in black that is 8 points wide. You can change any of those things to create an entirely different look.

Shape editing examples

Standard shapes have options too.

Even standard shapes have some manipulation options you can put to good use. Look at the star on the left in the example above and you’ll see two green points inside the selection area. The outside point can be dragged clockwise to add points to the star – as in the eight-point star on the right. The inside point can be dragged in or out to adjust the thickness of the points. Other shapes can be manipulated in similar ways.

Then there is the option of combining shapes to create new ones. The arrow was layered with the rectangle to make a pointer. Below that, the line was grouped with three diamonds to create a text embellishment. And, on the left a “drawn” box was copied, enlarged and grouped with the original box to create a doodle frame.

You don’t have to create these graphics from scratch each time you want to use it. I’ve created a Keynote file just for my growing graphics library. It contains elements I’ve found as well as those I’ve made myself. When I need one, I just copy/paste it from the library presentation to the working one. Although you can only create these vector drawings in the Mac version of Keynote, you can use the graphics you create in both the iCloud and iOS versions of Keynote and Pages. I keep my library file in iCloud for easy access. And, to make things even easier, I’ll often copy a slide containing the graphics I’ll be using into the working presentation file so I don’t have to keep moving back and forth between files.

Taking advantage of Keynote’s vector drawing capabilities lets me create custom design elements for my family history projects. It’s quick, easy and affordable. It’s just one more reason, Keynote’s my scrapbooking platform of choice.

iWork in iCloud Updates

iCloud Pages screen

Apple recently released an update to their iWork apps (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) in iCloud. This update includes some very significant improvements. Here’s a quick look:

  • Lots more fonts! This font addict is quite pleased to see these additional fonts.
  • More collaborators – and you can see who’s currently working in a document. You can have up to 100 people working in the same document at the same time. Invited collaborators do not have to have an Apple ID to access the document. My genealogy society is about to begin updating their governing documents and this could be VERY useful.
  • Larger file sizes. Documents can be as large as 1GB and individual images can be up to 10MB. This doesn’t mean bigger is better – or easy to manage – just that it’s possible.
  • Support for 2D and interactive charts.
  • Pages documents can be exported to ePub format.
  • Numbers spreadsheets can be exported in CSV (comma separated values) format.
  • Keynote presentations can be exported to Microsoft’s PPTX format.
  • They have added several new templates for Pages.

The iCloud edition of iWork’s apps do not have all the features found on the desktop versions, but most of us won’t miss the ones that aren’t there. The focus here is on collaboration and those tools are most impressive.

It’s important to note that while the new fonts are wonderful, your iDevices still have a limited number of fonts available so if you’r planning to work or present from them you’ll need to stay within the iOS limits.


From the Archives: Scrapbooking with Keynote

I love the scrapbook format for telling family stories. It supports lots of photos yet provides room for captions and journaling. I discovered I already had a great scrapbooking app installed on my desktop – my presentation software. Since I’m a Mac user, my presentation app is Keynote, but all of the presentation apps [PowerPoint, OpenOffice’s Impress and WordPerfect’s Presentations] have the features needed to scrapbook. Create custom family charts by taking advantage of the shapes tool that allows you to include any number of different shapes on your slides. This chart was made using the rounded box shape. Once the first shape is created, just copy/paste it wherever you want it. In this example, shapes were used for design elements – the frame for the photo and the circles for the ampersand. Not only can you add color to your shapes, but you can also “cover” them with other graphic images. In this case the frame is covered with a purchased “paper” graphic. Both the paper and the graphic elements above and below the photo are from Paislee Press. Keynote offers tools that make it easy to do lots of cool things with your images. Both the blurred frame around my grandmother’s portrait and the torn frame for the class picture are standard Keynote elements. Keynote even has the function (it’s called Instant Alpha) that let me remove the sky from the schoolhouse photo so it could become part of the slide’s background. But design isn’t the only way presentation software is so versatile. You have lots of distribution options too. If you’ve used high-resolution images and graphics, you can print and bind your scrapbook. You can also convert it to PDF and share it easily by email or online download. Most presentation apps let you export each slide as an image which can then be presented using a digital frame. Another export option is as a movie although this is better when there’s less text involved. Of course the best way to view these scrapbooks is on a tablet where the reader can enjoy every detail at his own pace. Yes, scrapbooking with Keynote is a great way to combine images, text and charts to create a family history that few can resist.

