Keynote Camp #1: Vignettes

I realized awhile ago that Keynote is the best tool I own. It’s powerful. It’s simple. It has crashed once in the six years I’ve used it (no exaggeration) even though my file sizes routinely run up to half a gigabyte. I use it for workshops, for keynotes, for classes, for mocking up web pages and web apps.

In Florida and Atlanta, a couple of people asked for some behind-the-scenes details on the presentations themselves. I promised those people I’d explain some of the techniques here.

In this first tutorial, I describe an effect I use frequently to highlight various parts of a slide.

Keynote Camp #1: Vignette from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

2011 Nov 27. Here’s another application of this technique. I wanted to excerpt some text from Polya’s How to Solve It by moving up and down a page of his book and fading those sentences in and out. If you want to pull apart the Keynote file itself, you can have at it.

2011 Nov 27. And one more application: Endless Lists.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Dan, I’ve been considering Keynote, but I can’t find a place for it. I can’t really use my iPad for presentations (far too cumbersome with projector extensions no remote, etc), and I don’t use a Mac.

    I have used Slide Rocket as my primary presentation tool at ISTE and other places, and it appears to do most of what keynote does. Plus Slide Rocket is web-based.

    Any thoughts on one versus the other?

  2. Ranger Dan –

    I always love your video how-to stuff but [unfortunately] video’s just not something I do too often. But Keynote? Love it. It’s my money application.

    I love the way you use “layers” to get this effect and I’m looking forward to seeing more!

    — Scott

  3. If you don’t want to duplicate the slide (to keep some freedom to edit it later), you can get the same effect by creating a custom shape. I made a little screen recording of how I did that. I did not record the final part where I animated the vignette, but that is possible too. The hard part is creating the shape, but once you have it you can duplicate it when you need it again.

  4. Dan
    Much as I love your ideas and think that you are starting a much-needed evolution in teaching mathematics, it really is time you investigated a pen-based tablet PC.
    I have a typed word doc scaffold with plenty of space to digitally ink in solution. In front of the class, click Microsoft 2007 review and start inking/Journal/One-Note. Once projected, solve the problems by hand in front of students (with stylus). If you want students to focus on a particular part of the writing, circle it with a different coloured pen/highlighter/draw a gold star beside it. Notes are saved and posted to the learning management system for all to make a copy.
    Because I am writing math by hand, students stay interested and audible Oooh’s result from turning the pen over and erasing. Even better, as result of an HP Grant, students also write on pen-based tablets, but that is a whole different story.
    Keep up the great work – I reference you at just about every workshop I give!

  5. I started using presentations a lot last year after I found the remote clicker in my closet (new school this past year). We only have windows, and I am wondering if there is a keynote for windows, or if anyone has made a keynote and transferred to ppt format with any luck…because I know that it is not a seamless transer.

  6. Josh: I am wondering if there is a keynote for windows, or if anyone has made a keynote and transferred to ppt format with any luck…because I know that it is not a seamless transer.

    1. There isn’t.
    2. You’re right about that transfer.

    Sorry, amigo.

  7. Not sure what all the complaining is about. This is freakin’ helpful. Please keep this coming! It’s easy to follow and perfect for my own public speaking presentations.

  8. Another thing you can do to keep the elements editable is you can select all (Cmd-A) and then group the elements (Cmd-Opt-G) into one element, duplicate that onto a new slide, and then create the rectangle. If you want to edit something, just move the mask away, un-group the elements, edit, and off you go!

  9. Finally got a chance to show off this camp skill. Thanks, Dan.
    If my students only knew the trouble I went to for mere seconds of focusing their eyes on a slide! Using my iPhone to control it will look pretty slick too.

  10. Dan, your Keynote skills are stellar. Please, keep sharing. I’d run around Dagobah doing weird calisthenics while carrying you on my back for more of your Keynote wisdom.