How to use Keynote’s new Play Slideshow in Window feature with videoconferencing services

Get the best of full-screen presentation mode without using it.

keynote mac icon 2020

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Keynote is designed best for presenters to work across two screens. One is typically a projector or large monitor; the other, a laptop screen or computer screen in front of the presenter. Keynote fills that second screen with a variety of presenter’s tools, like notes, thumbnails of the previous and next slides, and a time-elapsed clock.

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In a normal two-screen Keynote presentation, slides occupy one screen (as at top), while presenter’s tools, including notes, fit on another screen.

In the new world of always-online meetings, whether professional or social club, you might have frequently been frustrated, even if you have two monitors at home. Full-screen app mode in macOS in general doesn’t interact well with Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other videoconferencing tools, because you typically must stay in the app that’s gone full screen to keep it working in that fashion.

In particular, Keynote is tricky. In Zoom, for instance, you have to open the Keynote slide deck and not enter slideshow mode (Play > Play Slideshow). Instead, you switch back to Zoom, use its screen-sharing option to select the Keynote slide window, then return to Keynote and start the presentation.

However, even with all that monkeying about, you must remain in Keynote to present. Some conferencing tools (including Zoom), let you have access through floating overlays to certain features. Zoom can show a resizable strip of the participants watching the session, for instance. (Keynote does offer the option to press H—not Command-H, but simply H—to hide Keynote in presentation mode and return to the previous app without breaking out of full-screen mode.)

With a new option introduced in July by Apple to Keynote, however, you can have more control and flexibility, particularly if you want to switch among other apps or remain largely in the videoconferencing app while presenting. My trick combines that new presentation option with the Keynote for iOS/iPadOS app.

Apple added Play > Play Slideshow in Window to Keynote, which presents slides with full interactivity in a regular window instead of the previously required single- or dual-monitor full-screen mode. The presentation window can be resized and moved around. You can start the slideshow and then share its window in a videoconferencing app, so you don’t have to show the raw Keynote interface at all before you start the presentation, as you do with a full-screen slideshow.

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A slide presentation in Zoom using Play Slideshow in Window looks just as good as when using Keynote’s full-screen mode.

Because the Slideshow in Window option is a regular window, you can switch among apps without causing problems with Keynote. But two problems remain: First, you have to return to the window to advance slides (or go backwards). Second, none of the presenter’s tools are available.

That’s where the mobile app comes in. With Keynote on your iPhone or iPad, you can use the Keynote Remote feature to link the app to your Mac. (See Apple’s step-by-step instructions here on pairing your devices via the Keynote apps.)

Once paired, you can use this sequence to share a Keynote screen. The example that follows is for Zoom, but it works with any tool that allows screen-sharing of a window or portion of a window:

  1. Open your slide deck in Keynote for macOS.

  2. Choose Play > Play Slideshow in Window.

  3. In an active Zoom meeting on your Mac, click the Share Screen button and select the Keynote window from the Basic tab. Click Share.

  4. On your iPhone or iPad, use Keynote Remote to select your Mac and tap Play (even though the presentation is already playing—this tap asserts control by the Keynote mobile app).

  5. Tap the side-by-side screen icon and select a mode that shows you notes and slides as you like. You can pick among Current and Notes, Next and Notes, and Notes Only to see your notes.

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The mobile Keynote app lets you remotely control a presentation in macOS.

You can now get the best of all worlds. Advance or pick slides from the mobile app; read your notes as needed on the mobile app; have full access to macOS without worrying about disturbing the Keynote presentation.

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