Keynote Scrapbooking Tips

I’m still experimenting with storytelling ideas for my Barker family in Georgia. Once again, my storytelling tool of choice is Keynote [Mac – $20 and iOS – $5], the presentation graphics app included in Apple’s iWork suite. It comes with loads of great themes and companies like Jumsoft provide even more. In this example, I’m using the Parchment theme.

Kincaid Kin 3

Since this is presentation graphics software, it handles all kinds of charts and diagrams easily. Custom family tree diagrams can be drawn quickly using a style that matches the theme of the project. Yes, this is a manual effort, but the custom results are well worth it. The photograph in the background also takes advantage of Keynote functionality. Keynote offers several design options to frame photographs included on a slide. One of those is an edge blur. By blurring the edge then reducing the opacity of the image itself, it becomes part of the background – enhancing the family chart rather than competing with it.

Kincaid Kin 6

Here’s one example where scrapbooking techniques and presentation techniques have been combined. Graphical elements have been layered and shadows added to give them impact. The Keynote theme’s styles for fonts and colors are being used for the journaling on the page. Journaling has been kept relatively short with lots of images telling their own part of the story.

Kincaid Kin 7

The schoolhouse in the bottom right corner was a black and white copy machine copy of an old photo. By cutting out the distracting clutter in the sky around the building, tinting it to match the slide’s color scheme and adjusting the opacity to let it blend into the corner of the slide, I was able to give a poor quality image the historical importance it deserves. And, while the class photo is also tinted to match the theme, the ragged white frame and shadowing allow it to stand out next to the school image.

Keynote – and other presentation apps – offer a lot of useful functionality and plenty of creative leeway, making them great platforms for any number of family history projects. They make it easy to combine text and images, create diagrams and add new pages any place within the project. They also offer any number of ways to share the final product. Keynote can export the presentation to a PowerPoint file, a PDF document, individual image files or a QuickTime movie. And, you can post your presentation at online platforms like Slideshare to take advantage of Keynote’s multimedia capabilities. Both of these platforms support animations and sound, however the user experience will depend on the operating system and browser used to view the result.

Presentations graphics aren’t just for the board room. They are also becoming an impressive component of the family historian’s digital storytelling toolbox.

Scrapshot: Once upon a time

Once upon a time

This is the opening page from my on-going Behind the Alligator Farm project – a collection of family stories from my childhood. The page was created using iWork’s Keynote app [Mac & iOS]. The photo frame is one of the standard frames available in Keynote. The script title and the stylized leaves are from paislee press. Liz’s minimalist designs add style to the page while allowing the story to remain the focus.

The project format is best described as a text-heavy scrapbook and is a compilation of individual stories rather than a single narrative. I’ve published it via Scribd by first converting the presentation file to PDF then uploading it to my Scribd profile. It’s a “living history” so when I add new stories to the project, I just upload the updated file as a revision. The book can be read online or downloaded as a PDF. Since most of my family now have some kind of tablet – all of which support PDF documents – this page layout fits beautifully on their screens.

Scrapping Keynote: A Living History

Not long after I got my iPad, I spent a whopping $27 for an electronic book titled Digging into WordPress, the blog software I use to run the Gazette. Why would I spend this much money on an ebook? Because the authors promised a free updated copy of the book each time WordPress released a major upgrade. Since I purchased it I’ve downloaded four updated versions. In a world where printed tech books often cost twice what I spent on this book and are out-of-date before I get them home, this is a refreshing alternative. And, because it’s distributed in PDF format, it’s full of great screenshots and links to outside resources. It has a table of contents that links to each section and everything in it is searchable so I can get to the information I want in seconds.

Today’s technology makes it easy for us to create our own books with tools we already have like word-processing software, photo-editing applications and scanners. There’s no law that says a family history has to be a ten-generation, fully-documented formal history. As geneabloggers are discovering to their delight, telling the little stories can be very satisfying. And, before you know it, that collection of little stories is well on its way to becoming a family history.


My current genealogy focus is to tell the stories of the people who touched my life. These were special people to me and I want to document their vitality even more than their vital records. We all whine about missed opportunities – and yes, I’ve missed many. I want to do what I can to pass on anecdotes and memories that give personality to the photos.

How do I do this?

I’m working on a project that pulls in several articles I’ve posted over the years about growing up in St. Augustine. I’ve taken those stories and added photos – lots of photos – into a sort of magazine/scrapbook hybrid. I’m building it in Keynote, the presentation graphics app included in Apple’s iWork suite. Each little story is transformed into two or three slides and can be placed wherever they fit into the growing collection. The landscape format of the slides not only give me plenty of layout space, they display beautifully on tablet devices. Everyone in the family has some kind of tablet so this works well for all of us.

Click for larger view.

Click for larger view.

My living history book contains a table of contents which links directly to each individual story and all the text is searchable. I’m using Scribd as my publishing platform. After converting my book to PDF format, I uploaded it to my Scribd profile. Now I can send friends and family to the book page at Scribd where they can read it online and download their own PDF copy. I can even embed the book on my blog – much like embedding a YouTube video. When the book is updated with new content, I edit the book page at Scribd to add a new revision and upload the updated book. Scribd keeps track of all revisions and I can go back to look at previous ones at any time.  Now all I do is email the family to come see the latest version.

Here’s what the book looks like today. This living history will continue to grow as more stories about my home and family are researched and written.

NOTE: The links in the table of contents will only work in the downloaded PDF version.

iPad Presentations

I’ve found my iPad works great as a traveling presentation tool. Instead of dragging a laptop and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, I carry my iPad mini along with a VGA connector and an HDMI connector. My iPhone serves as the remote control.

Keynote is my presentation software of choice and I keep most of my presentations in my iCloud account so I can access them just about anywhere. Before leaving home, I make sure to open my presentation on both my iPad and iPhone from the iCloud version. This insures I have a copy of the presentation on the device and can still function even if there’s no Internet connection where I’m presenting.

Setup is quick and easy. I just hook the projector’s VGA cable to the VGA connector plugged into my iPad, open up my Keynote presentation and tap the Play icon.  Then I open Keynote on my iPhone and tap the remote icon. Once it makes the connection to the presentation on my iPad, a big Play button appears. I tap on that and I’m ready to begin. The slideshow below is a quick demo showing how it all works.

NOTE: The Keynote Remote app is no longer needed as long as you have the most recent version of Keynote for iOS on both devices. 

Recently, I’ve been conducting genealogy workshops at our local Council on Aging using a flat-screen television as the display. These are usually conducted in a board room setting. The HDMI connector and an extra-long HDMI cable [3-meter Amazon Basics cable is only $7.50] make it easy for me to present slides and demonstrate live sites right from my iPad. Yes, I do need a Wi-Fi connection for the live demonstrations.

Although I can include transitions and effects in Keynote for iOS presentations, I personally find them a distraction. [I do love them, however, for creating greeting cards with Keynote.] The app only supports the limited selection of fonts available on the devices. Remember this when your building your presentation on your desktop. For a font fanatic like me, it’s a challenge.

One last tip . . . I make sure both the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth services are turned on for both devices before the presentation. That way, if there’s no Wi-Fi signal in the room, I can still use the iPhone remote via Bluetooth. I haven’t checked the distance limits for Bluetooth, but I have wandered 15 to 20 feet away from the iPad during my presentation and was still able to control the presentation.

My iPad has made presenting a whole lot easier – and lighter. Life is good!

Scrapshot: Behind the Alligator Farm

Behind the Alligator Farm Cover

Here’s a look at a continuing family history project – Behind the Alligator Farm. I’ve been writing posts for years telling stories about the neighborhood and town where I grew up and now I’m pulling them together into a book. The format is a modified scrapbook design – heavy on text but with with graphical elements to punch it up a bit. The scrapbook format works especially well for sections that are mostly photos and for those times when the “story” is little more than an extended caption.

Behind the Alligator Farm Sample Page

I’m working in Keynote [Mac and iOS], the presentation graphics component of Apple’s iWork suite. Keynote is a very flexible platform for doing layout work and while it does have its limits, it does just about everything I need. I’m also using Pixelmator [Mac – $30] for most of my photo-editing needs.

The scrapbook elements come from Paislee Press. I love her minimalist designs and her style and color schemes seem to come straight from the “mid-century” era where most of my stories originated. Her terms of use are very generous, giving me the flexibility to use the ebook format that I prefer. The page samples shown here come from her Dialogue, The Open Road and Storyteller kits.

As I said, this is an ebook. Why? Primarily because it will be a never-ending story and I can easily add newly-discovered photos or more stories as I please then email an announcement to come download the latest edition. By using Keynote, I can also include audio and video clips if I want. And, while that may not be easy to distribute to others today, the iCloud version of Keynote is getting updated regularly with new features.

Best of all, scrapbooking and family history are two of my favorite pastimes so building this book is a delightful adventure.